Hybrid isn’t the first thing that springs to mind in the blokey Pathfinder word cloud but as we’re all acutely aware, times are changing. Big boofy four-wheel drives are getting leaner forms of propulsion. Heavens, even sporty heavy-hitters like Porsche will sell you a big SUV with an oil-burner.
Nissan has put a lot into electric tech, with the Leaf being its halo model, so it makes sense for the Japanese company to drop in a quirky drivetrain for those looking to spend more time in traffic and less time bouncing around a paddock.
Nissan has had to plug a gap with the Hybrid – the US-sourced Pathfinder doesn’t have a diesel engine (our American friends aren’t fans of the fuel), so Nissan’s hybrid system is the only choice to reduce consumption.
The Pathfinder range kicks off at a reasonable $39,990. This is for the 3.5-litre V6 powered front-wheel drive only machine, but there is a lot car here for the money.
The range works its way through a variety of front and four-wheel drive V6 variants with a couple of hybrid versions peppered in the range. All variants have seven seats as standard, a sensible touch.
The cheapest hybrid is the front-wheel-drive-only ST, asking a $3000 premium over the basic petrol. The ST-L rises to $57,490 and then at the top of the range is the $68,090 Ti 4×4, the car we’re testing here.
That wedge of cash gets you three-zone climate control, active noise cancellation, front rear and around-view cameras, keyless entry and start, cruise control, DVD player with screens and headphones for the middle row, electric front and heated seats, sat-nav, auto headlights and wipers, real and fake leather bits and pieces, big central screen, powered tailgate, electric sunroof and tinted windows.
After an awkward start, the design language that debuted on the slightly odd-looking Murano has gone well when applied to both the X-Trail and the Pathfinder (and the Qashqai if you squint a bit). It’s not what you’d call pretty, but it’s well-proportioned and the looks disguise what is a genuinely gigantic car.
Some SUVs this size suffer from compensation issues, but the designers have kept the chrome minimal and tasteful and the 20-inch wheels do a fine job of filling the considerably spacious arches.
Inside is well-executed if a bit plasticky in places, but the difference between the real and fake leather is minimal and, honestly, inconsequential. There’s a truckload of storage available from drink holders for all three rows (ten in total!), to cubby holes and slots for smart phones – its cabin you could easily live in.
The third row of seats is very well designed in both placement and operation, with a simple process to lift the seat backs out of the floor and – surprise – you can actually fit real live humans in there rather than cadaverous crash test dummies. There’s a decent footwell to put your passengers’ feet in. Few seven seaters are as generous. Even with the rears up, there’s enough space in the boot for a few bags.
Five-star ANCAP protection is served up by six airbags, with the curtain airbags reaching right back to the third row. There’s also ABS, brake assist, traction and stability control, hill holder, load limited and pre-tensioned belts for the front passengers while all seats get lap-sash belts.
The massive blind spots are eliminated by the front, rear and around-view cameras.
Pathfinder Ti has a quirky sound system controlled by a big eight-inch screen that also does duty for the reasonable sat-nav and various cameras around the car. The top of the range also picks up 13 Bose-branded speakers, seven more than the standard, non-branded system.
After a slightly puzzling set up process, the stereo gave good clear sound and a more-than-decent Bluetooth phone performance. It integrates happily via USB, as well.
The DVD player sends vision back to two headrest mounted screens for middle row passengers, with a pair of wireless headphones thrown into the bargain.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
All Pathfinder Hybrids are powered by a 2.5-litre supercharged four cylinder and a fifteen kilowatt electric motor. Together the power outputs come to 188kW (versus the V6’s 190) and 330Nm (five up on the V6’s 325).
The 2.5 is also secured by active engine mounts to reduce noise and vibration coming into the cabin, where it is then further suppressed with active noise cancelling.
Power hits the road in the Ti via all four wheels and a CVT transmission. The driver can select front or four wheel drive, or let the car decide for you.
Nissan claims 8.5 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, around twenty percent better than the V6. We saw just over 10 L/100km in mainly city driving, which is pretty good going.
The Pathfinder is big, there’s no getting away from it. However, it won’t get away from you. Despite healthy power outputs, the big boy sets a leisurely pace, but with a strong mid-range assist from the electric motor.
