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2004 Paris Motor Show
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A European Diary : 2004 Paris Motor Show Last Updated: Jan 30th, 2005 - 16:19:56

Paris2004: Nissan Pathfinder and Murano Head to Europe
By Mike Cervantes
Oct 2, 2004, 19:27

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Nissan Pathfinder. Courtesy: Nissan Europe
Nissan of Europe is banking some 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 for over a year while the other, the new-generation Pathfinder SUV, will go on sale stateside within a matter of weeks. The casual observer has to wonder, how much success does Nissan expect with this pair of midsize SUVs on a continent that looks at America’s obsession with those exact types of vehicles as some sort of ridiculous show of extravagance?


The answer 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. Well, it’s not quite that simple, but you get the point. For example, Nissan has had to invest in some design changes meant to make the Murano and Pathfinder better suited to European tastes, including over 1600 revisions to the Murano and an entirely different assembly location for European-sold Pathfinders.


Nissan Pathfinder. Courtesy: Nissan Europe
On the outside, 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 its 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 can cost over $4.00 a gallon.


Nissan is marketing the Pathfinder as the perfect blend of popular MPV (essentially the equivalent to our minivans, but offered in a whole host of different sizes and styles) versatility, on-road performance, and the tough off-road ability Nissan ‘utes are known for across the globe. With the Pathfinder, Nissan’s 4x4 lineup extends to a total of 6 distinct models. As such, 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 of the F-Alpha platform found underneath Nissan’s stout Titan and Armada full size truck and SUV.


Nissan Pathfinder. Courtesy: Nissan Europe
The design of the Pathfinder, inside and out, is based heavily on the Dunehawk show car that made its debut at 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 (the one you saw being driven by many of the UN weapons inspectors during their tenure in Iraq).


With versatile hatchbacks and MPVs all the rage in Europe, Nissan has to insure the Pathfinder makes good use of its ample footprint. First off, the fully independent double wishbone suspension front and rear provide not only a surefooted ride, but allow for a fold-flat third row bench. That means the Pathfinder offers a fully flat load floor measuring 2.8m long, plenty of room for multiple trips to IKEA. Even with the seats up it offers class leading luggage space, according to Nissan. A multitude of storage spaces have been carved out of the Pathfinder’s innards, including a dual-level glove box, a double deck center console, storage spaces under the second row, and cubby holes beside the third row seats. Oh, and did we mention it comes with a rear-view camera to prevent you from crushing one of 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 built.


Nissan Murano. Courtesy: Nissan Europe
The Murano has been an unquestioned hit in the US market, to the point where it has steadily eaten away at the Pathfinder’s sales in this country. Now it appears both models will go head-to-head for a bit of internal competition on the European continent as well. 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 that 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 year.

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