Pathfinder a calm, quiet, smooth performer …
Somewhere along the Skyline Drive overlooking Shenandoah National Park in Virginia the calm, quiet, and smooth performance of Nissan’s 3-row Pathfinder settled in.
We had driven through unplanted flat Midwestern farm fields and mountainous West Virginia only to settle for a week in Harrisonburg, Virginia. We were on a mission to donate a family heirloom quilt to the beautifully curated Virginia Quilt Museum located in that Shenandoah Valley city. Ironically, it’s also where the quilt was assembled by my wife’s 1840-era ancestors.
Pathfinder is a premium standard size SUV that smartly starts at family-affordable prices. This being the Platinum model, it slots in atop the lineup, which helps explain our traveling trio’s comfort.
First, the tester substituted captain’s chairs ($550 extra) for the second-row bench, making this capable of hauling seven instead of eight. That’s a tradeoff we could afford as we only needed three seats and oodles of luggage room. Pathfinder delivered.
If you need to haul folks in row three the Nissan touts EZ Flex seats, which means you press a button on the lower side or upper back of either row two seat and they fold and slide forward for easy row three access. A bar below the seat cushions allows a row two rider to scooch forward some to grant their siblings in back decent foot and knee room, better than many three-row SUVs, although Toyota’s upcoming Grand Highlander promises room for row three adults.
The Platinum Pathfinder also touts quilted semi-aniline leather seats for long-haul comfort. These were a soft gunmetal gray with chocolate trim that looked as luxurious as they felt. Seats are relatively flat too, which is particularly nice for a long drive. Everyone praised Pathfinder’s comfort level, and its quiet interior, except when the giant twin dual-pane sunroofs were uncovered, not opened. Retract the sunshade and a fair amount of additional wind noise enters the cabin.
That may have been due to the roof rails with crossbars on the roof. That adds $390 and would be needed if the third-row seats were occupied on a multi-state drive that required copious amounts of luggage to tag along.
Watch our video: (160) 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum Edition Review by Mark Savage – YouTube
The Platinum model includes heated and cooled front seats and a heated steering wheel, much needed when we departed chilly Milwaukee. But the cooled seats aided comfort in 80-degree Virginia. The captain’s chair package included heat for the second row seats, plus they had armrests and a big removable console between the seats. Take that out and third row folks have more freedom to roam about the cabin.
Praise too that Nissan loves flat-bottom steering wheels that not only look sportier than round wheels, but free up a bit more legroom for entering and exiting. That said, a 5-5 driver such as myself found the power tilt/telescope steering wheel an advantage too when exiting. With power seat memory functions here I could zip that wheel up and away as I climbed out, but the memory function put it right back where I liked it to drive, once the ignition was engaged.
Standard too are an easy-to-use 9-inch infotainment screen (up from 8 in the lower trims), a WiFi hotspot, 360-degree camera, Nissan Connect Services via Sirius XM, and wireless Apple Car Play, but not wireless Android Auto. That’s a bit odd. There’s also an impressive Bose premium stereo with dual subwoofers.
The Platinum model also adds a 12.3-inch digital driver instrument cluster, wireless phone charger, the driver seat memory and power tilt/telescope steering wheel, plus a large HUD that is handy when traveling through rural areas where small towns strategically and suddenly drop the speed limit by 20 mph. Could help prevent a ticket. Sorry rural po-po!
As for drivability, well, Pathfinder is solid and steady and offers plenty of power with its stout 3.5-liter V6 that delivers 284 horsepower. Even climbing the steep Appalachians there was plenty of oomph, although the silky smooth 9-speed automatic did downshift to make better use of the engine’s torque. Note too that there’s a bit of a lag when pressing the accelerator, so it helps to anticipate the need for speed.
While we didn’t need any off-roading or snow-related drive modes, Nissan offers seven. Automatic did it for us, but there is Snow, Eco, Sand, Mud/Rut, Gravel, and Sport, which emphasizes power and firms steering effort some.
