Remember Nissan’s TV advert where the Pathfinder sent people screaming for cover as it chugged through an Amercian city? That’s because this pick-up is a gigantic brute of a car, a proper workhorse, a ‘car’ that’s not afraid to roll up its sleeves and get dirty. And because Nissan knows that it can’t match the green oval kudos of Land Rover you can buy the Pathfinder loaded with leather, heated electric seats and sat-nav. Question is, is this a step too far?
What powers the Nissan Pathfinder? Some large V8?
There’s only one engine, an archaic but hardy 169bhp 2.5-litre diesel. And while overtaking on single carriageways is best consigned to memory, 297lb ft of torque ensures the same lumbering pace regardless of the hill the Nissan faces.
As you might imagine, handling is not high up the Pathfinder's priorities. Body roll is borderline ridiculous, it’s not great at softening out the road’s bumps, and with a back end that extends into neighbouring counties, the Pathfinder can feel clumsy on narrow B-roads. Steering requires more muscle effort than most and the gearshift is a little sloppy.
But those who’d buy into the exterior styling – effectively a Navara with a steel canopy above the pick-up bed, and well suited to gun racks, hunting lights and UN decals – would want it to be a bit of a brute.Click 'Next' below to read more of our Nissan Pathfinder first drive
What about practicality?
The gargantuan 4740mm length and portly 1850mm width mean the Pathfinder is marvellous for stowage. When you feng shui the five fully collapsible seats flat into the floor, there’s 2091 litres of space – that’s 1045 big bottles of Coke, should you run a cash-and-carry stall. The generous headroom also means you can wheel a pushbike more or less straight in. Very useful.
The Pathfinder isn’t half bad at hauling people, either. The rearmost pair of chairs in the seven-seater aren’t really suitable for adults, but perfectly acceptable for children. Legroom on the split rear bench is ample enough, although it’s never going to beat the Land Rover Discovery’s space
You’d be forgiven for thinking that parking might be an issue. And you’re right – if you don’t tick the Adventura spec level you’ll be in a right pickle. Adventura brings a reversing camera and display, which flickers into life as soon as you select reverse.
How is it off road?
It’s fantastic. As long as you don’t buy the auto – the gearchange isn’t as snappy as it should be for hardcore mud-plugging. A high/low ratio transfer box with a differential lock means you can jostle between motorway and green-lane gears with a mere button touch – there’s no funny-looking second gear stick to master – and with a super-rigid separate chassis, you can punt it through some surprisingly demanding routes.
Should you find yourself muddy side up – difficult considering it’s got anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, as well as traction and stability controls as standard – there are six airbags including front, side and curtain items to cushion your fall.Click 'Next' below to read more of our Nissan Pathfinder first drive
It’s perfectly comfortable but more suited to being scrubbed free of mud – although more likely spilled Ribena and engrained Jelly Babies – than cradling execs en-route to shareholder meetings.
Go for Adventura spec and you'll perch on electric leather seats with a sizeable electric tilt/slide sunroof above and cruise control, sat-nav and hands-free Bluetooth mobile connection within a finger’s reach.
What about owning it long term?
Considering its class, the Pathfinder is perfectly acceptable on fuel for a hefty SUV, handing back nearly 29 miles per gallon on average. And despite its more paltry purchase cost when compared with the Discovery – top-spec Adventuras are on par with a base Disco seven-seater for price – its residuals won’t be as good.
Nissan’s Pathfinder proves that you can buy a great off-road car without a green-backed oval badge. It looks genuinely purposeful and comes fitted with chunky off-road rubber. Buy one and you know you won’t get X5
levels of quality inside. But at least it’s a 4x4 of the old-school variety, with few sops to the school-run crowd. Just avoid eye contact with Defender drivers at all costs, as they’ve made concessions for off-road ability. You haven’t.