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Overlander 4WD of the Year

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    Leader of the pack ... the Nissan Pathfinder is the winner of the Overlander 4WD of the Year award. Photo Gallery

Nissan's R51 Pathfinder takes 1st Place in the Overlander 4WD of The Year with 194 Points.

Nissan Pathfinder is back again this year thanks to a significant upgrade via a new, more powerful and fuel-efficient turbo diesel that is now standard in all the model grades. With a new generation common-rail 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 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 enough with none of the low-speed throttle surging that sometimes trouble 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 suffer that compromise by opting for the auto. The only 'sin' the auto now commits is that sometimes wants to hold onto the taller gears longer than it should on long, steep climbs. For its part, the new engine is strong in the mid-range and top-end but could be stronger off the bottom. It's also reasonably quiet and refined and goes about the business of getting from A to B with little fuss.

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 tidy and sporty dynamic ability.

The Pathfinder's boxy shape works well in terms of interior space efficiency. The front is roomy and comfortable and the rear seat has good space and the advantage of adjustable backrest. The second-row seat also folds individually in three sections for enhanced load/people carrying flexibility while the third-row folds into the floor of what is a generous luggage space.

For an automatic the Pathfinder turns in decent economy while its 80-litre tank further enhances the touring range. A handy 3000kg towing capacity is also a bonus while, under the bonnet, intake air is sensibly drawn from the inner guard. No room for an additional battery however and single recovery points front and rear.

To read the full report, see this month's edition of Overlander, on sale now ...

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 13 comments

  • 2002 Pathy Ti with dual fuel conversion: 205,000kms with not a single problem. 25% of that towing a 1500kg off-road caravan (Cape York and back - rough) and around Oz on another trip (24,000kms). Drive it hard mostly but it's a slug. Love it, only 4WD I know of that handles more like a car than a tank. A mate has one like mine, drives it hard on rough 4WD stuff and it's never let him down either. I haven't heard of any problems with overall Nissan reliability except for the Patrol #5 piston problem a few years back (which I'll admit was a doozie).

    Larry H of Bathurst, NSW Posted on 03 May 2011 9:37pm
  • Pity about the independent suspension. So low to the ground.

    York of Aust Posted on 09 March 2011 1:21pm
  • Must admit I have not had any issues with my new ST-L purchased last November. I think I was over charged at $67,000 as I got better prices after I had placed the order. Made them add all the accessories for free so at least the accessories are covered by the three year warranty. Insisted on a HR tow bar.

    Wade Hatton of Narre Warren Vic. Posted on 04 March 2011 4:58pm
  • Yep 7,500 ks on the clock and my ST has a hole in the oil pump apparently from a holding screw that has fallen out and spat through it. Not happy Jan! I hope that the problem is rectified with a new pump but I am sceptical as the screw has not been found and is probably floating around ready to do more damage.

    Peter Clark Posted on 25 February 2011 8:15pm
  • I paid 61K for a series 4 Ti Driveaway..with snorkel, towbar and kayak carrier as well as extra headsets, 2011 maps and 2 more 12 volt points..if you pay anymore your a sucker

    Paul of Perth, WA Posted on 25 January 2011 5:08pm
  • I have a new 2010 Ti and I don't think it is as good as you say. Its OK for the money compared to others in class however thus far it has too many rattles in dash and behind drivers door, soft suspension that feels useless and sloppy gearbox in my opinion. first 1000km service coming up so maybe Nissan will fix however things I am really disappointed in are Nissan Genuine parts I paid top dollar for. Nissan 3 tonne Towbar is a joke coz you cant use weight distribution hitches on it and snorkel is sealed with foam and airbox feels like its about to fall off..Nissan Genuine accessories FAIL!!!

    Paul of Perth, WA Posted on 25 January 2011 5:02pm
  • Turns in "decent economy": didn't see the figure?

    Max W of Murray Valley SA Posted on 25 January 2011 11:46am
  • My '06 R51 ST-L has got 75k on the clock and hasn't skipped a beat. Compared to my last 2 hilux's it's a dream to own. Sure it chews brakes (pads and disks) but they warned me of that, otherwise I love it. The upgrades are warranted, who doesn't want more power? Congratulations Nissan on a well designed, well built car!

    Joe Williamson of Sydney Posted on 24 January 2011 12:08pm
  • I have owned a Nissan X-TRAIL for 7 years now without a days trouble reliable and quite well built...can't comment on the diesels though

    Stephan.Jelenic of Campbelltown Posted on 22 January 2011 9:11am
  • A Nissan Navara with a station wagon body priced at $76000 worth $50,000 at best,throw in Nissan Diesel unreliabilty and poor build quality. This is why magazines like Overlander have become irrelevant when deciding on a new 4WD.

    Jeremy of Bathurst NSW Posted on 21 January 2011 11:21am
  • Shut up knobs get a life

    tomas Posted on 20 January 2011 6:44pm
  • Pity about nissans reliability and build quality.

    sam Posted on 20 January 2011 10:38am
  • $75,990 for the top spec model. Whatever. It ain't worth it ... and if it's as reliable as my D40 was, prepare for heartache.

    Neal of Cairns Posted on 20 January 2011 7:22am
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