It’s starting to show its age, but the 2017 Pathfinder is still a solid SUV.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2017 Nissan Pathfinder
Base price (Platinum 4WD trim): $48,398
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $50,293
People were shocked when we first met this generation of Pathfinder. Nissan had taken the ruggedness and hurled it aside with no fanfare or goodbyes. The resulting shape was relatively smooth, slick and modern. And it didn’t go over well with the purists that felt the Pathfinder ought to have continued on its path, bring built on a truck chassis and looking like it was ready to tackle the great outdoors. But the new one has done well, and it’s now a familiar sight. I think it looks good, particularly in my review vehicle’s rich Caspian Blue. There’s some bling to be found on the higher trim – you can’t miss the chrome grille flanked by bright LED head lights. The 20-inch rims look great, and they wear 235/55-sized tires.
I find the Pathfinder’s cabin to be mostly a good thing. Materials are definitely not top-of-class – the entire dash is a huge swatch of hard plastics and that feels a bit chintzy by today’s standards. The “wood-tone” trim is better than in some other vehicles, but obviously fake. The heated steering wheel feels great in the hands and is power-adjustable.
The front seats are upholstered in leather, heated and cooled, and very comfortable. The 8″ main screen is to be controlled with Nissan’s weird input interface. It’s a combination of a rotary joystick puck and directional buttons – to me it always seems as if there are too many options when it comes to moving around the screen, and that many of these options are simply redundant. I also think this stuff takes up too much of the dash. Thankfully it functions well as a touchscreen.
The navigation system is quite good, and the 13-speaker BOSE audio system is fantastic! A couple of nitpicks with the system – it seems as though it always wants to start in navigation mode, and irritatingly, it never intelligently bounces back to your previous activity like other systems do. There’s a tri-zone climate control system, which allows you to control the rear temperature from the front.
Charging is handled by four 12V plugs throughout the cabin and one 120V household plug at the back of the centre console. This high trim gets a decent amount of driver assistance technology – 360-degree camera, rear parking sensors (I did miss the front ones in tight parking spots), intelligent/adaptive cruise control, forward emergency braking, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert.
Second and Third Row Seats
There are three seats in the second row. The two outboard seats are heated and quite comfortable. The seats recline and slide fore and aft, but there is a total lack of foot room under the front seats, and that makes things feel a bit tight.
the second row gets the entertainment system with dual 7-inch screens. They have DVD players and wireless headphones, while the third row has headphone jacks and volume controls. There’s also a separate climate control panel for rear passengers.
We really liked how easily the second row seats fold and then slide forward and out of the way, making ingress to the third row a breeze, especially compared to some of the competition. The third row reclines for comfort, but there’s not enough space for adults – unless you push the second row up so far as to make it unusable. The two third row passengers get air vents and cupholders, and that’s about it.
There are two sets of LATCH anchors for child seats in the second row – none in the third.
I liked the rubberized bin under the centre stack, complete with two 12V plugs. There are also two USB plugs and two levels of carpeted bins under the armrest lid. The Pathfinder has a power liftgate in most of the higher trims. Behind the third row is a reasonably large 453 litre cargo space. But you can bump this up significantly. The third row splits 50/50 – the seats fold flat to make for 1201 litre trunk. And if you need more, that second row splits 60/40 and the seats also fold surprisingly flat – and this gives you 2260 litres to work with. We also liked the underfloor storage compartments in the trunk.
Under the Hood
Nissan sticks with the tried and true 3.5L V6. Here it makes 284 HP and a seemingly paltry 259 lb.ft of torque and is mated to a continuously-variable transmission (CVT).
Nissan rates the Pathfinder at 12.4 L/100 km (19 US mpg) in town and at 9.2 L/100 km (26 US mpg) on the highway. Unfortunately, we ended up with a sobering average of 14.8 L/100 km (16 US mpg) after our week in the Pathfinder. That’s definitely not great.
While the 4636 pound (2103 kg) Pathfinder is no rocket, the CVT works really well and is paired nicely with the engine. It has enough power for anything we wanted to do, and always worked well. The transmission has a Low mode, which will keep the revs a little higher, and you can turn overdrive off too.
Nissan has done a very good job with the ride – it’s smooth and comfortable. Handling is decent, and is relatively competent. It’s when it came to slipperier situations that I felt the Pathfinder could use a little work. Let me tell you what I mean.
The Pathfinder’s all-wheel drive system is front-wheel drive based. You can actually choose full-time front-wheel drive mode for cruising around on dry roads, as it’s more efficient. There’s also an auto mode where it kicks in the all-wheel drive when the front wheels slip, and a 4WD lock for the most challenging conditions. When it came to driving the Pathfinder in Edmonton’s winter conditions, which means fresh snow, icy roads and intersections and generally crappy driving conditions, the all-wheel drive system became one of my big complaints. In automatic mode, it often started plowing off to the side for a moment or two as a front-wheel drive vehicle would off the line or coming around a corner before the rear wheels kicked in. I’ve definitely seen better (or to be more accurate – quicker) applications of the slip-and-grip concept and Nissan needs to catch up. Of course, you can put it in 4×4 lock mode, but that shouldn’t be necessary to instill confidence in the driver. To be clear though, once the rear wheel start being driven, it works very well.
I thought the sound levels were well managed, and things were quiet for the most part. Visibility is decent, but the third row headrests really get in the way of your rear view. Parking is made easier with Moving Object Detection and the power-folding mirrors get out of the way nicely.
The huge dual-panel sunroof is nice, and larger rear panel makes for an airy rear passenger space. If you tow things, you’ll be pleased to find a trailer tow package here, with a maximum tow capacity of 6000 pounds. That’s high for this vehicle class. Oh yes, and the remote start was nice on cold mornings.
The tracks on the floor that allow the second row of seats to slide ahead and back are these big lumpy things on the floor which are just irritating, and secondly, they’re basically giant traps for grit, sand, dirt and everything else you and your family will drag into this vehicle. I have a feeling that things can go seriously wrong with this design.
I found the ergonomics for the driver were not ideal when it comes to some of the buttons, as some of them feel as though they are hidden under the dash.
I like the Pathfinder. I really do. On a day to day basis, it was a very pleasant and competent vehicle. Tons of space for cargo, a roomy front cabin and second row, with a third row that serves as emergency seating or works well for smaller kids. Decent technology, enough power (and a serious towing capacity) and great looks.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was pretty high. She really liked how the Pathfinder drove around town, and she said she was really starting to like the looks. She hated the input mechanism for the main screen.
Oh, and I should mention this too, because I personally think it looks hot. The Canadian-exclusive Platinum Midnight Edition is available. You get perforated charcoal leather seats and four exterior colours to pick from. I’m a big fan of the exclusive Midnight Edition black 20″ alloy wheels. They also throw in a black rear spoiler, black outside mirrors, and illuminated kickplates with LED interior accent lighting. It costs the same as the normal Platinum trim that I reviewed.
Again, there’s plenty to like here and the Pathfinder does a lot of things very well. But it seems that a few niggling little things need some attention. If Nissan refreshes this model, and makes a few touch-ups, this would be an outstanding vehicle.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Nissan Canada.
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