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Used 4X4 of the Week: Nissan Pathfinder

Nissan Pathfinder R51

Introduced in 2005, the R51 Pathfinder was Nissan’s answer to the Toyota 4Runner and Mitsubishi Challenger in the four door mid-size 4X4 category. The Pathfinder name began in the mid to late 80s. The R51’s immediate predecessor the R50 was available from 1995 and offered a part time 4X4 system and 3.3l V6 engine, with the part time system swapped for the All-Mode 4WD system in 1999. The R51 upped the ante with the choice of 4.0l V6 petrol and 2.5l turbo diesel engines.

 

Nissan R51 Pathfinder

The R51 Pathfinder was never the most powerful, quickest, roomiest or most optioned up 4X4 around, but it provides a strong backbone and solid drive train. Safety was well-addressed with ABS, front airbags, and on the higher spec models’ electronic stability control and traction control and curtain airbags featured.

Built in Spain, the earliest R51 Pathfinders did have some build control issues that were sorted with later production.

Mechanical

The 2.5 litre YD25 turbo diesel engine is reported to return around 10 to 11 litres per hundred kilometres, although Nissan claims 8.5 to 9 litres per hundred. The auto transmission assists in the drinking department…the manual is the pick for the miser.
Prior to the 2010 update, the all-important figures were 128kW@4000rpm and 403Nm@2000rpm, later upgrading to 140kW@4000rpm and 450Nm@2000rpm. These figures are on par with other vehicles in the class, not a bad thing.

The YD25 engine is quite reliable, but there is a transmission cooler that can fail by dumping coolant into the gearbox, which never goes down too well unless you like tow trucks. Likewise, there’s a heat exchanger between the inlet manifold and the EGR valve, and if it ruptures, goodbye engine. Inexpensive aftermarket fixes can bypass both of these problem areas.

The ST and ST-L models came with manual transmissions but could be optioned to a 5 speed auto. The Ti model has the 5 speed auto standard whereas the top-of-the-range Ti 550 with the 3.0l turbo diesel features a 7 speed auto. The transmissions are all well suited to the task, however the manual’s clutch isn’t up for a long lifetime especially if towing.

Suspension

The suspension is fully independent with double wishbone front and multi-link rear. Reports are that the rear isn’t up for much in the way of load carrying, with many people who tow upgrading with polyair springs or a spring upgrade from TJM or Old Man Emu by ARB. As 4X4s, Pathies certainly hold their own on typical rutted fire trails, desert and beach, and check out the video below for some Aussie rock crawling. Against most competitors, the suspension is soft and compliant giving a more comfortable ride than the 4Runner especially, great for those long highway stints and high-speed dirt.

Everything under the body is well tucked up, underbody clearance isn’t so special though-bash plates are cheap and effective insurance, especially for the sump!

Interior

In 7-seater format, the rearmost seats could fit a typical sized adult with relative comfort-something rare for third row seats! Folded out of the way the cargo bay is ample for a small family-room for the fridge, stove, tent and a bit of personal gear. Fold the middle row down as well and anyone short of 7’ tall should find a place to sleep! The interior is larger than the 4Runner, despite not being much larger on the outside.

3rd (and 2nd) row fold flat to give large and useful load space
3rd (and 2nd) row fold flat to give large and useful load space
Exterior Accessories

Bullbars, snorkels, roof racks, long range fuel tanks and bash plates for the R51 Pathfinder can be purchased from ARB, TJM and a plethora of smaller aftermarket suppliers.

While not an accessory, a strange problem with these cars is the door handles. They break. They are then expensive to get colour-coded replacements. This means there are people who steal the handle covers to onsell. Crazy.

 

ARB offer good looking and functional accessories for the R51 Pathfinder
ARB offer good looking and functional accessories for the R51 Pathfinder
Expected Pricing

The petrol Pathfinders often come up for under $10,000, which leaves a good bit of budget for fuel compared to the diesel equivilent. You can expect to spend $15,000 for a diesel or even up to $35,000 for a good and clean 2013 Ti spec Pathfinder with low odo reading and having never seen a dirt road.

Speaking of odo readings, a 2005 model might have up to 300,000km, whilst the 2013 era could be as little as 60,000km.

The Good:

Massive load space for size of vehicle
Comfortable ride
Good ANCAP safety score

The Bad

Large turning circle
Needs a few transmission/EGR cooler issues sorted to be considered reliable
Fuel economy? Official 9l/100km, more like 10- 11/100
Mediocre underbody clearance when stock

The Ugly

Clutch on manual models doesn’t last-can be upgraded
Door handles either break, or get stolen!

 

R51 Pathfinder interior is grey with dull silver highlights, aesthetically uninspiring but aging with grace.
It’s all very grey in there…

 

11 Comments

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  • Re: R51 Pathfinder. .my son’s 05 R51 ST-L Was nothing but a lemon!! Being a 2.5 lt turbo Diesel it needed 3 costly Engine Rebuilds. One due to a Oil Pump bolt coming loose &smashing a Big End Cap….two ..an Injector failure causing a piston to melt..Not mentioning Injector Replacement a Must every 120 000km was a big oversight in your Article…That one was an Out of Warranty one and cost $11Big Ks ….Three …was soon after a Cape York Adventure.. By the way the Roof Lining fell down during that one & needed a staple gun fix… So after cleaning up the Oil Slick the
    Sell For Parts Ad soon was listed…
    Nissan Pathfinders /DIESELS ..now send shivers down the spine when sighted on the highways! !

