2007 Nissan Pathfinder | road test

Posted on Oct 21, 2006 by

 

One of the few global manufacturers to offer a complete range of SUVs throughout major markets worldwide, introduced the all-new Pathfinder in the Middle East region at last year’s 8th Middle East International Motor Show in Dubai with sales beginning in April this year.

The new Pathfinder arrives in the Middle East with a bigger interior, more seats, a bigger engine and thus more power, and more trim level options. It fact, it is a completely new design, despite its new body being underpinned by a separate chassis.

While off-road purists will be happy about chassis rails, don’t think new Pathfinder is a step backward. Based on the Dunehawk concept, unveiled at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Pathfinder shares its basic platform and parts of its suspension with the Armada. The 2006 Pathfinder combines rugged body-on-frame construction with the superior ride and handling characteristics of 4-wheel independent double-wishbone suspension.

Utilising the strengths of the ‘F-Alpha’ platform as a basis, the Pathfinder builds from a fully boxed, all-steel ladder frame and adds an all-steel double-wishbone front suspension with coil-over shocks and stabiliser bar. In the rear, an independent rear double-wishbone suspension design with the coils located on the toe control link (offset spring and shock) with stabilizer bar improves ride quality and optimizes handling, especially on rough road terrain.

One of the key ingredients of a strong challenger in the teeming masses of  SUVs dotting the trails is a strong powerplant. Whilst Nissan has the relevant 4×4 technology, that alone could not carry the burden of making a good vehicle competent. Enter the excellent V6 powering the iconic 350Z and a host of other Nissan automobiles. With the volume boosted to 4.0-litres and horsepower and torque curves suitably remapped to workhorse geometry, the new Pathfinder’s engine significantly improves on its predecessor’s. A good engine can turn into a great engine if the power is transmitted to the ground in a seamless manner and in this regard the new, five-speed automatic gearbox, geared to get the most out of the engine’s torque characteristics, completes the package.

Whilst this get up and go is one thing, looking and feeling good in the process is another thing altogether, and Nissan has come up with an exterior that is absolutely in sync with the times. In its new guise, the Pathfinder boasts angular chrome verticals that bracket the familiar Nissan logo centred in the grille. Crisply outlined headlight lenses fold around the edges of the fenders. The muscular bumper houses a wide, low air intake, with small, round sockets for the optional fog lights just inboard of the fender blister creases that envelope the 16-inch tyres (optional 17-inchers). Short overhangs front and rear highlight the new Pathfinder’s off-road character.

With styling drawing on its stablemates, the Pathfinder discards its predecessor’s size-limiting, frame-less body construction in favour of a larger, body-on-frame 4×4 design. This, more than anything, opens up the Pathfinder’s exterior – a broad shouldered shape that echoes the Armada full-size SUV. The result is that the Pathfinder now boasts a visual maturity that speaks volumes about its character.

And this is reflected on the inside. There is more room and thus more comfort and conveniences, not to forget more passengers – something that has become more critical as SUVs have grown keeping pace with many growing, active families. This is signified by the three rows of seats to house seven occupants. The addition of the third row seat endows the Pathfinder with outstanding passenger/cargo flexibility and 64 different seating/cargo combinations are now possible to configure: the choice is yours!

Other available features include leather-appointed seats, power sunroof, 6 CD changer, power-adjustable driver’s and front passenger’s seats with driver memory package, leather-appointed steering wheel, and choice of chrome / wood-toned interior.

Uppermost in the centre stack sits the stereo, just above the climate control. Operating these is most easy, as they are fitted with delightfully basic, intuitively shaped knobs and buttons and clear displays. The shift-on-the-fly 4×4 system rotary selector nestles in a panel at the base and in close reach of the driver. Four accessory power outlets are provided throughout the vehicle and include two at the front. One of the most important features of any vehicle today is the provision of suitably sized cupholders and the Pathfinder does not disappoint; there being enough to go around for all occupants.

For the Middle East, the Pathfinder turn ups in four trim levels – XE, SE, SE+ and LE – all of which come with shift-on-the-fly, electronically selected four-wheel drive, with a dash mounted switch operation.

Safety features include dual, two-stage frontal airbags; antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution; and Nissan’s superb VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) electronic stability control. 3-point seat belts are standard for all occupants including the second row centre passenger. On the higher spec versions, a Tyre Pressure Monitor System (TPMS) is also available.

