Back on right path
AFTER more than a decade out of the honours, Nissan has again taken the Overlander 4WD of the Year award.
The Pathfinder didn’t trounce the opposition, especially the Challenger, but it garnered sufficient points to carry the day, thanks to its compelling combination of value for money, performance, economy, refinement, on-road handling, space efficiency, and just enough ability in the bush.
In wining the 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.
The Pathfinder had a significant upgrade in 2010 with a new, more powerful and fuel-efficient turbo diesel now standard in all the model grades.
With a new generation commonrail fuel-injection system and a bigger, now electronically controlled turbo among other changes, the peak power has jumped from a claimed 126kW to 140kW while the claimed torque figure is up from 403Nm to 450Nm.
With its fully independent suspension and road-oriented Goodyear Wrangler HP tyres, we expected 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 enough with none of the low-speed throttle surging that sometimes troubles the Navara. 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 – but this is a better automatic off-road than that of the Challenger.
Performance aside, one of the big advancements of this updated Pathfinder is the new engine and the fivespeed auto are far happier companions than in the pre-update models.
And, while the Pathfinder’s fully independent suspension isn’t the ideal set-up off-road, it certainly comes into its own on the road. Here the Pathfinder rides a little on the firm side but is generally poised and composed with only some understeer to detract from its sporty dynamic ability. 1993 LandCruiser 80 series RV 1994 Land Rover Discovery Tdi auto 1995 Range Rover HSE 1996 Toyota Prado RV manual 1997 Mitsubishi Pajero GLS 3.5 1998 Lexus LX 470 1999 Nissan Pathfinder ST 2000 Toyota Prado GXL turbo-diesel 2001 BMW X5 4.4i 2002 Range Rover Td6 2003 Volkswagen Touareg V8 2004 Land Rover Discovery 3 TDV6 2005 Range Rover Sport TDV6 2006 Toyota Prado GXL D4D 2007 Toyota LandCruiser 200
GXL D4D 2008 Mitsubishi NT Pajero GLS Cdi 2009 Mitsubishi Triton GLX-R 2010 Nissan Pathfinder
COMPELLING COMBINATION: The Nissan Pathfinder has been named the Overlander 4WD of the Year.