Nissan of Europe is banking a number of its future growth on a couple of vehicles originally designed for the United States market. One, the Murano crossover, has been on sale in America more than a year while the other, the newest-generation Pathfinder SUV, will go on sale stateside within a matter of weeks. The casual observer needs to wonder, simply how much success does Nissan expect with this set of midsize SUVs on a continent that looks at America’s obsession with those exact kinds of vehicles as some sort of ridiculous show of extravagance?
The perfect solution may be “not much.” With both vehicles being designed primarily for the US, they only need success here for them to be profitable. Anything on top of that is just icing on the cake. You get the point, although well, it’s not quite that simple. By way of example, Nissan has already established to invest in some design changes meant to make the Murano and Pathfinder more appropriate to European tastes, including over 1600 revisions on the Murano as well as an entirely different assembly location for European-sold Pathfinders.
Nissan Pathfinder. Courtesy: Nissan Europe
Externally, the Pathfinder looks basically identical to US-spec models, with only minor details revised to meet European regulations. Whereas power-hungry Americans with relatively low fuel costs get Nissan’s new 4.0L version of their venerable VQ V6 engine with 270hp, the European Pathfinder will get a 2.5L turbo diesel engine with 174ps and 403Nm of torque – more in line with the demands of a market where gas may cost over $4.00 a gallon.
Nissan is marketing the Pathfinder as being the perfect combination of popular MPV (essentially the equivalent to our minivans, but offered in a whole host of different sizes and designs) versatility, on-road performance, and also the tough off-road ability Nissan ‘utes are known for throughout the world. With the Pathfinder, Nissan’s 4×4 lineup extends to a total of 6 distinct models. Consequently, the Pathfinder comes with good ground clearance, short overhangs, and Nissan’s advanced All Mode four-wheel drive system. The ladder-frame platform is essentially a substantially reworked version from the F-Alpha platform found underneath Nissan’s stout Titan and Armada full size truck and SUV.
Nissan Pathfinder. Courtesy: Nissan Europe
The appearance of the Pathfinder, inside and out, is situated heavily around the Dunehawk show car that made its debut in the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show. That is to say, it fits in very nicely with Nissan North America’s line of truck-based vehicles like the aforementioned Titan and Armada, and the Frontier and Xterra – both of which share many parts with the Pathfinder. Nissan’s familiar “balanced angle strut” grille motif ties the Pathfinder face in with US offerings and European offerings like the X-Trail compact SUV and the fabled Patrol full-size SUV (usually the one you saw being driven by most of the UN weapons inspectors during their tenure in Iraq).
With versatile hatchbacks and MPVs very popular in Europe, Nissan must insure the Pathfinder makes good use of its ample footprint. First, allow for a fold-flat third row bench, though off, the fully independent double wishbone suspension front and back provide not only a surefooted ride. That means the Pathfinder offers a fully flat load floor measuring 2.8m long, plenty of room for multiple trips to IKEA. According to Nissan, despite the seats up it offers class leading luggage space. A multitude of storage spaces have been carved out of your Pathfinder’s innards, including a dual-level glove box, a double deck center console, storage spaces beneath the second row, and cubby holes near the third row seats. Oh, and did we mention it comes with a rear-view camera to prevent you from crushing among those Euro minicars when backing out of the carpark?
The Pathfinder will go on sale across Europe in March, with final assembly at Nissan’s Barcelona, Spain plant rather than the Smyrna, Tennessee plant where the US Pathfinder is made.
Nissan Murano. Courtesy: Nissan Europe
The Murano continues to be an unquestioned hit in the US market, to the stage where it has steadily eaten away at the Pathfinder’s sales in this country. Now it appears to be both models will go head-to-head for some internal competition on the European continent also. At the moment, it appears the car-based Murano crossover is the clear favorite. Nissan went back to the drawing board with the European version, coming to market with a vehicle which is different in at least 1600 different ways. Almost all are entirely invisible to consumers, including an oil cooler meant to keep up with the challenges of Europe’s higher average speeds. Marketed as the SUV-version of the 350Z, the Murano goes on sale early next season.