Nissan carving a new path

Observer writer

Friday, September 07, 2018

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WHEN it comes to Japanese sport utility vehicles, the Nissan Pathfinder has shared the limelight along with its class rivals. For the 2019 version, it's been updated to move it into its own space.

The biggest change is visual. As the brand's top SUV, it has set the design language for models down the range. In 2019, roles get reversed as the Pathfinder adopts the corporate face that has been rolled out on the current versions of Nissan's compact SUVs. This means a more pronounced grille containing chrome, matte black honeycomb styling and a sizeable central Nissan logo. The intent is to mimic the nose of the Nissan supercar, the GT-R. Slimmer headlights complete the update, with unique Daytime Running Lights and LED low-projector beams. The whole appearance of the Pathfinder, with its relatively clean body lines, keeps it looking good, especially as the 18-inch wheels matched the tested model's grey metallic paint that gave it a cool battleship look.

Inside, the Pathfinder is all luxury and driver-focused. High-quality materials are everywhere from door to dashboard. Leather and wood trimmings dominate. Helping the cabin is its size, as it seats seven. Large windows allow plenty of light adding further ambiance. Maximising the light influx are dual sunroofs, one for the front passengers and a longer panoramic one for the two rear rows. Most major functions are powered or automated. Climate controls and plenty of connectivity, through the infotainment system via USB ports and bluetooth, mean all seven passengers can commute in comfort over long distances. The main 7-inch touchscreen is clear, responsive and serves as the 360-degree reverse camera. To further alleviate any potential boredom, the Bose stereo system sounds great and includes a DVD player that broadcasts to two screens mounted into the rear of the front headrests. For those hauling less than seven, the third row folds into the floor adding plenty interior space. The second row has a 60/40 split endowing the Pathfinder with cargo van-like hauling. Loading is simple as the rear gate now opens with a swipe of the foot under the bumper. A trailer hitch for towing is also standard.

Fire up the 3.5-litre V6 and it's smooth. This is where the Nissan differentiates itself from the pack. It begins with the seating position. It's possible to move the seats lower, not sports car — low, but low enough to feel more car-like. From there, it's clear that the Pathfinder is optimised for on-road performance. The engine and Nissan's Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission work together in harmony to deliver the 240lb/ft of torque whenever the driver wants as there are no driving modes.

Despite its height, the Pathfinder never feels top-heavy, able to corner at speeds with minimum body roll. It can cruise comfortably at highway speeds and handle the twists and turns of B-roads in the right hands. This doesn't come at any significant loss of off-road performance. For best fuel efficiency, the 4x4 system can be left in two-wheel drive or auto mode allowing the vehicle to figure out its traction needs of which live updates can be watched on the centre screen in the instrument binnacle. Drivers can lock the differential for more demanding off-road terrain with the spin of the 4x4-I know. Engaging the hill descent function further takes the worry out of tough off-roading as one sits in the heated and cooled front seats.

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