For those looking for a mid-size sport-utility truck or crossover with a third-row seat, it’s possible you’ve chosen the most competitive segment for your vehicle search.
That’s where this week’s perfectly fine Nissan Pathfinder finds itself. After more than 30 years on the market Pathfinder is a known quantity, an expected strong value and good ride. It remains so, but then so are most of its competitors, the likes of the Mazda CX-9, Ford Explorer, Chevy Traverse, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot and the newish Volkswagen Atlas and Subaru Ascent. All are solid choices.
One thing Pathfinder has going for it is power and simplicity. It’s not loaded down with oodles of oddball buttons and unnecessary safety and comfort devices, at least in the tested SV trim, just one up from the base S model.
No, the SV is pretty straightforward, although this one added a couple Rock Creek Edition packages that pushed costs up nearly $2 grand, while adding some luxuries and a bunch of badges and black trim to make this Pathfinder look different from most.
Compared to some competitors though you’ll mainly notice Pathfinder’s power. That comes from its tried and true 3.5-liter V6 that cranks a healthy 284 horses at 259 lbs.-ft. of torque. That’s more than many, plus the competition is increasingly going to turbocharged I4 engines that are more fuel efficient. But this V6 is strong and reliable. Heck, this SUV will tow up to 6,000 lbs., which means it’ll pull a lot of trailer loaded with ATVs and snowmobiles, or even a boat. Thankfully this V6 also is happy to drink regular gas.
That’s good because gas mileage is so-so, as you might expect in an SUV weighing nearly 4,450 lbs. I got 21.3 mpg in a roughly even mix of city and highway driving with up to four 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 the semblance of a normal shift sensation. Some CVTs feel slushy, but Nissan CVTs are among the best feeling.
Yet the overall feel here is of a heavy SUV, not a light compact one, as in last week’s lighter Chevrolet Equinox of similar price. Handling is what I’d call big crossover 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. Steering feel is on the heavy side.
Ride is firm, but well-controlled so it’s never harsh. But as with most big utes, it feels a bit bumpy on choppy city streets.
The tested SV also included 4-wheel-drive, controlled via a dial on the console. That allows you to improve footing if the weather turns nasty or you wander off road into mud and muck. That system adds $1,690 to any trim level, of which Pathfinder has four, S, SV, SL and Platinum.
Inside, the Scarlet Ember (dark metallic red that costs $395 extra) test truck was extremely quiet and comfy. The seats were gray cloth with black leatherette trim, orange stitching and an orange Rock Creek logo embroidered on the seat’s back cushion. The dash was black with matte silver air vents and trim, extending to the console and doors. Fake carbon fiber trim decorated the doors, console and center stack’s surfaces.
Seats were soft, supportive and comfortable, a definite step up in comfort from the just-tested Equinox. These also were heated (but not cooled) and the steering wheel was heated. Both upgrades are part of the SV Rock Creek Technology package that runs $980 and also heats the outside mirrors. Techy add-ons in the package include a navigation system, NissanConnect safety and infotainment services and SiriusXM Traffic and Travel services.
All that is handled through a simple-to-use 8-inch screen with large buttons and knobs. Likewise the climate control system buttons and knobs, while numerous, are equally easy to use. I only mention this because so many brands, especially high-end marques, create a confusing climate and infotainment interface.
Back seat space is roomy and comfortable too, and the second row seats fold flat and slide forward to aid small folks crawling into the third row seat. It holds three youngsters, but two adults, except in a pinch. Legroom is limited in that third-row seat.
Standard here on the safety front are new parking sensors for 2019, plus adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking to slow or stop the car if a vehicle pulls in your path, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert that you view via the backup screen.
There’s also something here called Easy Tire Fill Alert that will beep your horn once you’ve filled a tire to the proper pressure. Didn’t test that.
A few things you won’t find on the SV model include a sunroof or wireless phone charger. Hoping that charger will be standard on all vehicles soon. There are, however, new Type-C USB ports. The rear hatch also is not powered, although a motion-sensing power hatch is optional.
One other bugaboo is the driver’s manual lumbar support adjustment. I can live with it being manual, but the lever is not on the lower seat cushion’s side nearest the door, as most are. It’s located on the driver’s right side located on the seat back cushion, facing the passenger. Reaching back to adjust it is incredibly awkward.
The test truck’s special Rock Creek Edition package ran $995, but is (Nissan says) a $2,310 value. It adds black fender cladding, dark wheels, black mesh grille, roof rails, door handles, rearview mirrors, fascia trim and badging galore. On the functional side it adds a trailer hitch and harness, plus splash guards. Your call on whether those trim accents are worth the extra dough.
Certainly the Pathfinder SV’s list price of $37,105 is a bargain considering it’s well equipped and this model comes with 4WD. With its options the test vehicle hit $40,070, still reasonable for what you’re getting.
To save cash, or if you don’t need 4WD, go with the S model at $32,575. Or move up to the SL or Platinum models for more standard equipment. The top Platinum 4WD model lists at $45,605. All models come with the same V6, so the best value resides at the SV and SL levels.
For the family of six or seven, there are many SUV choices with three-row seating. So shop carefully and be assured the Pathfinder is stout and strong and worth a look.
FAST STATS: 2019 Nissan Pathfinder SV 4WD
Hits: Strong power, controlled ride, 4×4, heated seats and wheel, soft and comfortable seats, easy infotainment screen to use, large buttons, quiet interior and third row seat.
Made in: Smyrna, Tenn.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 284 horsepower
Transmission: Xtronic CVT, automatic
Weight: 4,448 lbs.
Length: 198.5 in.
Wheelbase: 114.2 in.
Tow: 6,000 lbs.
MPG: 21.3 (tested)
Base Price: $37,105 (includes delivery)
Invoice: $34,489 = KBB.com’s fair market price
Rock Creek Edition package, (black fender moldings, unique dark 18-inch wheels and tires, black mesh V-motion grille, black roof rails, unique lower front fascia, black door handles and rearview mirrors, black front/rear fascia accents and license plate finisher, black model and grade badges and 4WD badge, unique badging on front doors and seat surfaces, high-contrast stitching on seat, doors, console lid and more, metallic interior trim, trailer hitch and harness and splash guards), $995
Rock Creek edition cross bars, $395
Premium paint, $395
Carpeted Rock Creek floor mats, $300
SV Rock Creek Tech package (Nissan nav system, Sirius XM travel & traffic link, NissanConnect services and premium plus, heated front cloth seats, heated steering wheel, heated outside rearview mirrors), $980
Test vehicle: $40,070
Sources: Nissan, kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage