On the path more trav­elled

Now Nis­san’s big SUV is fit for fam­ily trans­port pur­poses

Herald Sun - Motoring - - The Tick -

IT’S rare for a test car to spring a to­tal sur­prise on me.

Yet the Nis­san Pathfinder did just that, thanks to a ground-up over­haul that has trans­formed the seven-seater fam­ily hauler. Ear­lier Pathfind­ers were thinly dis­guised trucks. The body was an SUV, atop the work­ing-class roots of the Navara ute — and even it was a fair stretch away from the class lead­ers.

Now it’s a gen­uine fam­ily wagon that’s roomy, com­fort­able, well equipped and pretty good value with a start­ing price just be­low $40,000. You can, of course, load it all the way to $65,090 if you want a Ti all-wheel drive with gi­ant sun­roof etc.

Then again, no­body is pay­ing full price for any­thing short of the GT-R Godzilla in a Nis­san show­room these days.

The new Pathfinder made an in­stant im­pact on me but it took the ar­rival of the lat­est Toy­ota Kluger, pre­vi­ously my per­sonal bench­mark in the price bracket, to bring it to­tally into fo­cus.

Un­like the Pathfinder, the Kluger — de­spite a silly name that’s only used be­cause Hyundai has the rights to High­lander in Aus­tralia — has al­ways been comfy, re­fined and typ­i­cally Toy­ota in the de­tail­ing.

For now, the Pathfinder has taken two steps for­ward and the Kluger has gone one step back. De­spite ex­tra cabin space and more ver­sa­til­ity, the seven-seat Toy­ota drives and rides some way worse than the pre­vi­ous model.

But back to the Pathfinder. Be­cause it de­serves more than just grudg­ing re­spect from a head-to-head as­sess­ment against the Kluger.

It’s a big bus with pre­dictably Amer­i­can-cen­tric styling, which means a chunky nose and a full-sized body that’s not in­tim­i­dated in a world of Peter­bilt-sized pick-ups that do ev­ery­thing from horse-haul­ing to Star­bucks take-aways.

In­side, the Pathfinder is roomy, well laid-out, nicely fin­ished and flex­i­ble. And that, at the end of the day, is what fam­i­lies need.

I like the ba­sics but, not sur­pris­ingly, Nis­san talks about tri-zone air­con and tri-zone en­ter­tain­ment — al­though one re­cent writer to Road­side As­sist is ques­tion­ing the virtues of this setup — and two choices of sun­roof. What­ever.

The Pathfinder re­ally won me when I hit the road. I ex­pected a buck­ing, rodeo ride like the ear­lier mod­els and plenty of noise and vi­bra­tion.

What I got was a car, not a truck, that gets along very nicely thanks to its V6 power, with a smooth ride and com­mend­ably low noise lev­els.

It’s still not a Benz, but there is al­ways the Mu­rano for people who want an up­scale Nis­san with­out the third-row seats.

As usual, Nis­san sup­plies me with a fully loaded Ti for my time with the Pathfinder and that gives me a slightly dis­torted view of the re­al­ity. But all the fruit in the world turns sour if the roots are bad, so I en­joy the in­fo­tain­ment trin­kets and ex­tra safety sys­tems but keep my eye on the things that re­ally mat­ter.

That means split-fold­ing for both back rows, up to 2259Lof stor­age with all seats folded flat, rear-view pro­tec­tion at all lev­els in­clud­ing a cam­era, and a tow­ing ca­pac­ity of 2.7 tonnes.

There is a choice be­tween front and all-wheel drive but it hardly mat­ters. Un­less you’re tow­ing or re­ally want to give a bunch of kids a se­ri­ous camp­ing ad­ven­ture, the front-drive Pathfinder is the one to have. And it’s the one that’s go­ing to be wait­ing out­side schools across Aus­tralia.

In this case, I am as happy in the Pathfinder as I was un­happy in the GT-R. This is a Nis­san that un­der-prom­ises, based on its his­tory, and over-de­liv­ers. Not the other way around. Does it get The Tick? You betcha.

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