Yesterday’s post comparing the R50 Nissan Pathfinder to the 3rd gen Toyota 4Runner reminded me that I rather like the R50 Pathfinder, at least the post-refresh LE trim with the VQ V6 and awd (instead of part-time 4wd). So I looked up the fuel economy for it. Wow!

Nissan’s VQ series V6 engine has been around for a long time now, with assorted improvements and refinements over the years. Both the Murano and Pathfinder still have versions of the VQ35DE motor found in the 2001-2004 Pathfinder, but tuned to 260 and 284 hp respectively instead of 240 hp in the R50. The Pathfinder got a direct-injected version of the motor for 2017, but the previous years of the R52 Pathfinder with the same 260 hp port-injected version in the Murano have the same mpg rating as the direct-injected 2017 Pathfinder

Unlike the R50 Pathfinder, the current Murano and Pathfinder combine the VQ35DE motor with Nissan’s often-criticized CVT transmission. CVTs as a concept are not inherently bad. My wife’s 2016 Subaru Impreza has one and I actually like it as an economy car transmission. It does its CVT mileage-enhancing thing but also does a good job of helping with acceleration when requested.

Nissan CVTs have a deservedly bad reputation for how they’re tuned in Nissan’s 4-cylinder cars. They tend to shoot for the absolute tallest possible gear ratio in all situations, and they’ll even fight with you by upshifting when you try for part-throttle acceleration, presumably to counteract your small movement of the gas pedal. You have to floor them to get them to kick down.

I haven’t driven a V6 CVT Nissan, but maybe they aren’t so bad because of the higher powered motor. Maybe. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

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You’ve seen the fuel economy differences above, now look at the dimensions:

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The R50 Pathfinder is a lot smaller both the current Murano and Pathfinder, but it’s closer in weight to the current Pathfinder. Keep in mind, the R50 Pathfinder is not a body-on-frame truck. It’s a unibody platform with subframes and a live rear axle.

So yeah, the 325 lbs lighter Murano blows the R50 out of the water in the mpg department. But the 175 lbs heavier new Pathfinder still beats the R50 by 5/7/8 (city/mixed/combined) mpg.

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Maybe some of the improvement can be attributed to improvements in the efficiency of the motor itself, and some might be from better aerodynamics, but our good friend the CVT probably plays a big part of it as well.

Who’s ready to swap a CVT into an R50 Pathfinder? We know it’ll connect up to the engine!