Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid

Family goes green

"Hybrid is not an alien concept anymore" said Ershad

"Our hybrid tester replaces a standard 3.5 liter V6 engine with a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder"

"Engine is downsized without much compromise done to the output"

"On a mixed cycle, the hybrid consumed only about 9.5l/100km. That's even better than a Nissan X-Trail!"

"Hybrid" is not an alien concept anymore. It is tested, worked out and commercially doing well in many parts of the world. But as we talk about the Gulf market, it's the least of all that people care about. On paper, it's a fuel saving engine with minimal bad emissions. But then, does it really matter here, where gasoline is supplied to the world?

We took the new Nissan Pathfinder hybrid for a run, and here's a bit about the model from records. Revealed at the 2013 New York Auto Show, we saw it again at the Dubai International Motor Show. Historically, Pathfinder was an abused Nissan model (let it be) many times over the course. From a rugged figure back in the 80s to a civilized 4th generation crossover (just two years ago), Pathfinder has evolved from a body-on-frame chassis to a unibody frame and then back to a body-on-frame. Finally, in 2013, we saw it again on a unibody structure. In return, the car has gained some length which allowed for some extra room inside.

Our hybrid tester replaces a standard 3.5 liter V6 engine with a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder. So correct me when I say, "Nissan has traded performance for fuel economy." Though this is not entirely true, especially because the hybrid power figure only falls short of 4HP.

Looks and features apart, let's see what's new in the hybrid version starting with the engine first. The powertrain is a supercharged 2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine coupled with a lithium-ion battery and 15kW electric motor. Together it can pump out 250hp and torque of 330Nm. The setup still runs on the CVT. Nissan introduced an intelligent dual-clutch system that manages power from both sources. One clutch is put in between the petrol engine and the electric motor and the other stays in between the petrol engine and the Xtronic CVT. The battery unit fits under the 50/50 split-folding third row; so there's no congestion for passengers while maintaining the same cargo space of a standard Pathfinder.

There's a nice 4.2 inch color display in the gadget cluster that shows advanced drive assist with an energy flow diagram. It tells you when energy is consumed from the petrol and the electric engine. With regenerative braking system, the electric motor can generate some more energy that's fed back into the battery and all that accounts to reach a decent power level.

Hybrid is visually the same standard Pathfinder with a bold chrome grille, heavy front fenders and curvy lines. I am still gutted to see an iconic off-roader transform to a family drive. Apart from some Nissan PUREDRIVE Hybrid badges on the door and rear side, we spotted LED taillights which are new. Twenty inch aluminum alloy wheels and independent suspension system are a good support.

Step inside and you'd think it's all the same as in the Infiniti QX60, with a lot of hard plastic and some soft touch appointments. There's ample space in the front and second row. Doesn't mean we have any complaints about the last row as it always had enough room. And then you have a set of features which are tri-zone automatic climate control, intelligent key with push button start, remote engine start function, around view monitor, power rear lift gate, heated and cooled front seats, heated second row seats, Bluetooth and iPod integration.

On the road, it's a tall car with good front visibility. Start the engine with a push button and you'll be annoyed to see no response - initially. After a while, I realized that our hybrid tester needs a two seconds time to start the engine. Steering was light aided by hydraulic electric power system with pretty good feedback. Handling on curves and corners was above par considering the size of it. Power distribution was managed by hybrid's ALL-MODE 4×4-i system that has a selectable 2WD mode, Auto or 4WD Lock mode. Obviously, the 2WD mode was meant for better fuel economy and Auto was a "don't bother me" mode.

With the hybrid Pathfinder, I had a couple of rounds to Al Ain and Abu Dhabi in same week and I can tell you that the thrust in cruise mode is impressive. You won't enjoy a city ride where you frequently stop/start and suddenly realize something's missing. And the CVT mutter - wish I could just get rid of it. In the end, it's all coming out from a 4 cylinder engine. On a mixed cycle, the hybrid consumed only about 9.5L/100km. That's even better than a Nissan X-Trail!

Verdict
At the end of the day, here's a three row crossover with a lot of cabin space and flexibility. A comfy ride offered with great fuel efficiency. Engine is downsized without much compromise to the output. We like the new Pathfinder hybrid for its practicality and ease of use, but one cannot ignore the trend out here. As long as fuel saving is not a priority in this part of the world, existence is a tough choice. In the future, maybe. With the CVT out and when the new generation starts thinking about hybrid, Pathfinder may make a comeback. 

Pros: features, good fuel efficiency, handling, spacious interior, practical for families
Cons: CVT buzz, dull interior material
Engine: Supercharged 2.5 liter, 4 cylinder with 15kW electric motor, 250 hp, 330 Nm
Transmission: CVT, AWD
Performance: 9.5 L /100 km
Weight: 2,082 kg
3 STARS
One word: green

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