Pathfinder prizes sec­ond chance

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Big Wheels - — Fraser Stronach

IN ANY race you need to be in front at the end, and that’s where the Pathfinder fin­ished in the Over­lan­der 4WD of the Year con­test. It cer­tainly didn’t trounce the op­po­si­tion, es­pe­cially the Chal­lenger, but it gar­nered suf­fi­cient points to carry the day.

You can put that down to its value for money, per­for­mance, econ­omy, re­fine­ment, on-road han­dling, space ef­fi­ciency, and just enough abil­ity in the bush.

And in win­ning, the up­dated R51 Pathfinder has re­peated his­tory as the last Nis­san to win 4WD of The Year was the 1999 update of the 1996 R50 Pathfinder.

All of which goes to show that some things are best sam­pled sec­ond time around.

A new com­mon-rail fu­elin­jec­tion sys­tem and a big­ger, elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled turbo sees power jump from a claimed 126kW to 140kW and the claimed torque fig­ure is up from 403Nm to 450Nm.

With its fully in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion and road-ori­ented Goodyear Wran­gler HP tyres we ex­pect the Pathfinder to re­ally strug­gle on the muddy set-piece hill­climb but that’s not the case.

It works harder than the Chal­lenger, but it’s as good as the HiLux and bet­ter than the Navara, and con­sid­er­ably eas­ier than the Jeep.

It works harder on the set-piece 4WD loop as the fully in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion strug­gles to keep all four wheels on the ground. As a con­se­quence, the trac­tion con­trol is very busy and the rear mud­flaps and the side­steps touch down on more than few oc­ca­sions.

Yet for all that, the Pathfinder still makes it around com­fort­ably and with none of the low-speed throt­tle surg­ing that some­times trou­bles the Navara.

Per­for­mance aside, one of the big ad­vances of this Pathfinder is that the new en­gine and the five-speed auto are far hap­pier com­pan­ions than in the pre-update mod­els.

With the pre­vi­ous model, the sixspeed man­ual was the only way to go as the au­to­matic was al­most al­ways un­happy in more de­mand­ing tour­ing en­vi­ron­ments.

Now buy­ers don’t have to suf­fer that com­pro­mise.

The only ‘‘sin’’ the auto com­mits is it some­times wants to hold on to the taller gears longer than it should on long, steep climbs.

The Pathfinder’s 80-litre tank en­hances its tour­ing range, and a handy 3000kg tow­ing ca­pac­ity is also a bonus.

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