Nissan’s latest handsome Pathfinder is more urbane than a rough-and-ready ute.
Story Bruce McMahon
First morphed from a 4WD ute, Nissan’s Pathfinder is now, 30 years down the track, a large and handsome sports utility vehicle, more family tourer than backtrack explorer. In its fifth generation in 2023, this fair-sized family carrier is better suited to town and touring work than scrambling through the scrub.
The original 2- and 4-door Pathfinders through to 2012 were based on Nissan’s Navara utilities and sat on a ladder-frame chassis with 4WD and 2-speed transfer case. The 4-door wagons are now monocoque, with body and chassis in one.
Today’s all-wheel versions are complemented by 2-wheel-drive Pathfinders. AWD versions use clever technology to maximise traction on all manner of surfaces, but maximum ground clearance is 181mm (compared to a Nissan Navara’s workmanlike 220mm).
This latest Pathfinder looks a bit flash to be dinged up. While the newest generation sports a little extra muscle to its body style, much of the original’s adventure character is smothered by 21st-century sophistication.
So, it’s off to the open road and back-country tracks for this Nissan, a wagon more for camping expeditions and long-distance drives over ordinary roads than climbing far-flung sand dunes. It does shine as a family tourer, with seating for up to 8 folks plus a reasonable 2.7-tonne towing capacity.
It is a decent size: 5m long, almost 2m wide and 1.8m high. Good headroom adds to driver and passenger comfort, and, allied with wide opening doors, this means less of a scramble to reach the back seats than in some 3-row vehicles. The folding down/lifting of second and third row seats is also quite easy. When in place the back row cuts into cargo space, but there’d still be room for half a dozen sports bags when the team’s all aboard.
SUV details include no less than 16 cup holders, 4 USB charging ports and myriad storage spots across a well-finished cabin. Other features include a standard 10-inch (25cm) touchscreen for information and entertainment, with navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, an 8-way powered driver’s seat and steering wheel paddles for the 9-speed automatic transmission.
The Pathfinder’s power comes from a 3.5L petrol V6, which produces 202kW at 6400rpm. That’s a handy amount of power and the Nissan moves from standstill to legal speed limits with fair alacrity. Power and 340Nm of torque are also useful for carting a crowd and towing, but there’s a cost in fuel consumption. The factory reckons combined fuel use for AWD Pathfinders should be around 10.5L/100km, but that figure will blow out into the teens with work around town and full loads.
Smooth engine performance, the new transmission, revised electric steering, wider tyres and updated suspension for this 2023 version make for a civilised drive over most roads. A longish wheelbase – almost 3m between axles – adds to comfort levels.
As a largish SUV, the Nissan Pathfinder is a fine drive, holding its line with fair confidence without disturbing occupants. It is a fairly quiet machine on ordinary highways or long gravel roads, but being a machine of fair bulk may need patience on tight mountain roads.
Helping out is a well-sized and sorted instrument panel, plus standard across the range are a suite of safety and driver aids from blind spot warnings to traffic sign recognition. Most welcome for country drives is a tyre pressure monitoring system, although the vehicle comes with a space-saver spare.
Both 2- and all-wheel drive Pathfinders have ‘terrain-mode’ switches, depending on road conditions, which leave electronics to map out the best throttle, steering, drive-sharing and braking responses to suit the situations. The new AWD system uses oil pressure for more direct torque transfer to all wheels for better take-offs in the loose stuff.
Big, handsome and comfortable, the latest Pathfinder is not a cheap machine nor the most economical SUV, yet it has a wagonload of decent credentials to be considered.