 

 

Behind the Wheel

I tested the Pathfinder in the scenic environs of Los Angeles – actually Santa Ynez, to be more specific and Nissan’s newest SUV did not disappoint in any way. Although it is bigger, the long wheelbase calmed road harshness while the wider track enabled body roll on corners to be kept to the minimum. The suspension engineers have indeed done a great job, given that the Pathfinder now uses ladder-type chassis, rather than the unibody construction of the previous generation. Attention to reducing noise and harshness has resulted in closer body tolerances and some ingenious sound deadening systems. This is so effective, that at times even on the rough, there was hardly any outside intrusion into the cabin.

As mentioned earlier, a good transmission can transform a good engine into a great one and the electronically-controlled five-speed box is a dream to use. At no time on our more than 400km route, including an exploration off the beaten track in the hills surrounding Santa Barbara in a narrow, single vehicle path encompassing some steep climbs with low levels of grip available, did the Pathfinder ever gasp for breath, proving not only the effectiveness of the alternative throttle programming but also its nimbleness in the rough. While there were no real difficult obstacles to conquer, at one stage climbing a 45-degree incline with limited run-off saw the Pathfinder just sail over with the minimum of fuss – the 9.2-inches of ground clearance helping it in no small measure.

The power from the 4.0-litre V6 is not awe-inspiring but is more than adequate. While this statement may not sound very inspiring, what does is the fact that the V6 delivers more horsepower than many of its competitors.

The steering also feeds back a soothing on-centre feel, making driving an enjoyable assignment. Despite being nearly two and a half tons, the Pathfinder gobbles up the miles with no apparent discomfort in any way whatsoever, with no surprises thrown in even on sudden lane changes at speeds more than legally specified. Stopping or slowing down was effectively exercised by the excellent disc brakes all round, with solid feedback at the pedal.

With the 2006 Pathfinder, Nissan now provides a real alternative for the adventure-oriented, active family. It is a truly capable midsize SUV with a strong engine, 4×4 at the turn of a switch, fresh, mature styling and an accommodating interior. What more could one ask for?

Nissan Speak…
At the test drive in Los Angeles, AutoMiddleEast.com spoke to Manju ‘Mitch’ Prabhu, Vehicle Performance Development Manager, Midsize/Compact Truck/SUV) Platform, Nissan North America, about the new Pathfinder and this is what he had to say. Read on…

The Pathfinder was developed to be an authentic and affordable activity-sized SUV that offers innovative functionality for highly active families. It’s unique selling points are the fresh styling, dynamic performance and highly flexible interior. The styling can be characterised by active ruggedness with straightforward function. It is designed to stand out in a crowd with a more modern look and a definite 4X4 stance. The dynamic performance is highlighted by the new VQ40 4.0L petrol engine which packs 291HP/41.7 kgm and superb handling, thanks to its 4 wheel  double wishbone independent suspension which shares common elements with its 350Z sports car sibling. The interior has lots of useful storage compartments and the seats can be configured in 64 different patterns.

Standards for GCC:

The GCC Pathfinder development team was based in the US and worked very closely with the Nissan Middle East offices to understand the needs and sensitivities of the GCC customers. Clear targets were established for noise isolation, engine cooling, a/c performance, high speed performance, fit and finish and durability performance. Test methods were developed to simulate GCC customer usage conditions such as sand dune and highway driving. These test methods were utilized to develop product enhancements and to verify customer expectations were being met. Some examples of enhancements include increased engine compartment noise isolation, engine cooling improvements, a/c system upgrades and chassis durability improvements. Finally, pre-production units were flown to the GCC market and evaluated before the Pathfinder was finally judged OK to go!

Powertrain:

The Pathfinder has been very well received in the US market. Its powerful V6 has more horsepower and torque than many bigger V8 engines. For the GCC market, it has a greater power to weight ratio compared to its competitors and the previous model Pathfinder while offering competitive fuel economy.

 

One Response to 2007 Nissan Pathfinder | road test

  1. Memory Improvement Reply

    October 7, 2014 at 10:05 am

    The dynamic performance is highlighted by the new VQ40 4.0L petrol engine which packs 291HP/41.7 kgm and superb handling.

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