Pathfinder’s che­quered flag

NT News - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - By FRASER STRONACH Con­tin­ued next page

IN any race you need to be in the front at the end, and that’s where the Pathfinder ended up in this year’s 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 com­pelling com­bi­na­tion of value for money, per­for­mance, econ­omy, re­fine­ment, on-road han­dling, space ef­fi­ciency and just enough abil­ity in the bush.

And in win­ning this award, 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.

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

While it works harder than the Chal­lenger, it’s as good as the HiLux and bet­ter than the Navara and con­sid­er­ably more at ease than the Jeep with which its shares fully in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion.

The Pathfinder 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, in the mean­time, both the rear mud­flaps and the side­steps touch down on more than few oc­ca­sions.

Yet, for all that, the Pathfinder still makes it around com­fort­ably with none of the low-speed throt­tle surg­ing that some­times trou­bles the Navara. Like the Navara, the low-range re­duc­tion is also good for an au­to­matic.

More wheel-up ac­tion on the trails, but again the Pathfinder does what is asked of it in a ca­pa­ble and com­fort­able enough man­ner. More over-bon­net vis­i­bil­ity would be nice and the auto box can get con­fused in ‘‘Drive’’ which means re­sort­ing to the man­ual tip-shift. Re­gard­less, this is a far bet­ter au­to­matic off-road than that of the Chal­lenger.

Per­for­mance aside, one of the big ad­vance­ments of this up­dated 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 six-speed man­ual was re­ally the only way to go as the au­to­matic was al­most al­ways un­happy in more de­mand­ing tour­ing en­vi­ron­ments.

Now buy­ers, most of whom pre­fer au­to­mat­ics to man­u­als any­way, don’t have to com­pro­mise by opt­ing for the auto.

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