First drive: 2015 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid in the UAE
With a governmental push for “green” initiatives, the ubiquity of hybrid cars is inevitable in the UAE, even if the current lukewarm sentiments are due to lack of actual subsidies to reduce the higher prices of hybrid cars, as in Western countries. However, a few local car dealers have taken it upon themselves to offer hybrid models that make sense to cost-conscious consumers. One such model is the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid, which costs almost the same as a regular Pathfinder at Nissan’s dealership in Dubai.
Externally, the hybrid Pathfinder looks exactly like the regular mid-range Pathfinder SV model, inside and out. The only differences are some extra “hybrid” badges on the doors and tailgate, while inside, the gauge cluster has an additional graphical colour display to show the hybrid system charging and discharging. The extra batteries are stuffed under the third-row seat, well-hidden without impacting cabin space.
The cabin itself is practical, with great space in the first and second rows, while the third row is habitable by adults if the second row is moved forward a few inches. Access to the last row is better than in most other crossovers, as the second-row seat folds up forward.
Rival crossovers nowadays offer better cabin materials though. The Pathfinder boasts a mix of nice leatherette and front-door padding with hard plastics all over the dash and rear-door window sills. At least the massive boot is nicely carpeted, while there’s dual sunroof panels so rear passengers can enjoy an airy ambience.
The central touchscreen is showing its age, but it does the job, even if we weren’t able to figure out the Bluetooth system that was giving voice instructions in Arabic. There’s also the usual smart keyless entry and start, rear camera, cruise control and all that.
Nissan swapped out the Pathfinder’s standard 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine for a supercharged 2.5-litre petrol 4-cylinder paired with a 15-kilowatt electric motor in the Hybrid model. The CVT automatic and all-wheel-drive systems remain, and work exactly as they did in the V6 version.
The Hybrid does some things differently though. Once you start the car, the engine doesn’t start instantly, as the car is technically already “on” and can get going on electric power slowly. Also, once in “Drive,” the car does not roll forward like a regular automatic car, so you have to press the accelerator a bit to get it moving. Press a little too much, or turn on the a/c, and the petrol engine starts up at once.
Once moving, it drives like a typical Nissan with a CVT, namely a lot of engine noise when accelerating and very low revs when cruising, making the engine quieter than cars with a traditional auto gearbox as well as, theoretically, offering better fuel economy. Every time you take your foot off the throttle pedal, use the brakes or cruise, the battery recharges. It discharges when moving on electric-only power at crawling speeds, or when providing extra power to the engine on hard acceleration.
While the petrol-only V6 makes 260 hp and 325 Nm of torque, the hybrid makes 250 hp overall, with 329 Nm of torque, so overall performance feels about the same, which is to say, fairly adequate. But more importantly, is it any more economical than the V6 Pathfinder. The official mileage figures claim that the hybrid will burn around 20% less fuel than the V6. Our conclusion is….inconclusive.
We only drove it over a weekend, mostly on roads where we did speeds averaging 100 kph. As such, the trip computer was showing an average of 15 litres/100 km, which we’re pretty sure we can do with a regular V6. You see, the strength of a hybrid lies in city traffic, where the engine shuts down in favour of free, regenerating electric power as needed to crawl ahead in a jam or sit at red lights. If your daily commute involves traffic jams and stop-and-go driving, then the hybrid is the one to go for. Otherwise, if you mostly drive on highways with rarely any jams, then stick with the V6.
The Pathfinder is a comfortable-riding, well-handling, reasonably-quiet crossover that directly aims at families. It is interesting that Nissan is now offering a choice in powertrain that very well suits two different types of customer. Interestingly, while Nissan had earlier announced that they are discontinuing the hybrid version in the United States (where all Pathfinders are manufactured), the Pathfinder Hybrid will continue to be offered in GCC countries, having just been introduced to the UAE in mid-2015.
For prices and specs, visit the Nissan buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury.