The Nissan Pathfinder Concept, set to replace the current Pathfinder, might be better suited with a new name. I’m thinking something like the Nissan Paved-Road-Finder or Nissan Open-Road-Highway-Finder.
The current vehicle uses a truck frame and has earned its moniker as a path-finder, because it can easily traverse off road and discover untrodden paths to undiscovered locations. The concept follows the lead set by the new Ford Explorer and uses a unibody frame for better fuel economy, which may only lead to drivers finding previously undiscovered Costco locations.
Is this an example of how the mighty have fallen, or just a natural evolution into a new future? We still have the Toyota 4Runner and Chevrolet Tahoe as truck-based SUVs, but how long before they succumb to the lure of the unibody?
I admit, the Pathfinder Concept looks fantastic. Its V6 engine, paired with a CVT transmission, should get 25 percent better fuel economy than the current SUV. That sounds great, but only equates to about 17 mpg in the city, which doesn’t seem worth the sacrifice of driving a car with a continuously variable transmission.
I know that the government is forcing automakers to get better fuel economy, and that buying a car that gets 14 mpg doesn’t make any sense unless you’re hauling massive amounts of grapefruit across the country, but I find it just a little disheartening to see another SUV stalwart become a shell of the beast it once was.
Buyers don’t seem to mind, though, as the redesigned Explorer has only picked up sales steam since the transition to a unibody. I’d imagine Nissan will see similar success, which I assume means Toyota won’t hold out much longer on the 4Runner. We can hope that Toyota stays true to the brand of its legendary SUV, but dollar signs have a way of changing minds real quick.
If Toyota ever does transition the 4Runner to a car-based frame, I hope it retires the 4Runner name and christens the crossover with a new name, as Nissan should have done with the new Pathfinder and Ford should have done with the Explorer.
Should carmakers retire the names of cars that evolve into vehicles completely different than what made them famous?