The redesigned Pathfinder embraces class-leading fuel economy and improved on-road manners to go along with a well-furnished cabin with seating for seven.
For this model year, the Nissan Pathfinder received a mid-cycle refresh. The changes include some styling updates, a powertrain overhaul, suspension and steering adjustments, and some new safety and convenience tech.
The refreshed Pathfinder gets a more rugged - but still refined - exterior look. The front end is more squared-off, sporting the "V-Motion" grille that Nissan has made standard. The fog lamp surrounds and front bumper are also new, and both the 18- and 20-inch wheels have been redesigned.
Despite the changes, the new Pathfinder still shares the same fundamental car-based architecture that helps the crossover weigh in at 500 lbs. less than the body-on-frame truck it replaced.
Nissan's 3.5L V6 has essentially been redesigned. While it has a common displacement with its predecessor, the new iteration has been designed around direct injection, making it more powerful and more fuel efficient. It's up 24 horsepower (from 260 to 284) and 19lb-ft of torque (now boasting 259). Peak torque comes a little later than it did before (4,800 RPM vs. 4,400 RPM), but the area under the curve is just as fat (or fatter) everywhere, so there's no downside.
Despite the EPA's new fuel economy rating standards, the Pathfinder maintained its 20 MPG city, 27 MPG highway and 23 MPG combined ratings. We said above that the new model is more efficient, which is true even if it's not directly reflected in the estimated mileage figures.
All things being equal, the new Pathfinder should deliver better real-world fuel economy than its predecessor. It will also still tow more than its competitors (6,000 pounds).
All Pathfinder models shift through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that plays a big part in the 'ute's fuel-thrifty ways. It can, however, induce prolonged bouts of high-rpm engine droning under medium-to-heavy acceleration.
Spacious, Refined Interior
Roominess and versatility are defining characteristics of the interior, which boasts 2nd-row seats with 5.5-inches of forwards and backwards travel so that 2nd- or 3rd-row legroom can be prioritized. A Latch and Glide system means the 2nd row can be folded forward for easy access to the rearmost seats, which offer adequate space for children or short adults.
Sixteen cubic feet of cargo space are available behind the 3rd row, while 47.8 and 79.8 cubes can be unlocked by folding the 2nd and 3rd rows flat, respectively.
Clever packaging means the hybrid model's lithium-ion battery pack doesn't eat into passenger or cargo space.
In terms of design and materials, there's a definite upscale feel to the cabin, from the quality of the materials to the tasteful layout of the dashboard. Things can be further upgraded with a variety of options including a voice-activated navigation system, a 13-speaker Bose stereo and an impressive Around View system that uses four cameras to provide a 360-degree overhead view of the Pathfinder's surroundings.
With the refresh, Nissan also increased the available space for accessing the third row on the passenger side of the Pathfinder. Even with a child seat installed in the second row, access to the rear seats has been increased (Nissan says this space is 200% greater than that of its closest competitor).
Standard and Optional Features
The Pathfinder is available in S, SV, SL and Limited trim levels. The Hybrid model is only offered with the three upper trims.
The entry-level S is fitted with tri-zone automatic climate control, full power accessories, keyless entry, push button start, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system with an AUX input jack, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The SV adds an eight-way power adjustable driver's seat, automatic headlights, a rearview camera, a rear sonar system, Bluetooth connectivity, a proximity key, a USB input, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift, auxiliary audio/video input jacks, SiriusXM satellite radio, a seven-inch info display and speed-sensitive intermittent windshield wipers. Fog lights, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink universal transceiver and heated exterior mirrors are newly standard for the latest model year.
A Cold package for the SV trim adds heated cloth front seats, a heated steering wheel and heated outside rearview mirrors.
The SL brings leather upholstery, a power liftgate, remote start, heated front and rear seats, a power-adjustable front passenger seat, wood-tone trim, chrome body side moldings, stainless steel kick plates, memory functionality for the driver's seat and exterior mirrors, a digital compass and a 120V power outlet. New for this year is a motion-activated liftgate.
The optional SL Tech Package brings a 13-speaker Bose stereo and a navigation system with an eight-inch touchscreen, NavTraffic and NavWeather, Zagat restaurant reviews. An around-view monitor that provides a 360-degree birds-eye view of the surrounding area during parking situations has been added for the latest model, along with a tow hitch.
The range-topping Platinum includes everything in the SL Tech Package plus a navigation system, the around view monitor, DVD video playback capability, Bluetooth streaming audio capability, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a power tilt/telescoping steering column with position memory, a two hitch receiver with a seven-pin trailer tow wiring harness, a 120-volt AC power outlet and 20-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.
A Family Entertainment Package brings a DVD system with dual headrest 7.0-inch screens and wireless headphones.
All Pathfinder models come standard with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and a tire pressure monitoring system.
Looking for a three-row crossover with plenty of space for people and gear? Alternatives to the Pathfinder are numerous, including the Ford Explorer, the Toyota Highlander, the Honda Pilot, the Mazda CX-9 and the Hyundai Santa Fe.
There's just one direct competitor to the Pathfinder: the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
The Highlander Hybrid can lay claim to better fuel economy and power than the Pathfinder Hybrid, but it's offered only as a loaded AWD model with a relatively high MSRP, a configuration that might not suit all buyer's needs.