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Nissan Australia considers hybrid Pathfinder

Greenie: The Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid is about 25 per cent more efficient than the regular petrol V6, and could be an alternative for Australia in the absence of a diesel option.

No diesel on the horizon, but Nissan Australia mulls the new Pathfinder Hybrid

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Nissan logo2 Apr 2013

By MIKE COSTELLO

NISSAN Australia is looking at bringing a petrol-electric hybrid version of its new Pathfinder SUV Down Under in the absence of a fuel-sipping diesel variant.

Revealed at last week’s New York motor show, the new Pathfinder economy leader consumes 25 per cent less fuel than the regular 194kW/325Nm 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine fitted in all other variants.

As reported, the more car-like new petrol Pathfinder will go on sale in Australia by November this year, giving Nissan a more natural competitor for the popular Ford Territory and Toyota Kluger.

However, unlike the utilitarian (Navara-based) current version, there will be no diesel engine option at launch, belying a wider segment-trend towards more frugal oil-burners.

The story is similar on Nissan’s larger new-generation Patrol, which is available only with a 5.6-litre V8 petrol engine. As such, the company’s local arm continues to sell diesel versions of the superseded model alongside it.

Importing the Pathfinder Hybrid would be one way to get an economy leader should a suitable diesel engine not be found from the Nissan catalogue, or those of alliance partner Renault (or, potentially, even global joint-venture partner Daimler).

As we reported earlier this month, private hybrid car sales – while still relatively low – are up around 70 per cent so far this year, with a wider range of petrol-electric models becoming available, helping market acceptance and traction.

Nissan claims the hybrid version will be priced around $3000 higher than the regular petrol version in the US market – about the same premium as a diesel regularly attracts in Australia.

The petrol-electric Pathfinder uses a one motor/two clutch configuration similar to the Infiniti M hybrid luxury sedan – a vehicle which for a time claimed the title of world’s fastest hybrid.

In place of the regular 3.5-litre V6 is a supercharged 2.5-litre petrol four-pot paired with a 15kW electric motor, charged by a small lithium-ion battery and fed to either the front or all four wheels (depending on the variant) via a CVT automatic.

Combined power and torque figures are listed as 186kW/329Nm – almost identical to the regular V6, but combined-cycle fuel economy is about 25 percent lower at 9.0 litres per 100km.

Importantly for a family SUV, it also has a 1600kg towing capacity, and thanks to the compact lithium battery located under the floor at the rear of the car, retains the sliding middle seat row and has the same rear legroom and cargo space as the regular petrol.

The large 4.2-inch screen in the instrument panel displays power flow readings from the electric motor and petrol engine, as well as power regeneration back into the battery.

The Pathfinder hybrid will launch in the US around August this year – about ten months after the petrol version premiered in October 2012.

Between that time last year and now, Pathfinder sales in the US have almost doubled over their previous levels, arguably justifying Nissan’s decision to move to a softer but more refined new architecture.

Nissan Australia public relations and corporate communications manager Peter Fadeyev told GoAuto this week that the company was assessing whether a hybrid version would be both suitable in, and available for, the local market.

“We’re considering all options at the moment,” he said. “We haven’t made a final decision on the powertrains we will introduce.” As with the regular petrol Pathfinder, the hybrid version will be built in North America. GoAuto understands that should a right-hand drive version of the hybrid get production approval, Nissan Australia would contemplate bringing it here around the same time as the petrol.

The petrol-electric Pathfinder will be just one of 15 hybrid models offered by the company around the world by 2016, as Nissan looks to broaden its range of offerings between regular internal combustion models and its pure electric cars such as the Leaf.

Mr Fadeyev said Nissan Australia looked at all potential hybrid models for this market. One of the more likely candidates is expected to be a petrol-electric version of the new Altima mid-sized sedan, which will debut in regular petrol form in Australia around the same time as the Pathfinder.

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