The Nissan Pathfinder is a midsize crossover that offers seating for seven passengers. Competitors include the Chevrolet Traverse, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, GMC Acadia, Hyundai Santa Fe, Honda Pilot, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander and all-new Volkswagen Atlas. For 2017 Pathfinder gets a freshening that includes new exterior styling, a more powerful engine, additional features and revised steering and suspension settings.
Pathfinder is available in S, SV, SL and Premium trim levels. All get a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 284 horsepower. Sole transmission choice is a continuously variable automatic. Front-drive is standard and all-wheel drive with hill-decent control and four-wheel lock function is available. Towing capacity is increased to 6000 pounds for 2017.
Newly offered features include 8-inch touch screen navigation, forward-collision warning system with emergency braking, NissanConnect safety services and motion-activated tailgate. Pathfinder pricing starts at $30,290 and climbs to $42,070.
A longtime Pathfinder strength, the 3.5-liter V6 engine provides stout acceleration from a stop and strong passing power. From a standstill, Pathfinder will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 7.5 seconds. That's outstanding for the class and, thanks to the step-less CVT automatic, there's no shift shock or hesitation in power delivery.
On the flipside, EPA estimates of 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway are slightly below class leaders. Routine, real-world suburban commuting is likely to yield about 22 mpg overall, perhaps 24 mpg if you throw in some gentle highway cruising.
Pathfinder's all-wheel-drive system does not have a low range and is not intended for severe off-road use. However, it does offer hill-descent control and a locking differential to help out in tricky terrain. Most suburban commuters won't likely ever need the additional traction afforded by the all-wheel-drive system and can save a few dollars by opting for the front-drive version.
Suspension revisions for 2017 give Pathfinder a more roadable feel, striking a nice compromise between ride comfort and handling prowess. Still, there's a lot of play in the suspension and steering when the road gets twisty. Pathfinder Platinum, with its 20-inch wheels and tires, feels more buttoned up at speed. Brakes have good stopping power -- even when loaded -- but suffer from numb and uncommunicative pedal feel. Interior noise levels are low, even at highway speeds. The engine never intrudes.
Pathfinder's interior gets a freshening for 2017, but the bones remain the same. The center stack features a slightly larger touch-screen display but most controls remain. Materials seem to be a cut above the class norm and assembly quality is good. Radio and climate controls are easy to use dials and the gauges are easy to read. Unfortunately, there's no support for Android Auto or Apple Car Play.
Front seats are well padded for great comfort and support. Head and leg room are ample as well. Second-row seats offer good comfort, despite a somewhat flat seat-bottom cushion. Additionally, Pathfinder offers plenty of head and leg room in the second row. The same can't be said for the child-only third-row seats. Outward visibility is fine forward but somewhat obscured to the sides and rear. Thankfully Nissan offers an around-view camera to ease parking. Step-in height isn't too bad, but a hop is still required for all but the tallest adults.
At a maximum of just 80 cubic feet, cargo space trails class leaders a bit, but the tall roof allows for easy loading of large items. There's a fair amount of space behind the third-row seats, which can't be said for some competitors. Interior storage is modest with only a few open bins throughout. Large map pockets are a plus.
Nissan's Pathfinder was one of the first four-door SUVs and still remains very popular. Its nice mix of comfort, performance, economy and utility make it an outstanding choice for families on the go. Pricing is extremely competitive, which is another bonus. Kudos to Nissan for adding forward-collision warning, but it's only available on the Platinum trim. The midsize crossover class is hotly contested right now, so expect the dealer to offer solid discounts to make Pathfinder more attractive.