It gives the tester a sense of how good the vehicle is without the usual veneer of optional extras that can cloud your judgment and convenience you to the point where the vehicle itself is not as important as the options fitted to it.
So that brings us to the Nissan Pathfinder, a vehicle that is beginning to show its age within an increasingly crowded market place.
What the company has done here is very clever indeed. As competition continues to increase in price, Nissan decided to build a base version - a true no-nonsense value proposition, which we as South Africans always appreciate.
The model is called the SE and is available with a manual or automatic transmission, coupled with a 2.5-litre turbo-diesel engine. Our test model was the manual and it was quite refreshing to drive a big vehicle equipped with a third pedal. The shifts are typical of an off-road vehicle, long throws with a slightly notchy gear-change action.
The six-speed gearbox works well with this superb powerplant. Conventional automatic transmissions tend to exaggerate turbo lag, especially in larger vehicles with high specific outputs in relation to their engine capacity and that is why I prefer the manual Pathfinder.
In this instance, the driver can use the class-leading 140kW and 400Nm that is on tap and when they choose. The transmission makes highway cruising more pleasant and because there is so much torque available from just 2000rpm, you can leave the Pathfinder in sixth gear and waft along with the independent suspension doing its job of dampening the ride. Fuel consumption is claimed at 8.5 litres/100km, which I believe to be realistically achievable.
The bakkie-based SUV retains its off-road abilities, with the All-Mode 4x4 system still present. The vehicle is rear-wheel-driven, but has the option of 4H, 4L (low range) along with Active Brake Limited Slip, which aids traction. The Pathfinder is certainly a capable vehicle off the beaten path. The features taken away from this base model have not affected its outright ability. It can still tow 3 000kg and maintains the 232mm of ground clearance, which will keep the enthusiasts happy.
The revised price softens the blow when you climb into the slightly bland interior. It may be ageing, but there are a few modern conveniences. There is Bluetooth functionality, a USB port, dual-zone climate control, cruise control as well as steering-wheel controls.
Pricing is crucial and at R464 900, the Pathfinder presents the buyer with good value considering its capability. The price includes a 3-year/90 000km service plan and 3-year/100 000km warranty.