But I found the moderately responsive steering to be dead-on when highway driving, or maneuvering through mountain switchbacks. Pathfinder is easy to keep within its lanes, but in case you want help with that there’s smart cruise control that engages Nissan’s semi-autonomous driving system that buzzes and vibrates the wheel as the car approaches a lane marker. It was a bit oversensitive, but worked well.
I do wish the system could be switched off at times and just cruise control engaged, but the two are permanently linked.
This model includes AWD in case you do head off-road or live in a sloppy climate. And the Nissan Safety Shield suite includes every detector, assist, and warning system you’d expect today. All good!
Ride was mostly pleasant and controlled, but I noted as we hit Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin roads that it could be pretty firm. That was something I noted in my last Pathfinder review too. The ride isn’t’ harsh, but a little more cushion on sharp pavement bumps and pot holes would maximize Midwestern drivers’ comfort.
With three passengers and a load of luggage the ride seemed much more compliant than with just one or two aboard and no luggage in the big cargo area (45 cubic feet with row three down). An aside here, the thick rubber cargo cover mat ($345 extra) and seat-back protection system would be super for keeping the trunk clean when hauling gardening supplies, etc. However, they are hard to slide heavy suitcases on, especially the transition over the third-row seat folds.
One other niggling issue, the fuel filler door doesn’t pop open once pushed, as most do. It is unlatched once you press it, but one must pry it open with your fingers at that point. Could just be an issue on this one test vehicle after a bevy of journalists have slapped that door shut.
Pathfinder will tow 6,000 pounds too, so trailering is simple, but of course will cut gas mileage, which I found impressive for this size SUV. I managed 22 to 26.2 mpg, the better coming in the flatlands, while the lesser was during heavy-duty mountain driving. The EPA rates Pathfinder at 20 mpg city and 25 highway. One hopes a hybrid will be offered soon to further improve those numbers.
Pricing is pretty standard for this segment, so similar to that of Toyota’s Highlander, the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, Ford Explorer, Mazda CX-9 and Subaru Ascent.
The base Pathfinder goes for $36,295 in front-drive mode. Add $1,900 for AWD, and there is a new Rock Creek version that includes AWD and is aimed more at the off-road market. It starts at $44,355.
There are several other useful trims before the tested Platinum model that lists at $51,405 with delivery. With its added extras this one hit $54,785, right in the mid-section of the standard SUV market transaction price range.
Note this one added $790 for its Baja Storm (metallic tan) paint scheme. Some liked it, others not so much. I did notice though that the two-tone paint (roof is black) was $440 higher than on a similar Pathfinder I’d driven just a year before. That’s a pretty big bump.
If you can find a mid-level trim that suits your needs Pathfinder is a handsome, quiet road master the family can cruise cross-country in.
FAST STATS: 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD
Hits: Roomy 3-row interior, stout power, 7 drive modes, AWD, flat-bottom steering wheel, complete standard safety equipment plus heated/cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, heated second row seats, dual-pane sunroof. Big instrument display, HUD, and easy-to-use info screen, EZ Flex second row seats, storage under cargo floor, power tilt/telescope wheel, along with quiet, stylish interior.
Misses: Firm ride, some accelerator hesitation, smart cruise engages semi-autonomous driving feature which can’t be disengaged while in cruise mode, fuel door doesn’t pop open easily.
Made in: Smyrna, Tenn.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 284 hp / 259 torque
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Weight: 4,672 lbs.
Wheelbase: 114.2 in.
Length: 197.7 in.
Cargo: 16.6/45/80.5 cu.ft.
Tow: 6,000 lbs.
MPG: 22-26.2 (tested)
Base Price: $51,405 (includes delivery)
Captain chair pkg. (heated 2nd row captain’s chairs w/removable console), $550
Cross bars, $390
Carpeted floor mats, captain’s chairs, $255
Cargo pkg. (cargo protector mat, net, cargo dividers, console net, first aid kit), $345
Lighting pkg. (illuminated kick plates, welcome lighting), $945
2-tone paint, $790
LED fog lamps, $345
Test vehicle: $54,785
Sources: Nissan, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage