Re­view of 2015 Nissan Pathfinder Plat­inum edi­tion SUV.

The Washington Post Sunday - - AUTOMOTIVE - War­ren Brown war­ren.brown@wash­post.com

CORNWALL, N.Y. — I did my best to stay out of New York City, some 50 miles south of here. It is no place for a large sportu­til­ity ve­hi­cle, although this one, the 2015 Nissan Pathfinder Plat­inum edi­tion, was more amenable than most to the con­ges­tion of Man­hat­tan traf­fic.

I still had to pay an ex­tra $10 to park it in most city garages. My heart says the city’s pre­mium park­ing fee for SUVs is a scam. But my mind tells me the charge makes sense. Space is a pre­mium com­mod­ity in New York City.

The Pathfinder is 16.5 feet long and 6.5 feet wide, about five inches less, in each case, than the truly over­size Lin­coln Nav­i­ga­tor SUV I drove in these parts a week ago.

Five inches might not seem like much. But the dif­fer­ence is sig­nif­i­cant, even men­tally, in a place where ev­ery avail­able inch of road and park­ing space is sub­jected to fierce con­test. I was grate­ful to have five inches less.

I was hap­pier with the Pathfinder for another rea­son. Nowin its fourth gen­er­a­tion, it has be­come more car­like and less of a truck, more of a cross over util­ity ve­hi­cle than a bona fide sport-util­ity model. The tran­si­tion makes it more amenable for ur­ban use, though less de­sir­able as a mo­bile com­pan­ion off-road and in the rough.

The change con­sti­tutes a loss of noth­ing. Most SUV own­ers, in­clud­ing those pi­lot­ing big Lin­coln Nav­i­ga­tors, Chevro­let Subur­bans and Land Rovers, sel­dom take them off-road any­way. In­stead, in places such as New York City and the Dis­trict of Columbia, these ve­hi­cles are most of­ten are em­ployed as li­mousines.

It makes sense, given that re­al­world us­age, to make them more car­like, a lit­tle smaller and less space-greedy, if at all pos­si­ble. Nissan, I think, is show­ing us the way to go with its re­work of the Pathfinder, which has been on the mar­ket since 1985.

The cur­rent-gen­er­a­tion Pathfinder is a sleeker, less ag­gres­sive-look­ing ve­hi­cle than its body-on-frame, truck-based pre­de­ces­sor. It em­ploys a lighter, tighter, more space-and-fu­el­ef­fi­cient unit-body frame that makes ex­cel­lent use of its stan­dard 3.5-liter V-6 ga­so­line en­gine (260 horse­power, 240 pound-feet of torque).

The re­work yields a cross­over/ SUV of al­most rea­son­able fuel econ­omy— 19 miles per gallon in the city and 26 on the high­way in the all-wheel-drive model driven for this col­umn. An avail­able front-wheel-drive Pathfinder gives you one mile per gallon more in each case. The good news is that, front-wheel or all-wheel drive, the Pathfinder runs quite well on less-ex­pen­sive reg­u­lar grade ga­so­line.

Nissan was a pi­o­neer in the de­vel­op­ment of gear­less con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sions. Ear­lier CVTs made a ma­jor con­tri­bu­tion to fuel econ­omy. But they were rub­bery af­fairs, aes­thet­i­cally un­ap­peal­ing in terms of drive feel.

Nissan has done some­thing about that in its re­work of the Pathfinder. Us­ing the magic of elec­tronic soft­ware, the com­pany has given us a new Path fin­der CVT that feels much like a tra­di­tional six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

Build qual­ity here is ex­cel­lent. Ex­te­rior styling is at­trac­tive, sleeker and, hap­pily, it presents less of a vis­ual ob­sta­cle to fel­low mo­torists. The in­te­rior is wellde­signed, er­gonom­i­cally gifted, ev­ery­thing easy to see and use. Cabin ma­te­ri­als and fit and fin­ish are top-notch.

You com­fort­ably can seat up to seven peo­ple in the new Pathfinder. Just ask them to pack light. Cargo ca­pac­ity in this one, 16 cu­bic feet with all seats up, is about three cu­bic feet more than what is avail­able in a com­pa­ra­ble Toy­ota High­lander (13.8 cu­bic feet cargo space with all seats up). But 16 cu­bic feet ef­fec­tively gives you about the same cargo space avail­able in a full-size sedan, as op­posed to a sport-util­ity ve­hi­cle.

Still, I re­ally like this one . . . and would take it over many of its SUV com­peti­tors, es­pe­cially for ur­ban use.

A pi­o­neer in de­vel­op­ing the con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion, Nissan has im­proved it.

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