The latest Nissan Pathfinder is different from its predecessors. Very different. When it comes to SUVs, especially those with real off-road ability, I like big and burly. I like a gutsy workhorse that will feel more at home in the bush than in the school carpark. I like one with dare, one that has legs, one that stands out from the pack.
That's what I liked about the previous Nissan Pathfinder.
But one look at the new model told me in no uncertain terms that I was going to have to embrace change - for this is a Pathfinder in name only.
It is different, very different, but at the same time quite easy to like.
In New Zealand, three models have been launched - the ST 2WD ($54,990) and 4WD ($59,990 ) and the top spec Ti 4WD from $65,990.
The interior of the Pathfinder appears much improved with lots of soft-touch surfaces and interesting looking instruments and switchgear.
Seats are fairly supportive but could perhaps do with some side bolstering and are available in leather trim in all models except the entry-level ST.
The steering feels solid to the touch with the controls set out in a common sense fashion. As in the previous Pathfinder, space is decidedly decadent with plenty of legroom even in the third row, although a sloping roof back there may make it a bit tight for tall passengers.
The big success story for the Pathfinder here, and one Nissan was quick to point out, was the SUV's ability to seat seven adults in practice and the ease of accessibility thanks to new latch and glide technology.
There are plenty of storage options - you can hardly find fault with 10 cup-holders and six bottle-holders - and the cargo area is a liveable 453 litres with the third row in place , growing to a sizeable 1353 litres with the seats folded flat.
On the road
It is on the road that it becomes evident that when Nissan talks about an "all-new Pathfinder"they really mean it.
This SUV is poles apart from its predecessor in terms of handling and general drive feel with the new monocoque design, which replaces the old body on rail Navara underpinnings, resulting in a much more car-like offering.
The ride itself is pretty soft with the Pathfinder shrugging off that rugged feel for a quieter more comfortable performance, especially over bumps.
It does lope into corners a bit and can take a bit to gather momentum but once it hits its stride it proves rather capable.
This Pathfinder, much to the horror of the diesel faithful, is available only in a 3.5-litre V6 petrol unit paired with an Xtronic CVT across the range that can be a bit noisy when pressed.
Nissan claims that the Pathfinder shows the same off-road confidence of its worthy predecessor despite its softer looks, but our test course presented few opportunities to really add any credence by putting it through its paces.
What do you get?
The Pathfinder has a more than adequate inclusions list with even the entry-level ST equipped with a bevy of riches including keyless entry and ignition, infotainment system with 17.7cm colour display, Bluetooth connectivity, six-speaker stereo with 2GB of music storage, cruise control, steering wheel controls, tri-zone climate control, eight-way adjustable driver's seat, reverse camera and sensors and 18-inch alloys.
The Ti adds leather trim, heated front seats, front sunroof and panoramic glass roof in rear.
Safety is five stars as a result of six airbags, traction control, vehicle dynamic control and anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist.
The seven seats and improved accessibility is a real plus, as is the comfortable drive and extensive storage options. But one can't help but feel that they are missing a trick with the lack of a diesel.
The Pathfinder has had an extensive exterior makeover now sporting the trademark Nissan grille and new headlight design.
The front of the SUV with its sculptured sweep looks far more interesting than a more staid rear but the overall package looks swish and modern.