Pathfinder’s chequered flag
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.