The CVT transmission makes the most sense given the powertrain. The Ti is the heaviest of the range, troubling the scales at just under 2.1 tonnes but this compares favourably with other similarly-sized vehicles, which are often rather heavier.
The Pathfinder won’t set the world on fire with steering or handling but it does have a fantastic, cushioney ride. The body roll is well-checked but you can feel the weight moving around on the long springs as you tip it into corners.
It’s light and easy to drive once you’ve gotten used to its considerable girth and length and we settled in pretty quickly once we stopped guffawing at how tight shopping centre car spaces are.
SUMMING UP 3.5/5
The main thing is, your six passengers will be perfectly happy in the Pathfinder – it’s roomy and quiet and has plenty of things to keep them occupied. In this spec, it’s a real city-biased car, with an overlap of SUV and people mover attributes.
There won’t be a stampede of Tarago or Odyssey owners to the Pathfinder – they’re far too different – but as seven seaters go, it’s roomier than the (admittedly cheaper) Outlander PHEV and far better finished. It won’t sip the fuel as parsimoniously, though.
While the Nissan Pathfinder Ti nudges $70,000 before on-roads, there’s a lot of metal for the money and it will still tow 750 kg unbraked or 1650 kg braked (down from 2700 from the thirsty V6). It’ll also do a decent job off-road if you’re happy to ruin those nice wheels.
Seven seats, hybrid drivetrain, acres of space. It does exactly what it says on the tin without dragging around surplus cylinders you’ll never use.
AT A GLANCE
ST 2WD 3.5-litre petrol five-door seven-seat wagon: $39,990 (CVT automatic)
ST-L 2WD 3.5-litre petrol five-door seven-seat wagon: $50,490 (CVT automatic)
Ti 2WD 3.5-litre petrol five-door seven-seat wagon: $60,990 (CVT automatic)
ST 4WD 3.5-litre petrol five-door seven-seat wagon: $44,490 (CVT automatic)
ST-L 4WD 3.5-litre petrol five-door seven-seat wagon: $50,490 (CVT automatic)
Ti 4WD 3.5-litre petrol five-door seven-seat wagon: $65,090 (CVT automatic)
ST Hybrid 2WD 2.5-litre petrol / electric five-door seven-seat wagon: $42,990 (CVT automatic)
ST-L Hybrid 4WD 2.5-litre petrol / electric five-door seven-seat wagon: $57,490 (CVT automatic)
Ti Hybrid 4WD 2.5-litre petrol / electric five-door seven-seat wagon: $68,090 (CVT automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Nissan dealer for driveaway prices.
FEATURES ABS Brakes: Standard in all models Automatic Transmission: Standard in all models Cruise Control: Standard in all models Dual Front Airbags: Standard in all models Front Side Airbags: Standard in all models Electronic Stability Program: Standard in all models Rear Parking Sensors: Standard in all models Reversing Camera: Standard in all models
USB/Auxiliary Audio Inputs: Standard in all models Satellite Navigation: Standard in Ti, optional in ST-L, not offered in ST
Bluetooth: Standard in all models Steering Wheel Mounted Controls: Standard in all models
SPECIFICATIONS (Nissan Pathfinder Ti Hybrid 4WD 2.5-litre petrol / electric five-door seven-seat wagon)
Capacity: 2.488 litres + 15 kW electric motor
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Head Design: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Bore/Stroke: 89.0 x 100.0 mm
Maximum Power: 188 kW @ 5600 rpm (combined)
Maximum Torque: 330 Nm @ 3600 rpm (combined)
Driven Wheels: 4WD
Manual Transmission: Not offered
Automatic Transmission: Continuously variable
Final Drive Ratio: 5.577:1
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4813 mm
Wheelbase: 2900 mm
Width: 1960 mm
Height: 1768 mm
Turning Circle: 11.8 metres
Kerb Mass: 2073 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 73 litres
Towing Capacity: 750 kg (1650 kg with braked trailer)
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES:
Front Suspension: Independent, double wishbone, coil springs over shock
Rear Suspension: Independent, multi-link, coil springs
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Ventilated disc
Type: Petrol 91RON
Consumption – Combined Cycle (ADR 81/02): 8.4 /100km
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE RATINGS:
Green Vehicle Guide Greenhouse Rating: 6.5/10
Green Vehicle Guide Air Pollution Rating: 5.5/10