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Nissan Pathfinder ST-L review

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    Go find the real outdoors in a wagon that is more go than show. Photo Gallery

Neil Dowling road tests and reviews the 2011 2.5-litre turbo-diesel Nissan Pathfinder ST-L.

Nissan Pathfinder ST-L 3.5
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  • Rugged
  • Roomy
  • Tow ability
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  • Noisy
  • Dated
  • Hard rear seat

HUMANS remain on the earth because they're cunning little critters who can out think other creatures. They're also adept at camouflage and, like a chameleon changes its appearance to suit the environment, humans change their presence to suit their social surroundings. It is popular, for example, to be seen in the community as being a bit of an escapist. An adventurer or at least one with a sense of adventure. They think a bit of deering-do will bolster their social status around the barbecue.

Vehicle manufacturers prey convincingly on this dint in the armour of the earth's greatest thinker by providing the prospect of adventure without the dust, dirt and flies. It's called an SUV. For the real adventurers, there's the Nissan Pathfinder.

VALUE

Like a visit to a Paddy Pallin store, the real outdoors may be free but getting their in the right gear is darn expensive. Don't let the fact that things are a lot cheaper in Spain than they are here - the Spanish-built Pathfinder doesn't come cheap.

The mid-range ST-L model is $59,490 which is dearer than its Thai-built Mitsubishi Challenger counterpart at $56,390 and well above the other main contender, the US-made $43,000 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited four-door diesel. But if you're going Pathfinder, the ST-L is the best model choice.

DESIGN

Think of a big box with a smaller box at the front. That's basically the Pathfinder. The square shoulders maximise cabin rom, allowing it to seat seven people - even two modest-size adults can get comfy in the third row - and a modicum of luggage. Put rows two and three down flat and it'll sleep you and yours or stack a few bicycles or some furniture. You could save a fortune in council rates by living for years in the back of one of these.

The Pathfinder was last year updated but the make-up artist should be fired. It still looks rugged, functional and capable but it's really dated. Put it in a Kmart carpark and it looks like an old man sitting amongst pre-schoolers.

TECHNOLOGY

The body isn't anything to write home about but the chassis is interesting. The 2.5-litre turbo-diesel engine last year has been given more verve and now does a great job at hauling a heavy, unladen and liquid-free 2.2-tonne wagon, proving that solid technology and a decent turbo can make small-bore diesels really sing.

I was also impressed by the ride comfort and quietness at cruising speeds, attributed to the independent t front and rear suspension. It's great for the road but offers less wheel travel for dirt work. There's also a hill holder and hill descent control to aid the adventurer.

SAFETY

If the sheer bulk and acreage of sheet metal doesn't protect you, then you'll be comforted by the six airbags - including full length curtain bags for the three seat rows - and the electronic stability control, big disc brakes with ABS and things like electronic brakeforce distribution and other big words.

DRIVING

The Pathfinder is portrayed as a medium-size SUV but compared to a mid-size car, it's a whopper. Though big and unfriendly in most car parks, it has light steering, excellent visibility, a squared body shape (with no hidden corners), silky automatic gearbox and gutsy low-speed engine in its favour.

Diesels aren't quiet and the Pathfinder doesn't disappoint. At idle it's rough but settles as the revs rise to become almost inaudible at cruising speeds. It's also responsive and if the tacho needle is swaying around 2500-3000rpm will accelerate surprisingly quickly without needing a gearbox downchange.

Ride comfort is great thanks to the double-wishbone suspension at all corners, but the seats aren't very supportive and the leather facings are slippery. Try not to downsize to the cheaper ST because while you'll skip the leather, you'll also lose the extra airbags.

Sandy tracks are a breeze. The Pathfinder defaults to rear-wheel drive but a rotary dial on the dash selects 4WD High and 4WD Low, making it a very capable machine off the road.

Yes, its independent suspension can hang up a wheel when crossing gnarly ruts or logs. A 4WD with a live rear axle generally has more wheel travel and hence more chance of keeping the wheels on the ground.

But the Pathfinder uses electronic wheel monitoring to shuffle power directly to the wheel(s) that are on the ground. Your chances of getting stuck are pretty remote. Best of all, the Pathfinder has a 3000kg towing capability to suit travellers with caravans.

