Take a plusher path

Nis­san’s seven-seater re­turns to the radar. Grant Ed­wards counts its tweaks — and thirst

The Advertiser - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE NISSAN PATHFINDER -

TWO out of three large sports util­ity ve­hi­cles sold last year were pre­tenders.

You know the type: they have the off-roader hall­marks, such as ride-height and flared arches, but they are de­signed to rarely leave the bi­tu­men. Made for the school run, not burly bush fun.

Nis­san saw the writ­ing on the wall for its Pathfinder in late 2013.

The pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion was of the util­i­tar­ian va­ri­ety but the new model went from Pathfinder to Path-kinder. The move paid div­i­dends, with sales more than dou­bling in 2014.

Two years later, though, sales have slowed and a much­needed mid-life up­date brings a new face, im­proved tech smarts, ex­tra power and other tweaks to the V6 vari­ants.

Prices have re­mained the same across the Pathfinder line-up, apart from the en­try level front-drive model, which is $500 more at $41,990 plus on-roads.

Nis­san Aus­tralia boss Richard Emery says ex­tra value has been thrown at the big SUV, along with plans for snap­pier mar­ket­ing, to grab the at­ten­tion he says it de­serves against of­fer­ings such as the Toy­ota Kluger, Mazda CX-9 and Hyundai Santa Fe.

“We think it has be­come a for­got­ten car,” he says.

“Maybe it flies un­der the radar…maybe it’s our fault, the na­ture of the seg­ment or the style of ve­hi­cle it is.

“When we moved from (the pre­vi­ous model) we have never sold so many Pathfind­ers.

“Our volume has been slowly creep­ing up. We think it de­serves a greater level of con­sid­er­a­tion.”

There are still three lev­els of spec, ST, ST-L and Ti, with a choice of the re­vised V6 or a hy­brid with four-cylin­der and an elec­tric mo­tor.

Among the key changes is bet­ter con­nec­tiv­ity through a stan­dard eight-inch colour touch­screen with two USB ports. The ST-L and Ti get sat­nav with up­dated graph­ics.

Ti mod­els have three USB slots and an HDMI in­put that al­lows sep­a­rate view­ing on the rear screens. Par­ents re­joice.

Radar cruise con­trol, for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing, rear cross traf­fic alert and sur­round­view cam­era have also been in­tro­duced to the mid and top­spec mod­els.

ON THE ROAD

All the gains come with the volume-sell­ing V6, thanks to changes to more than 50 per cent of en­gine com­po­nents.

The per­for­mance is smoother and more re­fined thanks to the “D-Step” con­tin­u­ously vari­able au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, as seen in the X-Trail. It per­forms more like a stan­dard self-shifter and mim­ics gear changes un­der heavy ac­cel­er­a­tion.

Im­prove­ments send 12kW more power to the front or all wheels (de­pend­ing on model) while torque is boosted from 325Nm to 340Nm.

There’s am­ple power but fuel con­sump­tion re­mains at the up­per end of the scale by mod­ern stan­dards. Our test in ru­ral sur­rounds re­turned about 12.0L/100km.

Its North Amer­i­can her­itage is ev­i­dent in the plush ride, although the sus­pen­sion has been stiff­ened and the steer­ing quick­ened for dif­fer­ing Aus­tralian tastes.

VER­DICT

Ex­cel­lent road man­ners and a quiet, fea­ture-laden cabin en­sure there is a lot to like about the Pathfinder.

There is no Ap­ple CarPlay or An­droid Auto, a key omis­sion. Its dou­ble-digit thirst will raise eye­brows but this is a large job with gen­uine ca­pac­ity for seven.

There is ex­cel­lent space in all three rows and the Pathfinder re­mains a re­fined and well­sorted fam­ily hauler with the V6 pro­vid­ing will­ing re­sponse to the throt­tle.

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