Nissan’s successful crossover gets some modest mid-cycle tweaks.
– Carmel, California
Traditional SUVs still have their place in the U.S. market, but to see proof why so many automakers are bolstering their lineups with as many crossovers as possible, look no further than the Nissan Pathfinder. In late 2012, the fourth-generation Pathfinder launched, ditching its predecessor’s boxy, truck-based SUV style for a front-wheel-drive, car-based platform that’s focused more on families and functionality than rough-and-ready capability. Since its launch, new Pathfinder sales are up 90 percent over the previous generation. Sounds like a success story to me.
For 2017, the Pathfinder formula is essentially the same, but with a few key improvements to keep it competitive in the ever-popular seven-passenger CUV segment. It’s both more powerful and better to drive, but the Pathfinder is largely the same as it ever was – in its current form, anyway.
- The naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 carries over with a few tweaks, but it’s still a mostly solid powerplant for the Pathfinder. The new tune offers 284 horsepower and 259 pound-feet of torque – gains of 24 and 19, respectively – and is mated to the same continuously variable transmission as before. The CVT is mostly well-behaved around town, but on steep grades near Carmel, California, the Pathfinder often struggled, the CVT whirring and the power dropping off unexpectedly. Still, in the city and on the highway, the Pathfinder has plenty of power for daily-life activities, and even with the added oomph, fuel economy remains consistent with the outgoing model.
- I won’t say the Pathfinder is leaps and bounds greater to drive than it was last year, but the improvements are indeed noticeable. The retuned steering offers a little more weight on-center and a touch more feedback while cornering, and the stiffer front and rear springs firm up the ride – it’s not as wafty as before, and feels more stable on the road.
- The interior is nicely appointed, especially on this Platinum trim, and the infotainment system gets a graphics update that makes it look a bit more modern. I still say Nissan has one of the best rear seats in the class, with a second row that has a big range of motion – sliding forward and back, and tipping forward to allow for excellent access to the third row. Yes, the way-back is kind of cramped, but getting in and out is easier here than any other vehicle in the class.
- I know looks are subjective, but the sharper corners of the headlights and slightly-redesigned taillamps don’t really do it for me. In fact, the more chiseled face looks a bit awkward against the still-very-round body sculpting. Looking over the list of competitors below, the Pathfinder is near the back of the pack as far as styling goes.
- The 3.5-liter V6 itself is basically fine, but the lack of powertrain choice seems odd in this segment. Scan the list of competitors below, and most offer two or even three powertrain choices. Nissan recently killed the Pathfinder Hybrid (and quietly added it to the Murano lineup) so the naturally aspirated V6 – okay as it may be – is all you get.
- Chevrolet Traverse
- Dodge Durango
- Ford Explorer
- GMC Acadia
- Honda Pilot
- Hyundai Santa Fe
- Kia Sorento
- Mazda CX-9
- Mitsubishi Outlander
- Toyota Highlander
Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com