Nissan Pathfinder vs. Volkswagen Touareg vs. Tombstone Hill: Which Classic 4×4 Is Better Off-Road? (Video)

It's first dirt for our new (to us) Nissan Pathfinder, as it takes on the venerable VW off-road

The new (old) comer to the TFL fleet takes on Tombstone Hill!

By now, our 2004 Volkswagen Touareg is a beloved fixture of the TFL fleet. Not only is it a comfortable yet capable off-road rig, but it also has solid styling and decently modern tech to make it a keeper that all of us in the office love to drive. We need some fresh blood into the cheap off-roader mix, though, and that’s where our newest purchase comes in. While it featured over on our TFLclassics channel 10 days ago, here’s its first outing on TFLoffroad: a 1995 Nissan Pathfinder with the punchier 3.0-liter VG30E V6 and a four-speed automatic transmission.

So here’s a simple, straightforward question: Is the older SUV just as good or even better than the tried-and-tested VW? In this video, we find out by taking both up Tombstone Hill.

Now, no matter which SUV you choose to go off-road, a huge chunk of the battle comes down to tires. The Touareg comes in strong here, as it’s on 33-inch BFGoodrich KO2 all-terrains. They’re beefy, they’re chunky, and they’re one of our go-to options when it comes to achieving the best off-road results. The Pathfinder, on the other hand, has tires that are about as retro as the SUV itself. They are Goodyear Wrangler Radials, which at just under $100 come in as a budget option against the KO2s, which can run north of $200 each.

Beyond the off-road challenge, Tommy also subjected both cars to the TFL Slip Test. Again, the Touareg comes out swinging. It has a proper four-wheel drive system, as well as locking center and rear differentials. Couple that to adjustable ride height through its air suspension and 300 horsepower from its 4.2-liter V8, and there’s nothing yet we’ve thrown at the VW that it can’t handle.

The first-generation Pathfinder isn’t quite as sophisticated, but it still brings plenty of advantages over the newer Volkswagen. One of those is weight: At 4,000 pounds, the Pathfinder weighs in half a ton lighter than the Touareg. It’s also notably lighter than some modern body-on-frame SUVs (for all the safety features the Pathfinder gives up in winning that contest). With the “it just works” approach to four-wheel drive capability, Nissan’s first-gen SUV puts forward a strong case for rugged simplicity. It’s also more affordable, as the one we bought cost just under $4,000.

Which one would you choose? Check out the video below to see which SUV takes the off-road challenge!