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Car reviews - Nissan - Pathfinder - range

Launch Story

Nissan logo12 Jul 2005

By MARTON PETTENDY

NISSAN Australia has fired a cannon blast across the bows of its four-wheel drive rivals with the arrival of the long-awaited Pathfinder and Murano off-roaders.

The Pathfinder, which is on sale now, boasts diesel and petrol engines, room for seven occupants and truly rugged off-road capability.

Five variants will be offered, with prices starting at $44,990 for the six-speed manual entry ST turbo-diesel, while the five-speed sequential auto-only V6 ST is $47,990.

The remainder of the range is fleshed out with the better-equipped $48,990 ST-L diesel and $51,990 ST-L V6 petrol. The range-topper is the Ti V6 petrol at $58,990.

A five-speed sequential automatic, standard on the V6s, is a $3000 option on diesel models.

With an overall length of 4740mm, the new Spanish-built Pathfinder is 100mm longer and slightly wider and higher than the outgoing model. The wheelbase, at 2850mm, is 150mm greater than the old vehicle.

Overall ground clearance is up 11mm to 211mm. Approach and departure angles are 33 and 26 degrees respectively.

As befits the bigger, bolder and stronger vehicle, the existing 3.3-litre V6 engine makes way for a more powerful 4.0-litre V6, which develops 198kW at 5600rpm and 385Nm at 4000rpm.

The bent six is a member of the VQ family that includes the 3.5-litre V6 found in the 350Z sports car, Murano 4WD and Maxima prestige sedan.

The new 2.5-litre common-rail intercooled turbo-diesel pumps out 128kW at 4000rpm and a stump-pulling 403Nm of torque at 2000rpm. It is available with a new six-speed manual or the five-speed automatic.

Standard equipment is on par with similar 4WD offerings in its segment with the entry-level ST boasting 16-inch alloys, ABS brakes, dual airbags, air-conditioning, remote central locking, electric mirrors and windows, cruise control and in-dash CD stereo. Both petrol and diesel models have 80-litre fuel tanks.

The mid-level ST-L, also available with both engines, adds 17-inch alloy wheels, stability control, leather steering wheel/gearshift, dual-zone automatic air-conditioning, roof rails, side steps, foglights and a six-stacker CD stereo with steering wheel-mounted audio controls.

The Ti ups the ante with side and curtain airbags, sunroof, rear air-conditioning, rear seat DVD/MP3 player, faux woodgrain trim, leather heated power seats and rear parking sensors.

Visually, the new off-roader borrows its styling cues from the Dunhawk concept car unveiled at the 2003 Frankfurt motor show.

Up front it uses Nissan's distinctive 4WD corporate grille while the current model's signature C-pillar mounted door handles are used to enhance the chunky profile.

From the side the Pathfinder has deep-set windows, wheelarch blisters and a strong shoulder line, while the rear window line is broken by a sharply angled C-pillar.

The tailgate glass opens separately to the rear door and its design borrows the framed six-sided look of the show car.

Unlike some of its rivals, the stiffer and safer Pathfinder favours a full body-on-frame all-steel ladder chassis instead of a monocoque structure.

Nissan claims the body-on-frame structure is stronger for true off-road work.

The structure has also been reinforced at critical points, mainly in the sills, roof side rails and A- and B-pillars.

For off-road work the Nissan uses the latest-generation electronically controlled All-Mode 4WD system with low-range reduction. It is similar to that used in the X-Trail.

A driver can flick through four drive modes - auto, 2WD, 4WD high and 4WD low - via a rotary dial on the dashboard. All modes can be accessed on the move, except low-range.

For everyday use, the system can be left in either auto or 2WD modes.

When locked in 2WD or when the roads are dry and the system is in auto mode, the wagon runs in rear-wheel drive, which helps reduce fuel consumption.

In auto mode the system use sensors linking the engine's electronic control unit with the 4WD and ABS controller to monitor wheel slippage and automatically send signals to a hydraulically activated multi-plate clutch mounted ahead of the rear axle to direct torque to the wheels.

For everyday driving the system distributes torque 0:100 front to rear but drive can be split up to 50:50 in slippery conditions.

Suspension comprises double wishbones up front and a multi-link independent arrangement at the rear. Anti-rollbars are fitted at each end.

All models have front and rear ventilated disc brakes, with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist working with the standard ABS.

Inside, the cabin offers plenty of passenger room courtesy of the three rows of seats in an airy environment with various storage options.

Soft-touch materials abound and quality levels are claimed to have improved.

Nissan also claims 64 different seating and cargo configurations are possible.

With all the seats folded flat the cargo length is 2.8 metres, while luggage capacity is 190 litres with all the seats in place, rising to 515 litres with the third row folded and 2091 litres with the second and third rows folded.

The second row is split 40/20/40 while the third row, where fitted, has a 50/50 split.

Folding the third row of seats can be done from outside the vehicle when the tailgate is open.

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