First drive: 2018 Nissan Pathfinder in the UAE
The Nissan Pathfinder has had a long and varied life. In its first generation, it was a five-seater body-on-frame compact offroader back in 1985. Since then, it switched to a unibody, body-on-frame, and then again to a unibody in its current generation, this time fully becoming a crossover with seating for seven in 2013. The model has now received a makeover for 2018, and we drove it at the media launch event in Fujairah.
The 2018 Pathfinder is offered in front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive configurations and a choice of three trim levels, namely S, SV and SL.
The refreshed Pathfinder benefits from external changes that gives it a slightly more aggressive front-end look, with reshaped headlights to go with the redone bumpers and tail-light clusters. There are also wing-mirror indicators and LED running lights.
The spacious three-row interior has no obvious changes, retaining its hard-plastic dash, well-padded doors, easy third-row access and generally-airy ambience in beige trim. There are technology updates though, with an info display screen between the gauges in the instrument cluster, while the standard 8.0-inch touchscreen on the centre console can be had with navigation. Other available features include the power tailgate activated by foot-waving, intelligent emergency braking, intelligent cruise control, blind-spot warning, forward collision warning and rear cross-traffic alert on the SV and SL grades. The 360-degree around-view parking monitor with moving object detection is available as an option only on the SL grade. There are also several accessories available, including a camping tent.
The revised 3.5-litre direct-injection V6 engine gains 17 horses for a total of 271 hp, with 340 Nm of torque (while a 2.5-litre hybrid model makes 250 hp and 330 Nm). Mated to a CVT, the Pathfinder feels adequately powerful, and while the rubber-band effect of the gearless transmission can be felt when accelerating from lower speeds, it isn’t overly pronounced.
Nissan says they have also improved the handling and agility of the vehicle, stiffening up the suspension a bit without compromising the ride quality, as well as making the steering ratio a bit tighter. In casual driving around Fujairah, we didn’t find anything untoward about the handling. Body roll is limited, while the ride is fairly comfortable and reasonably quiet. The lightly-weighted steering and brakes work well.
The all-wheel-drive version isn’t intended to be a serious offroader, but it does have an Auto 4WD feature, hill-descent control, hill-start assist and a 4×4 lock, but not low-range gearing. In an interesting move, Nissan picked a route for us that involved climbing up a steep mountain road, or rather, a gravel track with a near-constant 25-degree incline, sizeable potholes and a killer cliff on one side, with lots of tight twists as well. It would require staying on the power at all times to keep up the momentum. We were more worried about falling off the side, even though there were boulders used as barriers.
We gunned it up the mountain at full throttle, backing off a tiny bit only to decipher where the next tight twist was on the road. The engine was revving at mid-range levels rather than redlining, as the CVT did its thing (with “L” selected on the “PRNDL” shifter). Ramming it through the potholes and staying off the brakes completely, we made it to the top of the trail where Nissan set up a camp. At most, we were probably doing no more than 60 kph, but it was a bit of a harrowing experience since we weren’t slowing down for the corners.
We suspect a Nissan Patrol LE would do the course with a lot more ease, but it’s a testament to the Pathfinder’s all-wheel-drive system that the crossover made it up without incident, with no wheelspin even with the ESP turned off. We went downhill a lot slower, but mildly riding the brakes didn’t cause any issues either. We’d say if you’re buying one of these crossovers, get the one with all-wheel-drive so you can at least not freak out when you have to get off the road, even to just park in a poorly-done gravel lot.
The Pathfinder has become a fair bit more appealing with this update. The three-row crossover segment is a tough one, but the Pathfinder has all the right ingredients, even if it’s not what it used to be.
For GCC prices and specs, visit the Nissan buyer guide.