Nissan and the Pathfinder are working hard to give you the SUV you really want.
Which is really pretty admirable. Along with Toyota’s 4Runner, the Pathfinder is one of the most storied names in SUV-dom.
But unlike the Toy, which has soldiered on being rugged and truckish – with pros and cons attached – in 2013, Nissan took the Pathfinder into the meat of the SUV marketplace with a unibody, 3-row family vehicle.
OK, this was tough for some to swallow; the rugged little Nissan that drove all the way to the Amazon (memorialized in a series of commercials in 1988) – was now aimed at to those who would rather shop Amazon.com.
But it made sense in the grander scheme of things. And now, with nearly every manufacturer ready to duke it out for family, non-van supremacy, Nissan has taken on the challenge, stepping up with an improved SUV inside in out.
The exterior revisions are subtle, but the sum is greater than the parts. While the 2013 Pathfinder was big and modern, it was a bit innocuous.
For 2017, the front end most noticeably gets the company’s V-motion grille, along with a crisper hoodline, headlights, and bumper. LED headlamps on our top-of-the-line Platinum model give some visual punch. Overall, the look gives some needed aggressiveness to the front end, and there’s no mistaking this as a Nissan product.
Out back, the redesigned taillight and rear bumper are subtle, but does look fresh. New 20-inch rims for the Platinum are a handsome addition. Not only does it look better, Nissan claims the new design is more aerodynamic, reducing wind noise and enhancing fuel economy. Dressed in a handsome Cayenne Red (does Porsche know you’re doing this?) our tester was a handsome blend of Sport and Lux. All good.
Interior updates are equally subtle, but appreciated.
The center touchscreen grows an inch, to 8”, and gets some neat features like pinch to zoom, and the ability to swipe info from the touchscreen to the Drive Assist Display (now with improved graphics) located between the speedo and tach.
While some competitors try to force you to do everything via touchscreen, the Pathfinder still serves up traditional controls for info-tainment and climate control, and they’re simple to understand and easy to use.
Which is not to say Nissan is lagging in the tech department. For 2017, all models get improved connectivity with standard Bluetooth, rearview camera, and an extra USB port. Mid-level models can now get blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert, while premium trims add niceties like moving object detection.
We loved our Premium’s Around View Monitor – with a vehicle this size, the 360-degree view overhead, along with front, rear and curb-side views make parking and maneuvering a snap. So you have no excuse for parking like a lummox.
Seating hasn’t really changed, but we still want to point out three rows of seats, and Nissan’s EZ Flex Seating System with Latch and Glide technology (who thinks up these names?). Basically, it gives you a 2nd row seat that slides and tilts forward for easy access to the third row – even when there’s a child seat in the 2nd row. Clever.
Uh. Just don’t try it with a kid in the seat, ok?
Speaking of kids, that’s pretty much all you’d want to put in the third row. But with a giant panorama roof and monitors in the back of the driver and passenger seat, just about everyone in the back should be pretty happy. There’s even an HDMI port for the entertainment system.
Cargo instead of kids? Fold down the 2nd and 3rd row, and you have a cavernous 79.8 cubic feet of space, made all the easier with a new-for-2017 motion-activated liftgate that opens with a swipe of the foot under the bumper.It’s when you drive the 2017 you notice the biggest changes. It starts under the hood, with an engine featuring over 50% new parts, including direct injection for a prominent bump in power to 284 hp (up from 260) and 259 lb-ft of torque (up from 240).
It’s easily detectable from the wheel, where it just feels more powerful through the rev band, and it works beautifully with the CVT auto transmission, doing a very passable impersonation of a traditional automatic. Finally, a CVT we like.
Best of all, the extra power gives the Pathfinder a meaningful bump in max towing to 6,000 lb. (up from 5,000) without any change from the excellent 19 city/26 hwy mpg ratings of last year. That’s win-win in our book.
That’s usually enough for a mid-model update, but Nissan also decided to upgrade the chassis, featuring a retuned suspension with firmer spring rates and revised steering ratio. Again, it’s easily detectable, serving up a solid but very comfortable ride, less wallow in the turns, and excellent steering that feels more connected to the road.
If the Mazda CX-9 is the sports car of this segment, the Pathfinder is now the luxury sport sedan. Very nice.
If you live in areas where you get slip or slop, or plan to do some mild off-roading, we highly recco the 4×4 model.
Like most systems, you can choose between fuel-efficient 2WD, or an auto-mode that constantly monitors and adjusts – perfect for changing conditions. Unusual in this class of vehicle, there’s a 4WD lock mode for the most challenging conditions, helping to bring back some of that go-anywhere, do anything cred of the original model.
There’s also some added leading-edge tech to improve the drive for 2017, including adaptive cruise control, that’s paired with forward collision warning and auto emergency braking. Added to the blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert already offered, and you’ve got the confidence that your Pathfinder’s looking out for you. Important in a family vehicle.
That feeling of confidence carries through, and it’s something we’ve noticed lately with Nissan, starting with the new Maxima and Murano. Someone is staying up late and really making sure these vehicles are solidly put together and drive exceptionally well. The Pathfinder starts at $29,990 ($31,680 with 4-wheel drive) and is very nicely equipped, with 3rd row seats and tri-zone climate control. Working your way up the trim ladder brings added tech, comfort and luxury. Spec as wallet and desire allow.
Our top-of-the-line Platinum 4×4 model started at $43,560, and featured the model’s one sole option, the crowd-pleasing Family Entertainment Package with rear headrest monitors and rear HDMI input for video playback. $1,700, and worth every penny for a peaceful road trip. Totaled up – $44,500. Very competitive in its class.
And like the competition, Nissan has a nice variety of accessories from roof rail crossbars to cargo mats and illuminated kick plates to dress up your vehicle.
While we can’t point at one specific set of changes, the 2017 Pathfinder emerges as a much more desirable vehicle. Better looking, better driving, technology that’s leading edge, and just that unmistakable feeling that people that really care are at the helm.
And actually, Amazon.com is actually kind of cool.
(No, we didn’t get anything for mentioning Amazon, not even free two-day shipping. So there.)
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.