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Nissan Pathfinder


The Nissan Pathfinder is a tough tow vehicle that delivers effortless performance

Dip your tow into the waters of Nissan's sports utility offerings and you could come away very confused indeed. There's the compact Qasqhai and X-Trail, the larger Murano and Pathfinder, and the monster Patrol. Plus of course the big-selling Navara ute.

For the caravan/boating crowd, the crucial piece of information is that the Qashqai, X-Trail and Murano are all built upon monocoque road-car platforms (the Qashqai isn't even four-wheel drive). Only the Pathfinder, Patrol and Navara are proper offroaders (with ladder-chassis construction) and therefore possessed of truly tough towing ability. Let's narrow it down a bit further. If you want seven seats for those family trips, rule out Navara. If you don't want to contend with a vehicle the size of a city block, you'll end up staring straight at the evergreen Pathfinder.

What a tangled web we weave: think of the Pathfinder as a Navara station wagon and you're pretty much there. The powertrain – 2.5-litre turbo diesel with electronically operated four-wheel drive, plus five-speed automatic transmission with low range – and chassis construction are borrowed from Nissan's ute. Although the rear suspension has been upgraded from the Navara's live axle to an independent multi-link arrangement.

The so-called “450T” diesel engine is a mighty piece of work. It makes the Navara the power champ of the ute class and the Pathfinder a tough tow vehicle with effortless performance. Quiet it ain't, but you can't deny the muscle that's lurking beneath this wagon's square-cut bonnet.

However, the Pathfinder remains a useful tool rather than an open-road terror. The ride is bouncy despite the multi-link rear suspension and the vehicle requires care in tight corners, although there's an effective stability control system on hand to rein the chassis in should you get over-enthusiastic.

This year's facelift brought Pathfinder a truly car-like cabin, and with the model now restricted to top Ti-specification you're guaranteed a luxurious level of equipment. Standard are leather upholstery, powered front seats with memory (including mirrors), gas-discharge headlights, cruise control with speed limiter and separate air conditioning controls/outlets for the back. There are “puddle lamps” built into the mirrors, which also dip automatically when you select reverse.

As before, there are three rows of seating and seven chairs in total. That's the good news; the bad is that all seats are severely lacking in shape. There's no doubting the Nissan's versatility, with second-row chairs that are split 40/20/40 and flip forwards with just one touch, plus a third row that folds flat into the cargo floor. But the problem is that the Pathfinder is just not a particularly comfortable place to be for the family.

It's a measure of the Pathfinder's ruggedly appealing nature that Nissan has just unveiled a model in Australia powered by a mighty 550Nm V6 turbo diesel, complete with seven-speed automatic transmission. Sadly, it's also a measure of the Pathfinder's niche nature in New Zealand that the uprated model won't be sold here. But don't let that stop you: Pathfinder may not match the latest road-oriented crossover wagons for handling and ride, but for the true lifestyle buyer there's very little in the segment to match its practicality and sheer toughness.

See the Nissan Pathfinder for sale.

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