Veteran SUV still has a lot to of­fer

Sure, the Pathfinder might be show­ing its age, but it’s smart, com­fort­able with a strong V6 en­gine

The Province - - TRUCKING -

Of all the anti-mini­van, three-row crossovers on the mar­ket, the Nis­san Pathfinder is ar­guably the most mini­van-like. Is that a bad thing? Not if you are in­ter­ested in fer­ry­ing up to seven peo­ple in cushy com­fort.

While the Pathfinder is nei­ther sporty nor overtly rugged, it does go down the road like a big comfy couch, and here in top Plat­inum trim at $48,998, of­fers up a heapin’ helpin’ of lux­ury and tech­nol­ogy.

This third-gen­er­a­tion Pathfinder, launched as a 2013 model, got a mid-life makeover last year, get­ting slightly more sculpted body pan­els, a restyled hood, grille, and head­lights, plus restyled front and rear bumpers. The dif­fer­ences are sub­tle, and you’d be hard pressed to the spot them.

More mean­ing­ful up­grades are un­der the hood. The 3.5litre V6 sees a power boost to 284 horse­power and 259 pound-feet of torque, thanks to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of di­rect in­jec­tion, new pis­tons, a higher com­pres­sion ra­tio, low-fric­tion cylin­der coat­ing and vari­able in­take-valve tim­ing. The Pathfinder con­tin­ues with its Con­tin­u­ously Vari­able Trans­mis­sion (CVT) that does a fine job of not act­ing like one, with pro­grammed steps that mimic the gears of a tra­di­tional au­to­matic. It works well with the V6 and avoids en­gine dron­ing. Nis­san is de­voted to CVT tech­nol­ogy that, among other things, ben­e­fits fuel econ­omy. And more than any man­u­fac­turer, it has ironed out the bugs.

The Pathfinder has a pleas­ingly de­signed, hu­man­friendly in­te­rior with a crisp, eight-inch touch-screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, clear gauges and plenty of well-marked but­tons and knobs. It’s a classy af­fair, and here in the top-tier Plat­inum we get soft leather, cli­mate-con­trolled front seats, a power tilt and tele­scopic steer­ing col­umn, de­cent look­ing faux-wood trim, and a panoramic sunroof. Plus it has Nis­sanCon­nect with nav­i­ga­tion, voice recog­ni­tion, Nis­san’s 360-de­gree Around View Mon­i­tor cam­era sys­tem, sec­ond-row DVD sys­tem, premium Bose au­dio sys­tem, mo­tion-ac­ti­vated power lift­gate, heated steer­ing wheel, heated rear seats, and more.

Out­side, we see ex­tra chrome trim, 20-inch al­loy wheels and LED low-beam head­lights. Safety kit in­cludes blind-spot warn­ing, rear cross-traf­fic alert, adap­tive cruise con­trol and au­to­mated emer­gency brak­ing. New this year is Rear Door Alert, a sys­tem de­signed to re­mind the driver of peo­ple, pets or ob­jects that might still be in­side when the driver ex­its the car.

This is a cabin in which you won’t mind spend­ing a lot of time. Road and wind noise barely in­trude, the seats are very com­fort­able, and for al­most all cli­mate and en­ter­tain­ment func­tions, there are real phys­i­cal con­trols. In other words, you won’t be spend­ing a lot of time pok­ing away at a touch screen (and try­ing to stay on the road at the same time).

Last year, the Pathfinder got a lit­tle more starch in its sus­pen­sion to quell the roly­polys. Still, this cross­over favours com­fort over ath­leti­cism. If you seek sharp hand­ing in a seven-seater, look to the Mazda CX-9.

En­gag­ing driv­ing dy­nam­ics are not a high pri­or­ity in this seg­ment, but that said, my dear wife — who is not par­tic­u­larly tuned in to such things — com­mented on the Pathfinder’s weird steer­ing. I, too, found it to be strangely dis­con­nected, di­al­ing in re­sis­tance in an un­nat­u­ral and un­even way. Other Pathfind­ers I’ve driven haven’t shown this ten­dency, so per­haps this was just an anom­aly.

Where the Pathfinder shines is in its in­te­rior space and clever ac­cess. A true seven-seater, the 60/40-split sec­ond row will ac­com­mo­date three and fea­tures 14 cen­time­tres of travel. The seats ac­cor­dion-fold for­ward, al­low­ing easy ac­cess to the two third-row seats.

Nis­san has gone to some lengths to make the third row hab­it­able for smaller hu­mans. Tri-zone cli­mate con­trol is stan­dard in ev­ery Pathfinder, and both pas­sen­gers back there get an HVAC duct, an au­dio speaker and a de­cent view out the side win­dow. Leg room is pretty good, and the seats re­cline a few de­grees.

The sec­ond and third rows fold to cre­ate a flat load space, and while cargo space is only av­er­age for the seg­ment, this Nis­san will tow up to 6,000 pounds.

Hav­ing been on the scene for five years, the lat­est Pathfinder is a true veteran, and the com­pe­ti­tion is com­ing in fast and fu­ri­ous. No­table con­tenders in­clude the fresh Chevy Tra­verse, Volk­swa­gen At­las, the re­cently re­freshed Kia Sorento and all-new Subaru As­cent.

Yeah, it’s tough out there, but the com­fort­able Pathfinder, with its strong V6 still has some­thing to of­fer, es­pe­cially in the trim lev­els that live down a cou­ple of notches from this pricey Plat­inum.

PE­TER BLEAKNEY/DRIV­ING

The 2018 Nis­san Pathfinder favours com­fort over ath­leti­cism.

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