Nissan Pathfinder: More manageable than before

2017 Nissan Pathfinder-31082017-0001
Pathfinder, one of Nissan’s best known and most popular nameplates in its nearly 60-year history in the United States, is reborn for the 2017 model year with more adventure capability, a freshened exterior look and enhanced safety and technology – pure Pathfinder taken to a higher level of performance and style.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD: A new look, more power, better than ever?

Price: $44,725 as tested, only carpeted floor mats added $225. (A base model starts at $30,290.)

Marketer’s pitch: “Confidence: It’s all about traction.”

Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes its “[f]ull complement of near-luxury features, largely inoffensive CVT, more power than the previous edition” but not that it “corners like a yacht without a keel, too much plastic for this price point, doesn’t measure up to the competition.”

Reality: Some strikingly nice features, but …

Nice height: Upon my first hopping into the redesigned Nissan Pathfinder, my first impression was how comfortable it was to climb aboard. Having just given up a giant, skyscraping Nissan Titan, perhaps I was more attuned to this than normal.

But to find a four-wheel-drive crossover with this kind of entry-exit ease seemed a real catch. Especially in a Pathfinder, which had been a large, lumbering beast just last year.

AWD vs. 4WD: The gentle climb seemed all the more surprising because the Pathfinder features four-wheel drive. Unlike all-wheel drive, which is controlled completely by the vehicle, four-wheel drive requires some driver input, but it means the vehicle can go deeper than most into the woods (or your backyard).

On the road: Unfortunately, that more sedanlike seating position did not translate into sedanlike handling, unless you’re comparing it with a 1980 Chevrolet Impala sedan.

The Pathfinder sort of meandered from corner to corner, with nothing inspiring emanating from the steering wheel. Winding country roads are best avoided, lest you emerge from them with a strange desire to build new McMansion projects.

Friends and stuff: A fully adjustable second row means the second and third row can negotiate legroom and such.

But you can’t negotiate a million-dollar salary when the budget available is $250,000. The third row is tough on knees and heads, leaving little room for either, while the second row is not much better for either body part. This is where the low profile works against the Pathfinder — it’s a tight space.

The Pathfinder has a remarkably flat floor, though, and that probably also accounts for the tight headroom, as everything is squeezed atop the four-wheel-drive controls.

Also, 79.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row is impressive. But 16 behind the third row is a trunk squeezed into a tall space. Those rear rows are way close to the glass.

Up to speed: The 3.5-liter V6 engine propelled the Pathfinder smoothly and with a nice reserve of power — and that was from a smallish 284 horsepower. Interstate highway ramps were blasted through with ease — unless they featured a sharp curve — and passing power was plentiful.

Shifty: The CVT transmission was a friendly companion. I could deduce that it was a CVT, but it was not obtrusive or annoying. Shift capability, sadly, was not to be had.

Unfortunately, though, I have to report that the shifter became locked in park or wouldn’t shift back into park on several occasions during the Mr. Driver’s Seat week of testing.

Camera icon Nissan
Pathfinder, one of Nissan’s best-known and most popular nameplates in its nearly 60-year history in the United States, is reborn for the 2017 model year with more adventure capability, a freshened exterior look and enhanced safety and technology — pure Pathfinder taken to a higher level of performance and style.

Driver’s Seat: The seating position was all about comfort, and the leather-covered heated and cooled seats mostly lived up to the plan. A touch more lumbar support than I like would probably satisfy most other drivers just fine.

Retro: The center console hearkens back to days of yore, i.e. 2014, with a wide array of buttons surrounding the infotainment center and the heater operation. It’s a comfortable and functional setup, and the buttons are not unattractive, but for those who enjoy full touchscreen, it’s not up to that standard — even despite Nissan touting its 8-inch touchscreen.

On the definite downside, an array of buttons on the left of the steering wheel and facing the driver’s left knee make for some awkward on-the-fly adjustments of steering-wheel heating, some safety features, and more. (Note to Nissan: That’s a pretty unsafe location for safety feature controls.)

Pretty: The Pathfinder interior measures up to Nissan’s usual standards, with nice nickel trim, pretty leather, and rich wood grains. Of course, this is the Platinum trim, but still.

Play some tunes: Volume and tuning knobs make adjusting the stereo easier, although the placement away from the touchscreen and near the HVAC controls made for some occasional misdials. (“Hmmm … the song’s the same, but now I’m hot.”)

Operation otherwise was convenient and easy to learn. Sound from the system was about a B+ — nothing to write home about.

Night shift: The LED headlights shone a touch low and could make night vision a bit difficult. The map lights were a little on the weak side, but at least they did not interfere with the view much.

Fuel economy: I averaged 20 mpg in the usual Mr. Driver’s Seat mix of highway and suburban driving.

Where it’s built: Smyrna, Tenn.

How it’s built: Consumer Reports predicts its reliability will be 2 out of 5.

In the end: The Pathfinder seems like a good value and has lots to recommend, but it’s still a little behind the times in many areas.