  • My first 4wd thanks to Rudds stimulus package where I could write 50% of the cost off my tax. 🙂
    The 5 speed auto would flick back and forth between 4th and 5th faster than an volley at Wimbledon.
    Returned 31L/100 crossing the nulla (each way) towing the camper and just a mild head and tail wind.
    The interior is all cheap plastic that scratches if you look at it funny.
    Horrible orange dash lighting.
    And the drivers seat elec controls would cause the seat back to either fold forward or back and squash the kids in the back randomly (only once while driving tho)
    But never got it unintentionally bogged nor did it struggle up the hills the lifted GUs were tackling, and being based off the D50 Nav gave a number of improvement options.

  • We have an 07 2.5ltr diesel ST and its been an excellent vehicle. Not one complaint from us. Yeah the suspension is soft, we have the two rear doors with handles that will only open from the inside but overall we’ve been lucky. Sorry your son has had so many big problems.

  • My 2007 ti has been a great car. Got the v6 and although thirsty at about 13-14 litres per hundred it has a crapload of power and dont have to worry about dodgy fuel or any of the other things that stop modern diesels these days. Great interior and with upgraded suspension it rides great. Rear aircon is a gem. More people need to ditch the concept that diesel is the only way to go for reliability. Maybe years ago, but not today

  • We bought a 2013 ST Auto when they were running them out. Very happy with it after 71,000km. Have put good tyres on it. I am glad I took out the 5 yr, 100000km warranty though. It does need a suspension lift, bash plates and diff locks though.

  • Purchased my R51 S1 Ti brand new in 2006. Just clocked up 200k on a family holiday. Still love it. Wasn’t paying an extra $25k for the same spec in a Prado (talk about the Toyota Tax!!! And yes, Prado, not 4Runner).

    There’s definite issues with the Pathie, as with every other vehicle out there. The clutches on the manuals were weak. The stock rotors were made of cheese, and OEM rotors were dearer than DBA slotted/drilled replacements (so I went the DBA’s, at 99k). Yes, the rear external door handles can be trouble (best to purchase the US-spec metal version and have it fitted – ours were plastic internally, they all snap, the US-spec ones are pretty well bullet-proof! And they’re MUCH cheaper than purchasing from the dealer. There are eBay sellers on the GC with the US-Spec handles for under $40 each (you’ll have to get them painted, or go chrome covers)). The rear alignment – like many modern vehicles – can struggle with a big lift (watch the left rear, I’ve got a TJM lift and PolyAirs under mine). But the reason why the Pathie copped a bad name was as much down to Nissan’s attitude as anything else, and given I’ve avoided all the major issues, I’ve no regrets with my purchase.

    I’ve bypassed the tranny cooler in the radiator (why use it when I live in a warm climate (i.e. I don’t need help warming up the tranny fluid, the biggest advantage of an integrated cooler), when there’s a second cooler in front of the radiator?), have asked my local YD25 specialist about other issues (he says don’t worry about them, he’ll just monitor them), and am generally happy. If there were something I’d change at this point, it would be to add a torque converter controller. The transmission locks up only in 5th and only in drive. If the transmission were able to lock up in 4th and/or in manual mode, it would be brilliant. For two reasons. 80km/h is 1600rpm in 5th locked up, and it’s just a little low going up hill (not towing). But locked in 4th would be way lower, more than torquey enough and therefore much more fuel efficient. Also, being able to lock up in 4th would make for better overtaking – it often drops to 4+k rpm in 3rd to overtake on the highway, but accelerates faster when it changes up to 4th.

    For mine, the key to the vehicle is this line from the article:
    it provides a strong backbone and solid drive train.
    The basic design under this car is solid. Fix the poor consumables (i.e. rotors, clutches, etc), and you’ve got a great vehicle that’ll get you most places you want to go in reasonable comfort, and will happily drag your camper trailer up the beach (we did Fraser towing a Jayco in 2007).

  • Aw, this was a really nice post. Taking a few minutes and
    actual effort to make a good article… but what can Isay… I put things off a
    lot and never seem to get nearly anything done.

  • Unfortunately the underpinnings on these R51 Pathfinders are also flawed. There have been well documented issues with extensive chassis rust on both these and Spanish made examples of D40 Navara, so much so that Nissan UK is engaged in extensive recall and buy back of these vehicles.
    In addition to the Diesel issues the 4.0 Petrol V6 is also known to have timing chain tensioner problems that can be expensive to rectify.
    It’s a real shame as I like the vehicle, but there are just too many very serious and not easily rectified issues to consider.

  • I don’t know how you drive it, i have a 2012 diesel manual and i am still on the original front brakes , original clutch, no mechanical problem at all IE nothing mechanical replace except for an alternator pulley and i have now done 145000km.
    It is my daily commuter, and even with traffic i consistently get better than 10l to the 100km
    when you compare it other 4wd its only mm difference from most other in size and with 700 plus payload it out does the land cruiser 200. we did Fraser island last year and whole lot of trip around the state no issues at all. traction control works very well ( have been snatched once).
    yes it a Nissan but it is NOT Skyline GTR so don’t drive it race car, drive like a truck and its great.
    I do nearly all my gear changes at 2500 rpm or less and 1st on take off doesn’t even need clutch slip.
    I would buy another in a heart beat.

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