Nissan Pathfinder — Looking better than ever

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Since its inception in the mid-1980s as Nissans first mass market sport utility the Pathfinder has displayed multiple personalities. It started life like all SUV's of the 1980s and early 90s as a body-on-frame truck, was switched to unibody construction for the second generation (1995-2004), then back to body-on-frame for the third generation (2005-2012), and back to unibody construction for the fourth generation that commenced with the 2013 model.

For 2017 Pathfinder has undergone a rather extensive mid-cycle refreshening to keep up with the current competition such as the Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot. Moving away from a rugged off-road look to a softer family-friendly style we think the Pathfinder has finally found its true identity as a comfortable three-row vehicle, the interpretation of a modern, comfortable station wagon.

Most noticeable is the new “V Motion” grille that, oddly, has more of a “U” shape, but is consistent with other newly restyled and released Nissan products. There are also new boomerang-shaped headlamps with LED daytime running lamps, a re-sculpted hood, and reworked front and rear bumpers. Platinum-grade models get standard LED headlamps as well.

Out back, with new taillights and bumper, Nissan calls the style more “adventurous.” And, for the first time, Pathfinder gets an available motion-activated rear liftgate that rises with a simple wave of a foot beneath the rear bumper. There’s also a memory feature for the opening height.

The new styling not only gives the Pathfinder a more contemporary and updated look, it also affords more aerodynamic proportions, reducing Pathfinder’s drag coefficient without compromising the approach angle for off-roading.

Perhaps the biggest update is with the 3.5-liter V-6 engine that has been revised to make 284 horsepower, a gain of 25 over the outgoing model, and 259 pound-feet of torque, a gain of 19. New direct injection, redesigned pistons, a higher compression ratio and variable valve timing contribute to the bump in numbers. Nissan has a fixation on the continuously variable transmission (CVT) — they've invested all their marbles in the CVT while many other manufacturers have put their development money into more gears such as 8-speeds, 9-speeds and 10-speeds. While we prefer a highly geared traditional transmission, we were impressed with the reprogrammed CVT in the '17 Pathfinder that imitates a traditional automatic.

The revised engine and the updated CVT combined to give the Pathfinder acceptable acceleration measured at 7.4 seconds from 0-to-60 and 15.7 seconds at 92 mph in the quarter mile. The crossover has a healthy 6,000-pound tow rating. While not a standout in the segment our all-wheel drive test vehicle carried an EPA rating of 19-city, 26-highway and 21 overall on regular gas.

Nissan engineers extensively retuned the independent suspension, contributing to Pathfinder’s enhanced driving dynamics. On the road, improved handling and ride dynamics are most noticeable. The steering is now 11 percent quicker for enhanced maneuverability.

Nissan designers have brought new changes to the inside as well. The front center console pocket is now illuminated and has two USB outlets in the storage bin. Two newly styled cupholders can accommodate cups with handles and larger drinks.

New driver assist and safety technology includes forward emergency braking, moving object detection and intelligent cruise control. Note that the SL and Platinum models get blindspot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert as standard equipment. It's optional on the lower trims.

The Pathfinder comes in four trim levels — S, SV, SL and Platinum. All models come with three rows of seats and seven-passenger capability, and all four can be outfitted with optional all-wheel drive for $1,690. Prices start at $31,230 includi
ng destination charge for a front-wheel drive S model and move upward to $44,400 for the AWD Platinum edition.

Standard equipment for 31 grand includes 18-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, tri-zone climate control, a rearview camera, keyless ignition and entry, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an 8-inch touchscreen plus  Bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition operational commands.

A new advanced drive assist display in the center of the gauge cluster and expanded Nissan Connect services for the next generation infotainment system stack with a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio and a CD player highlight the interior changes. Disappointingly, however, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are conspicuously missing.

No options were necessary except carpeted floor mats ($225) on our loaded Platinum test vehicle, which stickered for $44,685. However, families hauling children that constantly ask "are we there yet," might want to consider the family entertainment package with 8-inch dual monitors embedded in the front seat headrests — cost $1,505.

Base price: $31,230; as driven, $44,685
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 284 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 259 foot-pounds @ 4,800 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 114.2 inches
Length: 198.5 inches
Curb weight: 4,660 pounds
Turning circle: 38.7 feet
Cargo capacity: 79.8 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 6,000 pounds
Fuel capacity: 19.5 gallons (regular)
EPA rating AWD: 19 city, 26 highway, 21 overall
0-60: 7.4 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Mazda CX-9, Honda Pilot, GMC Acadia

The Good
• Revised V-6 performs well
• Good towing capacity
• Quiet, comfortable ride quality

The Bad
• Cargo area smaller than some competitors

The Ugly
• Android Auto, Apple CarPlay missing