THE new Nissan Pathfinder is different from what has come before it. Very different.
When it comes to SUVs, especially those with real off-road ability, I like big and burly. I like a boxy, gutsy workhorse that will feel more at home in the bush than in the school car park. I like one with dare, one that has legs, one that stands out from the pack.
That's what I liked about the previous Nissan Pathfinder.
But one look at the new model on display at the launch this week told me in no uncertain terms that I was going to have to embrace change - for this is a Pathfinder in name only.
It is different, very different, but at the same time quite easy to like.
The interior of the Pathfinder appears much improved with lots of soft-touch surfaces and interesting looking instruments and switchgear.
Seats are fairly supportive but could perhaps do with some side bolstering and are available in leather trim in all models except the entry-level ST.
The steering feels solid to the touch with the controls set out in a common sense fashion. As in the previous Pathfinder, space is decidedly decadent with plenty of legroom even in the third row although a sloping roof back there may make it a bit tight for tall passengers.
The big success story for the Pathfinder here, and one Nissan was quick to point out, was the SUV's ability to seat seven adults in practice and the ease of accessibility thanks to new latch and glide technology. When Isofix child seats are finally approved in Australia - expected to be in the first half of next year - entry to the third row will be possible even with a child seat anchored. There is plenty of storage options - you can hardly find fault with 10 cup holders and six bottle holders - and the cargo area is a liveable 453 litres with the third row in place growing to a sizeable 1353 litres with the seats folded flat.
On the road
It is on the road that it becomes evident that when Nissan talks about an "all new Pathfinder" they really mean it.
This SUV is poles apart from its predecessor in terms of handling and general drive feel with the new monocoque design, which replaces the old body on rail Navara underpinnings, resulting in a much more car-like offering.
The ride itself is pretty soft with the Pathfinder shrugging off that rugged feel for a quieter more comfortable performance especially over bumps.
It does lope into corners a bit and can take a bit to gather momentum but once it hits its stride it proves rather capable.
This Pathfinder, much to the horror of the diesel faithful, is available only in a 3.5-litre V6 petrol unit paired with an Xtronic CVT across the range that can be a bit noisy when pressed.
You have a choice of two-wheel drive or on-demand four-wheel drive in three trim options.
Nissan claims that the Pathfinder shows the same off-road confidence of its worthy predecessor despite its softer looks, but our test course presented few opportunities to really add any credence to really put it through its paces.
What do you get?
The Pathfinder has a more than adequate inclusions list with even the entry-level ST equipped with a bevy of riches including keyless entry and ignition, infotainment system with 17.7cm colour display, Bluetooth connectivity, six-speaker stereo with 2GB of music storage, cruise control, steering wheel controls, tri-zone climate control, eight-way power adjustable driver's seat, reverse camera and sensors and 18-inch alloys.
The ST-L adds leather trim, heated front seats, front sunroof and panoramic glass roof in rear, integrated front fog lights and rear view mirror with auto dazzle.
For the price of the premium Ti (about 10 grand more than the ST-L) you can also have 20-inch alloys, 13-speaker Bose sound system with 8GB music storage, heated and cooled front seats, infotainment system with 20.3cm screen, sat nav, reverse camera with aroundview technology, a powered tailgate and door mirrors as well as seat settings with memory.
Safety is five stars as a result of six airbags, traction control, vehicle dynamic control and anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist.
The seven seats and improved accessibility is of course a real plus for the Pathfinder as is the comfortable drive and extensive storage options.
But one can't help but feel that they are missing a trick with the lack of a diesel.
The official figures are 9.9 litres/100km combined for the 2WD and 10.2 litres/100km for the 4WD. Our test drive added at least two litres more but in all fairness, we were not driving conservatively. Under tow expect the Pathfinder to be quite heavy on the juice. Nissan offers a three year/100,000km warranty and capped pricing for six years or 120,000km.
The Pathfinder has had an extensive exterior makeover now sporting the trademark Nissan grille and new headlight design. The front of the SUV with its sculptured sweep looks far more interesting than a more staid rear but the overall package looks swish and modern.
What matters most
What we liked: Improved interior, comfortable ride, excellent inclusions.
What we'd like to see: Diesel option, more steering feel .
Warranty and servicing: Nissan offers a three year/100,000km warranty with six years/120,000km fixed-price servicing. Servicing is every six months or 10,000km, average price is $364.
Model: Nissan Pathfinder.
Details: Four-door 2WD and 4WD large SUV.
Transmission: Xtronic continuously variable.
Engine: 3.5-litre V6 petrol generating maximum power of 190kW @ 6400rpm and peak torque of 325Nm @ 6400rpm.
Consumption: 9.9 litres/100km (combined average for 2WD) and 10.2L/100km for 4WD.
CO2: 233g/km (2WD) and 240g/km (4WD).
Bottom line: 2WD - ST $39,990, ST-L $50,290, Ti $60,790. 4WD - ST $44,290, ST-L $54,290, Ti $64,890.
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