Pathfinder great on-road and off
MY husband and I grew up with camping in our veins. He in the rugged bush surrounding the South Alligator river some three hours from Darwin and a world away from civilisation.
He remembers fondly running feral during three-week fishing trips, wading through croc-infested rivers, battling to save lures around underwater trees, and settling down under the stars at night to dream of barramundi.
For me, across the ocean, the wilderness of the African bush beckoned. Listening to the cackle of hyenas at night, sometimes a lion in the distance, swimming in crystal clear rivers, jumping around like monkeys in the warm summer showers. There's just nothing like the smell of the bush after rain.
Now, like thousands of other Australian families, we are trying to pass on that love of the open air to our girls. True, they still stand barely knee-high to a grasshopper, but are already well schooled in the art of making damper and keeping well clear of the potjie pot.
And let's face it, as much as we all want to do the get-back-to nature stuff, camping these days allows for a few luxuries. You know, the three-roomed tent, state-of-the-art cooker and soft padded chairs.
You can imagine our glee, then, when the Nissan Pathfinder arrived with enough room to carry all these as well as that other essential – an esky dedicated just to beer.
The high driving position enhances all-round visibility from heated, power-adjusted seats. Head and leg room is generous for the driver and passenger, less so for the second row while the third is best suited to children.
There is a memory feature for the driver's seat and mirrors which is quite welcome if the other half never puts things back as he found them. The interior is pretty minimalist but practically laid out with splashes of silver softening the hard plastics. Centre console and door storage isn't as plentiful as you would assume but the cavernous boot more than makes up for that.
On the road
Make no mistake, this is a serious 4WD with respectable on-road manners, not one of those soft crossovers whose only dalliance with mud is a little pothole after heavy rains. The revised 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel is a lusty beast more than capable of carrying the bulk of the Pathfinder as well as 3000kg braked but still able to find that burst of speed needed for overtaking. It is a strong performer even up tricky hills but the roar increases as the revs rise so it certainly won't be a quiet drive.
The ride is a bit choppy as you would expect from a truck-based SUV and it lacks the niceties and reassurance of a passenger car, especially through corners and in the confines of city driving. Hitch it to a caravan though or take it off road and the Pathfinder comes into its own.
What do you get?
You'll probably be the most well-equipped vehicle on that road trip with cruise control, Bluetooth, dual zone air-conditioning, heated seats, xenon headlights, reversing camera and self-folding mirrors as standard. The STi also has iPod connectivity with an onboard hard drive and a rear-seat DVD system. The safety package includes front, side and curtain airbags, anti-lock disc brakes with EBD and emergency brake assist, stability control, traction control and hill descent control.
Serious competition comes from the Toyota Prado ($64,404) and the Mitsubishi Pajero ($62,090) although the Mitsubishi Challenger ($54,490) could also weigh in for good measure.
The Pathfinder has the space and equipment to satisfy a family on the go. It performs well enough in the city to ensure everyday driving isn't tedious and presents an excellent option for weekend trips of a more rugged nature and longer family holidays. The rear-seat DVD system is great to keep the kiddies occupied and the roof racks capable of carrying a further 100kg add to the already impressive cargo capacity.
Nissan claims 9l/100km. Our test vehicle delivered closer to 9.5l/100km but even that is more than respectable for a vehicle of this size.
The updated Pathfinder gets a new bonnet, grille and bumpers as well as a revised headlight design.
If you would rather just been seen around the traps in an SUV instead of putting it through its paces, even just occasionally, then this is not the vehicle for you. This 4WD is built tough, packed full of safety features and quality extras.
For more motoring check out Drive.com.au.