My Navy son had a Nissan Pathfinder years ago and it was a true sport-utility truck, built on a truck chassis and able to go off-roading with the other utes of the day.
Pathfinder has been around now for 30 years, but those trucklike days are gone as more utes convert to crossover vehicles built on car platforms. That’s what the 2017 Pathfinder rides on. That makes for a more comfortable ride and more civilized vehicle.
The tested gold Pathfinder Platinum was the top-shelf model though, with a 4-wheel-drive system. Still, at nearly $45 grand I’m not sure I’d slop it through much mud and muck. That’s OK though, because precious few buyers ever took SUVs off-road, which has led us to the ever expanding crossover market. It makes sense to give drivers a vehicle more suited to 99.99% of their driving.
Pathfinder’s new styling looks less boxy and trucky. It rides on a 114.2-inch wheelbase and feels as refined as any of its competitors, such models as Toyota’s Highlander, Honda’s Pilot or Hyundai’s Santa Fe. The interior is quiet and lathered in leather.
But it’s the Pathfinder’s power that’ll get your attention once you sit inside the roomy interior that will seat seven because of its third-row seat.
Under its hood is Nissan’s tried and true 3.5-liter V6 that cranks a healthy 284 horses with 259 ft.-lbs. of torque. That’s a bump of 24 horses and 19 ft.-lbs. compared with the previous model. Heck, this will even tow up to 6,000 lbs., which covers a lot of snowmobile and trailer, or even horse and trailer, combos. Unlike some fancy makes’ V6 engines, this one is happy to drink regular too.
That’s good because gas mileage is so-so. I got 19.4 mpg in about an even mix of city and highway driving with up to three people aboard. The EPA rates this one at 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. There’s an Xtronic continuously variable transmission that is designed to aid gas mileage, it also shifts smoothly and gives you a normal shift sensation. Some CVTs are slushy feeling, but Nissan CVTs are among the best performing.
Ride is a tad on the firm side, but well-controlled so it’s never harsh. Couple that with the quiet interior and leather seats and your family will be quite happy aboard for a trip.
Handling is what I’d call big crossover handling with moderate feedback and road feel to the wheel. But it’s all easily controlled and feels pleasant on the highway and is adequate in town.
Braking is fine too with all the usual high-tech helpers, plus don’t forget the 4-wheel-drive. There’s a knob on the console to put the crossover in 2-wheel or 4-wheel mode, or leave it in the center position for the vehicle to automatically choose what’s best for road conditions. I left it there most of the week and didn’t spin a wheel on roads dampened by heavy fog.
Inside, the Pathfinder is luxurious, which you expect from a crossover listing at $43,560. A rear-drive model lists at $43,010, including a delivery fee of $900.
The sharp-looking gold test model had a black leather interior including black dash with satin silver trim on the doors and air vents, plus what looked and felt like real wood on doors, console and part of the center stack. It was handsome.
Seating is worth a mention for several reasons. Naturally the driver’s seat is powered with a two-memory feature and was moderately well contoured. The seat back is less snug than I would like so you lean a bit in tight turns. But overall the leather was soft and the seats comfortable. Front seats also are heated and cooled.
Row Two had a bench that split with seat backs that would recline and the two-piece bench could move back for more legroom, or forward to help out the Row Three riders. Getting in back was easy, although there’s not a lot of legroom if Row Two is most of the way back. But to flip the seats forward there’s a release on the second row’s seat back sides. The seats collapse into themselves and glide forward for simplified back row entry.
With the third row seats up there’s precious little cargo room. But they fold down simply and that boosts the space in back. The second-row seats are heated and there are automatic climate controls there too. The Pathfinder also has a power rear hatch, which Nissan claims is motion activated, but I never figured out the right motion or location to make the motion. There also are two sunroofs, the rearward one being the larger.
Controls deserve a shout-out too as they are excellent. There’s an 8-inch screen and 12 large buttons around it, not on it. These control Apps, Climate, Audio, Navigation, Map, Status, Info, Settings, plus day/night and screen light functions. Below that, thank heavens, are six radio channel preset buttons so you can easily program in the regular stations you use.
A bit lower on the stack are three simple climate control knobs and dual temperature controls.
A few other items deserve a mention, including a power tilt/telescope steering wheel, a heated steering wheel that gets so hot after about 15 minutes that you’ll likely switch it off, and a surround-view camera that gives you a 360-degree view of your Pathfinder. This is particularly helpful in tight parking situations.
From a safety standpoint there’s a rearview camera with cross-traffic sensors, blind-spot warning system, forward emergency braking and intelligent cruise control. Pathfinder also comes with Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control if you DO go off-roading.
Inside you’ll find a two-level storage box/armrest between the seats, sun visors with extenders, an emergency SOS system and a CD player (not so common anymore). There are two USB ports, a Bose sound system, HomeLink, and Bluetooth too.
Not many demerits on this one, but like many vehicles today the A-pillar front mirror combo can create a blind spot and the B-pillar coupled with the passenger’s seat headrest can create another. I also didn’t like the heated/cooled seat dials on the console. It’s hard to determine which setting they are on, especially at night.
The only extra here was carpeted floor mats for $225, but you’d think they’d include that if you’re buying a $44 grand crossover. This one settled at $44,685.
A base S model with rear-drive is $31,230 including delivery and a 4-wheel-drive model lists at $32,920. There also are SV and SL models in 2- and 4-wheel-drive. The 2-wheel-drive models get 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.
Pathfinder is a worthy large crossover to haul the whole family.
FAST STATS: 2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD
Hits: Powerful crossover with well-controlled ride and that’ll tow. Quiet interior that seats seven, plus heated/cooled seats, heated wheel, two sunroofs, big center stack screen and buttons, six radio preset buttons, 2-memory driver’s seat, power tilt/telescope wheel, power hatch and AWD.
Misses: Big A-pillar/mirror creates blind spot, wide B-pillar and passenger headrest too, odd little seat temp dials that are hard to see the settings, especially at night.
Made in: Smyrna, Tenn.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 284 hp
Transmission: Xtronic CVT
Weight: 4,660 lbs.
Length: 198.5 in.
Wheelbase: 114.2 in.
Cargo: 79.8 cu.ft. (rear seats down)
Tow: 6,000 lbs.
MPG: 19/26 (EPA)
MPG: 19.4 (tested)
Base Price: $43,560
Carpeted floor mats, $225
Test vehicle: $44,685
Sources: Nissan, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage