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Over the years Nissan has altered the Pathfinder's DNA with virtually every new generation. Has it finally hit the sweet spot with the latest version?



It’s named the Pathfinder, an apt moniker indeed for a sturdy all-terrain Sport Utility Vehicle. But ironically, Nissan seems to have been at a loss finding the right path for this popular SUV. When introduced for the first time in 1986, the Pathfinder boasted a body-on-frame, ladder-type construction suitable for rugged off-road duties.

But when the second generation came out a decade later, Nissan moved the SUV to a unibody construction, only to revert to a ladder frame in the third generation, which came out in 2005. And just when you thought Nissan had finally found the right direction for this solid, successful nameplate, the Japanese carmaker has, again, moved the Pathfinder to a monocoque chassis.

While this might seem grossly unsettling to you and me, Nissan has a valid reason for doing it. Over the years customer priorities have shifted drastically, with most opting for stylish-looking, roomier, more refined ‘urban’ crossovers over boxy, rugged looks and great off-road capabilities, which were the Pathfinder’s unique selling points. Naturally, upstarts like the Toyota Fortuner and the Hyundai Santa Fe started eating away the stalwart’s market share, prompting Nissan to redraw strategies once again. Have they got it right?

By placing the Pathfinder in the seven-seater crossover SUV category, Nissan fills a big gap that had formed in its line-up between the mammoth Patrol at one end and the diminutive Qashqai and the capable Xterra at the other. Sharing its architecture with the new Infiniti JX35 luxury crossover, the Pathfinder is now offered with a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive systems with three-row seating and V6 power as standard.

Design-wise, the new Pathfinder is more of a revolution than an evolution. Though there is a mild streak of resemblance to previous versions, a much more modern and stylish design with smoother edges replaces the previous model’s truck-like styling and a sleeker fascia takes over from the last iteration’s upright grille. It sits closer to the ground than before with seemingly longer overhangs front and rear, all pointing to urban duties taking precedence over those off the tarmac.

But that’s not to say that the new Pathfinder is a dud off-road. It handled the treacherous winding gravel path along the craggy mountains leading to the secluded Zighy Bay resort in Musandam with aplomb, in auto mode. The All-Mode four-wheel drive system offers full lock function allowing you to lock power distribution 50:50 front and rear. Dropping nearly 250kg of mass has also helped the Pathfinder feel nimbler while a wider stance, longer wheelbase and lower overall height add to its stability.

Body roll is kept in check even at reasonably high speeds through bends thanks to traction and stability aids, while the upgraded suspension soaks up bumps on and off road commendably. The new 3.5-litre V6 is sufficient to haul the nearly two-tonne SUV effortlessly under most conditions, although the Xtronic CVT automatic makes it sound annoyingly strained at high revs.

The cabin, which looks identical to the Infiniti JX35’s but with fewer quality materials, offers best-in-class front leg- and headroom, while the overall space inside appears to be on a par or better than most of its competitors. Space management is highly flexible thanks to individually folding second row seats that also slide forward allowing easy access to the third row, which is also good enough for not-so-tall adults. These two rows can also be folded flat to extend the cargo volume considerably. The Pathfinder also gets the 360-degree around-view monitor that makes parallel parking a breeze.

If you’re in the market looking for hard-core ruggedness, off-road capabilities or heavy duty towing capability of a truck-based SUV, the Pathfinder can no longer be on your shopping list. But if it’s a refined, spacious, comfortable and fuel-efficient urban people mover, which can also tackle mild off-roading conditions is what you’re after, then the 2013 Pathfinder is definitely worth a look.

Specs and ratings
Model: Pathfinder

Engine: 3.5-litre V6

Transmission: CVT, AWD

Max power: 254bhp @ 6,000rpm

Max torque: 325Nm @ 4,400rpm

Top speed: 193kph

0-100kph: NA

Price: Dh109K to Dh180K

Plus: Spacious, comfortable, decent road manners

Minus: That CVT

Nissan Pathfinder reviewed | GulfNews.com
 

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Discussion Starter #2

The Pathfinder is now offered with a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive systems with three-row seating and V6 power as standard.


Design-wise, the new Pathfinder is more of a revolution than an evolution.


Nissan claims best in class front leg- and headroom.


Some off-road ability has been dialed out, but it’s still up for mild offtarmac excursions.
 
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