We have entered an Era Of Electrification, the guys from Nissan were saying. The world is moving toward zero emissions. They quoted Wayne Gretsky, something about moving “to where the puck is going to be, not where it’s been.”
Nissan intends to be a leader in electric cars, they trumpeted. Fair enough, given the innovations of the Nissan Leaf. But they said the company also intends to be out in front of hybrid cars, which seemed a little more spurious, given that the first Toyota Prius appeared more than a decade ago. Still, they said, “we face shifting paradigms that have held for more than 100 years of automotive history.”
After an auto show where the car industry appeared to exist to invoke feelings of high-powered nostalgia for dorky gearheads, it was a relief to hear such talk from a major manufacturer: “Cleaner, greener vehicles for people on the move,” “the world’s first affordable mass-market fuel cell vehicle on sale in 2017.” Nissan even used the word “fanatical” to describe its “zero emission leadership.”
All this led up to the introduction of the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder hybrid, the first SUV hybrid in the Nissan lineup, and the first of several upcoming Nissan hybrids. Since it looks exactly like the new Pathfinder, Nissan mercifully dispensed with the “smoother rear pillar” hoo-ha. Instead we got 250 hp from a 2.5-liter gas engine combined with an electric motor.
That’s an awful lot of horsepower for a small engine, we thought. Nissan also touted that the Pathfinder held just as much cargo with a hybrid system as without. And then Nissan dropped the buried lead: The Pathfinder Hybrid would get 26 mpg. Combined.
That’s not very impressive. The outgoing Toyota Highlander Hybrid gets 28 mpg combined. Ford's Ecoboost-powered Explorer gets 23 mpg combined. Even the regular two-wheel-drive Pathfinder gets 26 mpg highway, one less than the Hybrid which will cost $3,000 more.
We realize that the Pathfinder is a large three-row SUV, but if Nissan’s going to tout itself as a zero-emissions leader, it’s going to have to do better, as is the rest of the industry. If 26 mpg is where the puck is going, we should all get off the ice before it melts.