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
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.
The 2018 Nissan Pathfinder favours comfort over athleticism.