RATING

7/10

NISSAN PATHFINDER ST-L

Origin: Spain
Price: $59,490
Engine: 2.5-litre, 4-cyl turbo-diesel
Power: 140kW @ 4000rpm
Torque: 450Nm @ 2000rpm
Fuel tank: 80 litres
Economy (official): 9.0 litres/100km
Economy (tested): 11.2 litres/100km
Greenhouse: 238g/km (Corolla: 174g/km)
Transmission: 5-speed automatic, sequential; part-time 4WD, dual-range
Brakes: 4-wheel vented discs, ESC, ABS, EBD, brake assist, descent control
Turning circle: 11.9m
Suspension: Front/rear _ double wishbones, coils
Wheels: 17-inch alloy, 255/65R17 tyres; full-size spare
Dimensions: 4813mm (l), 1850mm (w), 1865mm (h)
Wheelbase: 2850mm
Ground clearance: 228mm
Weight: 2175kg
Tow (max): 3000kg
Boot (seat up/down): 190/2090 litres (Corolla: 450/1121l)
Warranty: 3yr/100,000km
Service: 15,000km

FEATURES

  • Dual-zone climate airconditioning
  • 6-speaker 6-CD/iPod audio
  • 6 airbags
  • Cruise
  • Heated seats
  • Leather.

RIVALS

  • Mitsubishi Challenger XLS from $56,390 (7.5/10)
  • Toyota Prado GXL from $61,904 (7/10)
  • Jeep Wrangler Unlimited from $43,000 (7/10).

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 3 comments

  • You must see in your case if this suits, Ned..

    Pathy Posted on 12 August 2012 2:52pm
  • Bought an ST-L in 2011. Despite small niggly factory problems I have fallen in love with it!  Great blend of on and off road; quiet on the highway, good mileage etc and hauls seven round when required - great family vehicle. Just came back from a week on Fraser after numerous previous beach trips and have not been able to stop the thing, despite my best attempts - including overloading and dropping the clearance a the back by a couple of inches at least. The All Mode 4wd and the grunt traction control etc really work to make this car almost irresistible! Now for some forest trails…...

    Bret of Sunshine Coast Posted on 05 January 2012 4:26pm
  • Nissan Pathfinder 2010 model.
    Not impressed stepped straight out of the old TI to the new one, and after several life threatening incidents I am less than happy. This is purely because of the change in the gearbox, the old one (2007 vintage ) was brilliant at the most severe hill climb I could point it at the new one has been modified( sadly without awareness) to a new gearbox (downsized from 6 speed to 5) but the real crunch is in low 4wd (it doesn’t stay there).
    In the first incident I stopped at the bottom of a very steep wet clay track engaged low 4, then advanced up the hill. About halfway there I realized it had changed thru to 4th gear and I was running out of power. I had traversed this hill on many occasions previously in the 2007 unit without concern. I had to reverse back down the hill to safety, but on the way a large rock jammed my mud flap against the wheel and tore of the mud flap and bumper bar.
    The second incident was further up the same hill on another date, I got caught in a 500mm deep mud hole. Thanks to the guy in the Land cruiser Ute following he pulled me back by winch (he had to use the winch on several occasions to catch me going up the hill with none). This ?puddle ?was on a bend in the road so I decided to go into the corner with full lock and power to get me through the mud. I got through the mud hole but then the front wheels found traction and as I was still on full lock expecting to crawl out, only to find I was in 4th gear and got spat out when traction was found. This found me in a compromising position with a tree and several rocks plus the PLASTIC bulbar didn?t stop my advance.
    I could rave on about the difficulties of traveling this road, due to the fact that other companies won?t allow their staff up there in the appalling conditions that one strikes after cyclones and tropical downpours. Simply to say that they have destroyed a good 4wd,by changing the gearbox to this different unit.
    I have the warranty receipt to say that this vehicle is operating to its standard, no errors on the ECU, and I have been told by the attending mechanic that he would never attempt to take that vehicle to that hill.
    Just as a matter of interest my own vehicle is a LN65 Hilux, that i would take up there anytime.
    Al Byron
    Death defying !!

    Al byron of Cairns Posted on 29 March 2011 9:12pm

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