Good car, not a good engine

It seems a shame to start this story by mentioning the new Pathfinder’s desperate lack of performance, because nearly everything else about this vehicle is superb. Hold that word ‘superb’ in your head. But – and this is a big but – you can’t ignore the fact that the car’s engine is overwhelmed in this application, especially at motorway speeds.\

The launch motor for the Pathfinder is a 2.5-litre version of the X-trail’s 2.2-litre turbodiesel four. In this tune it develops 297lb ft at 2000rpm and 171bhp at 4000rpm. Match that to a kerbweight of 2280kg and you can see where the problem lies. Our test car, the-top-of-the-line T-spec, was mated to a smooth-shifting five-speed auto with sequential shift – most customers will opt for the auto – and it never hits its stride. Floor the throttle at any speed and very little happens, other than a utilitarian roar from the overworked cylinders.

Overtaking on the motorway is an exercise in patience – overtaking with limited space on an A-road is an exercise in fine judgement and risk assessment. What it’s like seven-up towing a caravan doesn’t really bear thinking about.

So it’s a slug. More of a slug than the Land Rover Discovery diesel the Pathfinder is pitched against. But at least the Disco goes about its sloth-like work with a measure of dignity and decorum. This engine thrashes, to the point where I began to feel sorry for it. It’s not suitable.

But that’s enough – a new V6 diesel is on the way, though Nissan wouldn’t say when. It’s needed, but few improvements are necessary elsewhere. The Pathfinder looks chunky and strong, taking styling cues from the Dunehawk concept car of 2003. It handles, rides and steers well, and the cabin is superbly designed and built. And versatile – the third row of seats are fine for kids, if a little tight for adults, and they fold flat into the floor.

So, engine apart, the new Pathfinder is exceptionally desirable and handsome, a strong rival to the Toyota Land Cruiser, Mitsubishi Shogun, Volvo XC90 and Discovery. Engine apart.

Bill Thomas

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