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American SUVs set to do battle Down Under

Peek inside: The next-generation Nissan Pathfinder's plush cabin will be among the most flexible and spacious in its class, thanks to its car-like monocoque underpinnings.

US-built Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Kluger face off in Australia from late 2013

14 Feb 2012

YANKEE-MADE mid-sized SUVs from Japan’s two biggest motor companies – Toyota and Nissan – are poised to go head to head on the Australian market in late 2013.

Showing that great minds think alike, the right-hand drive variants of the next Toyota Kluger and all-new Nissan Pathfinder will both be exported from US plants in readiness for a late 2013 showroom launch.

While Nissan last week was ripping the black-out tinting from the windows of its all-new Pathfinder in Chicago to reveal the plush interior that will be one of the attractions of the new, more family friendly vehicle to be made at Nissan’s US plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, Toyota was getting set to announce that production of its next generation Camry-based Kluger would be switched from Kyushu, Japan, to Princeton, Indiana.

The US is fast becoming a major source of SUVs for Australia, with prestige brands Mercedes-Benz and BMW already shipping their up-market M-class and X5 vehicles from American plants, alongside traditional Jeeps.

The Pathfinder will lose the body-on-frame architecture and sit on a car-like monocoque platform shared with the new Infiniti JX35 to improve both refinement and fuel economy, bringing it closer in concept to the Kluger and other rivals such as the Ford Territory and Holden Captiva 7.

12 center imageLeft: Nissan Pathfinder interior and exterior. Below: Current-generation Toyota Kluger, Mercedes-Benz M-class and BMW X5.

The fourth-generation Pathfinder’s exterior was revealed at the Detroit motor show in January, but the interior design was kept under wraps until this month’s Chicago motor show, in line with the current trend of drip-feeding new-model information.

The production-ready concept retains its three-row, seven-seat configuration, but Nissan claims the new model’s monocoque design offers a flat floor for enhanced interior packaging flexibility.

Nissan North America Nissan Division vice president and general manager Al Castignetti said: “The Pathfinder concept demonstrates that when it comes to modern interior design, you can have it all – premium features, versatility and user-friendly technology.

“By giving equal priority to both the driver and each and every passenger – including those in the third row – we’ve created a premium driving experience and environment for all.”

Nissan claims the Pathfinder’s second row of seats was expected to be among the roomiest in the class, while the third row has “exceptional access” due to large rear door openings, long second row seat travel and a forward folding seat design.

As well, Nissan is claiming a first in its “child seat mode” that allows ready access to the third row even when a child seat is mounted on the second-row 60/40 split seat.

“One of the dilemmas facing families with both young children and infants/toddlers is getting the older kids in the third row without having to remove a child seat mounted in the second row,” Mr Castignetti said.

“This innovative design solves that issue. Plus, with the extensive second row seat travel, it’s easy to adjust legroom or accommodate cargo spontaneously as needed.”

Nissan third row seat splits 50/50, offering added cargo flexibility while also reclining for passenger comfort. Both the second and third rows also fold flat, while the rear cargo area also has additional under floor storage.

A large LCD touch screen is the centre piece of the dashboard of the luxurious upscale model shown in the photos released with details from the Chicago show, with a so-called “tri-zone” entertainment system for the three rows of seats.

Other features include Nissan’s “around-view monitor” – providing a bird’s eye view of the vehicle’s surrounds for easier parking, a tyre pressure monitoring system and power rear tailgate.

As revealed in Detroit, the Pathfinder will be powered by a V6 petrol engine driving either all four wheels or – for the first time in Pathfinder – just the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission.

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