2017 Nissan Pathfinder Review

2017 Nissan Pathfinder - Refresh brings more tech, aggressive styling


Is the 2017 Pathfinder's new look as refreshing as Nissan boasts, or more nuanced?

The overall side profile remains the same, but there are exterior styling changes that include the hood, grille, front and rear bumpers, taillights and turn signal mirrors.

Nissan's goal with the refresh was to make the Pathfinder appear more rugged and SUV-like. While the front profile is definitely more aggressive, the Pathfinder still falls more in the carlike "crossover" category for me.

The interior of the Pathfinder is nice, but not ultra luxurious like the new Armada that I wrote about last week. And that makes sense since it's a level down.

We were driving Platinum trim models, and for the most part, I really liked the interior appointments - from the heated and cooled front seats to the soft leather seating surfaces - but there were a few quirks of note. First, I didn't love the zebra-stripe wood grain finishes. Second, in my far-forward driving position, my knee hit the underside of the steering column and dash. Not a problem for average or taller drivers, but something petite drivers should be aware of.

Interior space is really well thought out, and all seating positions - including the third row - have decent space for adult passengers.

The refreshed Pathfinder gets Nissan's newest iteration of its infotainment system. It has icon-based menus, enhanced voice recognition and a multi-touch map screen that allows you to swipe, pinch and zoom like a cell phone. We were driving pre-production prototype vehicles during the press launch and couldn't get the swipe, pinch and zoom functions to work, so I'll look forward to testing this system in a production vehicle soon.

Another neat feature added for 2017: a motion-activated liftgate. As long as you have the key fob on you, just kick under the bumper and the liftgate will open without needing to touch the vehicle or the fob. This feature will be standard at the SL trim.

High-level safety features are also new on the Pathfinder and include moving object detection, forward emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. However, the object detection is only available starting at the SL trim with the standard around-view monitor, and the latter two features are only available on the Platinum trim.

While some of the tech-based features are nice adds, the best thing about the 2017 Pathfinder in my opinion is the ride and handling. Nissan did an excellent job enhancing the steering response and ride quality. The 7-passenger crossover handles the curves and corners with aplomb, and it's really comfortable to drive and ride in during long highway stretches. It can even handle some easy off-road terrain.

The refreshed Pathfinder is still equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine, but it's been completely re-engineered to deliver more power and tow more stuff.

Horsepower increases to 284 and torque goes up to 259 pound-feet, which is a 24 horsepower and 19 pound-feet increase over the 2016 model. The towing rating also increases to 6,000 pounds, which is a 1,000-pound increase and moves Pathfinder to best-in-class status.

Even though the numbers look good on paper, I have to admit the power equation in the new Pathfinder didn't wow me. It felt underpowered during passing maneuvers, and in one instance when I was trying to merge with fast traffic from a stop, I wasn't sure I would make it without getting hit. (For the record: I did not get hit.)

Nissan says the competitive set for the Pathfinder are the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer. But during our short drive, I couldn't help making constant comparisons to the all-new Mazda CX-9. And frankly, the Pathfinder didn't fare too well.

I know Nissan is trying to position the Pathfinder as an adventure-ready SUV that can handle some off-roading and have a go-anywhere design. But as I mentioned in the beginning, the 2017 Pathfinder is still a crossover in my book.

It's not unattractive, and the ride is nice, but the CX-9 looks nicer, has better fuel economy and is even better to drive. And even though the horsepower rating is less on the CX-9, it still feels like it's faster off the start and in aggressive maneuvers.

On the flip side, Pathfinder will have a starting price under $30K, whereas the CX-9 starts at $31,520.

The refresh may be enough to keep Nissan buyers in the Nissan family, but I don't know that it will be enough to bring in a slew of conquest sales. Time will tell.

Pathfinder goes on sale in September.

Read more from Jill Ciminillo:

- App'-rehension: Making the phone-car connection

- This is how Nissan celebrates National Donut Day

- Buying a Dodge SRT? Learn to drive it first

Jill Ciminillo

Jill has been writing about cars for more than 15 years, representing the female point of view amongst her predominantly male colleagues. And since something like 80 percent of all car-buying decisions are either made by or influenced by women, that's nothing to sneeze at. Formerly the online automotive editor for the Chicago Sun-Times, the print auto editor for Pioneer Press Newspapers and the automotive editor for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, this 5th percentile (aka petite) female tells it like it is from the fun to the functional. Jill recently served as the first female president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and currently sits on its Board of Directors as President Emeritus. Jill is a syndicated automotive writer and acts as the managing editor for the Pickup Truck + SUV Talk website.