The next few months are going to be an important time for Nissan New Zealand.
A fourth-generation version of its highly regard Pathfinder SUV has just arrived on the scene, signalling several significant changes to its presence in the medium-large SUV sector.
One such change is that the new Tennesse-built Pathfinder is now of unibody construction rather than being build on an on- frame chassis - in fact its platform is the same as that of the new Altima sedan which will be introduced here later this year.
That in itself is going
|AT A GLANCE|
|Drivetrain: Transverse 3.5-litre multipoint fuel injected V6 petrol engine with next-generation Xtronic continuously variable automatic transmission.|
|Outputs: 190kW at 6400rpm, 325Nm at 4400rpm, 2WD version 9.9L/1090km and 233g/km CO2, 4WD version 10.2L/100km, 240g/km CO2.|
|Chassis: Independent front and rear suspension, electronic speed-sensitive power steering, all-wheel drive models have All-mode 4x4 with electronic selection.|
|Safety: Vehicle dynamic control, traction control, ABS brakes with brake force distribution and brake assist, tyre pressure monitoring system, hill-start assist, front, side and curtain airbags.|
|Dimensions: L 5008mm, W 1960mm, H 1767.5mm, W/base 2900mm, front/rear tracks 1670mm, ground clearance 165mm, approach angle 14.7 degrees, departure angle 22.3mm, towing capacity 2700kg braked.|
|Pricing: ST 2WD $54,990, ST 4WD $59,990, Ti 4WD $65,990.|
|Hot: Smooth new styling, more interior room, much improved specification for substantially lowered prices, 2WD version now available.|
|Not: Drive sometimes feels detached, some won't like the CVT, no diesel in the selection.|
|Verdict: New Pathfinder represents a natural progression for the model – less ruggedness, more urbanity.|
Another major change with Pathfinder is that it features a smooth almost organic bodyshell, which underlines the fact that this time around the vehicle is aiming to market itself as an urbane SUV-style onroad model rather than for any rugged off- road ability.
That's going to be exactly the same aim with a brand-new X-Trail scheduled to arrive in the second quarter of next year. This medium-sized SUV was recently unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and it looks very much like a downsized Pathfinder - and in typical crossover style this time around it will have seven seats too, just like every grade of the new Pathfinder.
A further scheduled Nissan arrival is a turbocharged all- wheel drive version of the Juke hatch, which will arrive on showroom floors within the next few weeks. Not only that, but turbocharged SSS version of the Pulsar sedan has just been confirmed for Australia, so it almost certain to come here too.
The only new model that is not likely to make its way to New Zealand is a turbocharged hybrid version of the Pathfinder, which has been confirmed for Aussie but is not seen to be appropriate for the Kiwi market at this stage.
But even without the hybrid, it is obvious that the remainder of this year and the first half of 2014 is going to be a busy period for Nissan New Zealand as it moves to improve its market position.
And an important part of that effort will be the new Pathfinder.
In stark contrast to the third- generation model which by the end of its career here had been reduced to a single 4WD 2.5-litre turbodiesel-engined model specified to a high Ti level, the new fourth-generation version is powered exclusively by the same 3.5-litre petrol V6 as that aboard the Maxima, is offered in 2WD and 4WD formats, and with ST as well as Ti levels of spec.
Significantly, prices have been substantially reduced. An entry model ST 2WD retails for $54,990 with the 4WD version costing $59,990, while a top Ti 4WD model retails for $65,990.
These prices position the Pathfinder perfectly against what Nissan NZ considers to be its prime competitors, the Toyota Highlander, Ford Territory and Mazda CX-9.
Pathfinder's latest chassis selection continues an on again- off again career for this model. When the first generation version was introduced way back in 1986 it was derived from Nissan's ute platform so had a full ladder chassis. That went to a unibody platform for the second- generation model, then returned to on-frame for the third, and now has returned to unibody construction.
This time around it does make sense though. It has allowed the latest Pathfinder to be bigger but lighter, and its unibody construction if obviously a better fit with the smooth V6 engine mated to a CVT automatic transmission, which replaces the previously rather clattery turbodiesel which was mated to a five-speed auto.
No doubt some will bemoan all of this, suggesting the move to petrol and CVT as proof that the previously rugged Pathfinder has well and truly moved into town. And a short evening drive in a Ti version last week did quickly show the big Nissan to be far more car-like in its demeanour than before.
All three Pathfinder models have a long list of standard equipment. A rear spoiler and front chin spoiler are offset by the body coloured bumpers and power operated exterior rear view mirrors. The automatic dusk sensing halogen headlights have manual height adjustment. Privacy glass is used for the rear side and back windows.
In the cabin the steering wheel and transmission shift lever are leather covered. The steering wheel has tilt and telescopic adjustment and the driver has the benefit of an eight-way electrically adjustable seat to find the ideal driving position.
Controls for the audio system, Bluetooth phone capability, trip computer and cruise control are on the steering wheel boss.
The sound system has six speakers and is USB, iPod and MP3 compatible. A seven-inch colour display provides information on all the vehicle's major systems, including the reversing camera which is complemented by rear sensors.
An intelligent key operates the remote control central locking system, which is linked to the alarm system and engine immobiliser. There is push button engine start and stop.
Tri-zone climate control air conditioning has outlets in the front and rear of the cabin.
All-new Nissan Pathfinder includes Nissan's clever EZ Flex seating system, with a 60/40 split second row seat and a 50/50 split third row for a myriad of seating and cargo combinations.
The range topping Ti model adds full leather upholstery with double stitching, which includes leather door panels. There is a front sunroof and large panoramic glass roof with shade cover in the rear, and the passenger's seat gets power adjustment, while both front seats are heated.
The steering wheel adjustment is power operated and the exterior rear view mirrors are heated to clear away winter ice or dew. The interior rear vision mirror has an automatic anti dazzle feature and a built-in compass.
Fog lights are added together with step lamps, side guard moulds and stainless kick plates.
Essentially the new Pathfinder represents a fresh take on SUV design trends that are becoming increasingly urbanised - the new model has even abandoned the Pathfinder tradition of having its rear door handles in the C-pillar.
And it will contribute to what will be a very solid SUV/ crossover selection from Nissan. Heavy-duty requirements can be met by the Patrol, then there's the smoother and more urbane Pathfinder, Murano and X-Trail, right down to the compact Juke which can be said to be more crossover than hatch. That's quite a choice.
- © Fairfax NZ News