2014 Nissan Pathfinder – What’s in a Name?

A man is driving out of his compound where a couple other cars are parked. He has to pull out carefully to avoid a brush with these. From too much mindfulness of others (don’t blame him) he unknowingly pushes into an area of the yard that is muddy, losing traction in the rear wheels. The more he fires the more the wheels spin, slipping, especially the right passenger side. He is stuck.

A friend of his who drives same type car calls out from the second floor saying, “ah, man, you forgetting something there, just put the thing in neutral and engage the auxiliary low gears, or use the 4WD!” Or something like that.

Well, he had to be pushed (or towed) out of the mud.

His was a 2WD Pathfinder! Note that. Unfortunate? Hold on, how you answer will depend on what you expect when you hear the name “Pathfinder.” That’s what Just Jigged today wants to investigate so that if you eventually decide on this you know which.

Nissan has released the most aerodynamic, upscale, perhaps premium but adventure-ready-looking Pathfinder ever, ever for 2014. But again, makes 4WD system Available. Yes, available, not Standard! And the Standard 2WD goes to the front wheels, not the rear! Ask why. Or do not, if you’re on Nissan’s side. Nissan’s side? Whose side would you rather be? What comes to mind when you hear the word pathfinder? Trails? Gnarly trails? Are there trails?

Well, Nissan claims demand for truck-based SUVs is been on a steady decline since the mid-2000s because people now want just the more refined and fuel-efficient crossover utility vehicles, or CUVs. To quote Al Castignetti, Nissan’s VP and General Manager, Nissan Division, Nissan North America Inc.,

“It’s no secret that the industry has shifted as gas prices have increased.”

So like the new Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander the Pathfinder is now officially a 7-passenger CUV. The segment couldn’t be hotter! A more Practical big city car! Take sometime to say the last three words of that sentence. Big. City. Car. Then.

To be honest, this is just fine, after all, there’s the Xterra, which name stands for extraterrestrial for any SUV Capability I may want to pain for. We may? Excellent Differentiation then. Besides, Chrysler/Fiat has wasted quite a lot with the Grand Cherokee, when the Jeep brand also has the classic Wrangler Rubicon, the segment’s other name for Capability. Suddenly our entire city road network is a paradise of surreal unending pavements, why waste any money and weight and, maybe, time on a 4WD system! Or you could have the two vehicles, one for city, another to go off-road. Logical, huh? Until you realize that the story told at the outset happened. I didn’t invent it for discussion.

PHOTO: Net Car Show

PHOTO: Net Car Show

Automakers always believe they know the market more than consumers. More than us! They feel their research is so high-powered, so extensive that whatever opinion you may have (sorry, we) is at best an afterthought. And, since the automobile is such a great product of engineering, the great multitude of us are usually at the mercy of their whims and caprices, which makes them all the more revel in their irrationalness! And sometimes outright stupidity. Most times just plain management immoderateness or greed. If the Pathfinder SE owner (really, he bought it used, a 2001 model, if this final bit of information helps anyways) had known how unCapable his “truck” (I use that loosely) was (or would be at the time it should’ve come alive and have fun) (note that SUV really is a truck!) (or should be a truck – it keeps changing) he would not have bought it! That particular one, I mean, because he really loved the Pathfinder! Well, note that his other friend had a more Capable Pathfinder. Thank Goodness that continues to be an option. Capability. If you saw both of them pass you, wouldn’t you say, ah, look, Pathfinders? The problem with specs. Really, “spec” anything for an SUV but not basic Capability. Or we tolerate Nissan for the “city truck” excuse. And, after all, the 2014 Pathfinder can now tow a “best-in-class” 5,000 pounds of trailer, even with the same 3.5-liter V6, 240 pound-foot torque (at 4,400 rpm) engine!

But just in case you really want a SUV (say this in full, Sports Utility Vehicle!), really, a truck, Nissan makes available the 4WD system. Look for it, guys! And, when you do, I promise you enjoyment akin to what you get if you listened to me on the Grand Cherokee (albeit not exactly the same) with Nissan-style driver-selectable modes. You may forget about the base S, but whether you settle for the SV, SL, SL Premium, Platinum, or Platinum Premium, (don’t get lost in the maze of configurations) look for All-Mode 4X4-i! Nothing else matters!

PHOTO: Net Car Show

PHOTO: Net Car Show

But don’t expect any double wishbone front suspension with electronic locking differentials or rear limited-slip differential, apparently the new Pathfinder will use its brakes to electronically torque-vector. But it’s more to be understood from a Safety perspective and Nissan is calling it Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS). Of course, the struts for front and leaf-springs for rear suspensions supporting this Pathfinder are independent, meaning some stable travel over challenging terrains, but other than just a bit, expect only basic electronic stability and traction control. Remember the big city car attribute, please.

Now, where do you go to find a true (I really mean, “true”) Pathfinder? Whew, a delight that this Capability feature is also available on the Hybrid version so you could have fun on- and off-road, while being mild on the environment. “Welcome to the Next Gen SUV.” Nissan claims. If we must accept that any bit, it’s because we’re driving the … see this is difficult to say because the feature isn’t standard on any spec or trim level, you just have to look for it in the facts sheet and (as the pictures my guide you) when you walk into the dealership.

Having taken your attention away from off-road, let’s look inside the 2014 Pathfinder and see if there’s enough luxury for the Nissan brand position and the Pathfinder price point. You judge. There’s Information Center with 7-inch QVGA color display on the dash (or the option of Nissan Hard Drive Navigation System with 8-inch VGA touchscreen monitor and voice recognition), SiriusXM NavTraffic and NavWeather, Zagat Survey restaurant reviews and recommendations, SiriusXM satellite radio, DVD video playback capability, auxiliary audio/video input jack, USB connection port interface for iPod and other compatible devices, Around View Monitor that eliminates blind spots with cameras and sensors, power tilt/telescoping steering, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar, leather-appointed seats heated and cooled, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, tri-zone automatic temperature control, 3rd-row reclining seats, dual panorama moonroof, and dual head-restraint DVD monitor for rear passenger entertainment. There’s more. You want to compare a Lexus GX? Maybe not necessary.

PHOTO: Nissan

PHOTO: Nissan

In closing the only way Nissan built the Pathfinder to live up to its name, that is fun on-road and Capable off-road, this 2014 model year is make available an Intuitive 4WD. The system has an Auto Mode that constantly monitors road conditions and adjusts the balance of power between front and rear wheels, distributing (or vectoring) torque as appropriate for best traction. Or you could lock into 4WD-only mode if the terrain is more challenging. To make this adjustments interactive and easy, there’s the Nissan’s Advanced Drive-Assist Display that shows you what is happening of what you’re doing. So, as to name the Pathfinder has only tried.

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