Nissan PathFinder: one tough SUV
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It might be a swoopier, more sophisticated looking thing these days, but the Pathfinder still provides all the practicality its predecessor did. Subtle updates for 2017 add more of the “premium”, too.
When the fourth-generation Nissan Pathfinder debuted, I raised a sceptical eyebrow. What happened to all those bluff edges?
That big, boxy, robust exterior style? That useable demeanour that declared — possibly with a thump of the chest — “Me ute-based rugged SUV!”?
The Pathfinder had grown up and become more sophisticated, outside, inside and underneath.
That was back in 2014. And now, the Pathfinder has received a few more updates for the 2017 model year, including a more efficient direct-injection petrol V6, LED projector headlights with Daytime Running Lights, restyled front and rear fascia, and further improvements inside the cabin.
First though, regardless of this year’s trim adjustments, you’re buying a vehicle like the Pathfinder because of what it can lug about, whether that be people or inanimate objects.
And Nissan’s next-to-biggest model continues to shine through in this regard.
Hop inside and you’re struck by how much glorious cabin space the Pathfinder boasts.
It’s a dedicated seven-seater, so there is no tacked-on feel to the way the back-row seats fold up or down, nor in the way the second row of seats can be configured to suit accordingly.
Nissan calls its seating system EZ Flex. And aside from splitting 50:50 in the third row and 60:40 in the second (the latter also boasting recline functionality), the second row of seats also allow for the base squabs to fold up vertically.
This means you can nestle taller items in the footwell behind the driver and front seat passenger chairs.
You could even park a pushbike in there, such is the available space this clever addition to the Pathfinder’s cabin adds to the ledger. Those seats are big and supportive. This feels like a road trip friendly sort of car.
Boot space with the third row of seats folded flat is 1354-litres, although this extends out to 2260-litres with all rear seats folded down (and a massively usable 2004mm load length).
There are three trim levels including a 2WD entry-point (ST 2WD) and a 4WD version with a leather upholstery option. But it’s in top Ti 4WD trim the Pathfinder puts its best foot forward.
I’ve already covered available space (which doesn’t change regardless of specification level), but the Pathfinder Ti 4WD also features a great family-friendly entertainment package, including a Bose premium audio system with all the usual streaming capabilities, along with DVD screens in the front-seat headrests, wireless headphones, a remote control and rear HDMI and USB ports for video playback. The Pathfinder’s boot is also an electronic affair with motion-activated opening.
The not-so-good bits? I found the infotainment switchgear fussy. The caveat on that, of course, is that I drove the vehicle only for a few days and I mention it only as several other manufacturers have cracked this sort of thing, moving switches on to the touchscreen an eight-inch jobbie in the Pathfinder.
The Pathfinder might have a much more svelte exterior shell these days, but its rugged chassis arrangement shows through when you get under way.
Again, this is no bad thing as such — you’ve opted for the Pathfinder because you want an SUV with tough underpinnings — but it took a few kilometres to get used to a heavier steering feel than I was anticipating.
Thanks to the free-revving V6 petrol, acceleration feel is crisp and urgent though. Off the line, the Pathfinder doesn’t feel like a 2070kg SUV.
The V6 up front feels suited to an SUV of this stature, although its official combined fuel economy figure of 10.1-litres/100km reads a little on the optimistic side.
My fuel economy hovered at around the 12.5-litres/100km for much of my time in the evaluation model. There is only the one engine on offer in the New Zealand market, with no turbo diesel available.
That solid feel to the SUV will be a reassuring factor, depending on where you take it.
Nissan’s ”intelligent” 4WD system is good, automatically sensing when drive to all wheels is needed, depending on the road surface and amount of grip (you can select a display in the instrument cluster that shows you when it’s working,
which makes for an interesting exercise on a mossy, wet and winding road).
The system’s simple rotary dial allows dedicated front-wheel drive or 4x4 Lock when required, too.
With 181mm of ground clearance, the Pathfinder doesn’t give you the full Patrol off-road experience, but it has been engineered to be deftly capable.
While I didn’t explore any further than a well-groomed metal access road allowed me to, the Pathfinder feels sure-footed, with clever off-road tech at work underneath and a reassuringly wide 1670mm track making it feel as solidly planted as any like-minded SUV.
Part of the Pathfinder’s remit has always been to tow stuff. To that end, the model’s 2700kg (braked) tow rating is exemplary for an SUV. Thank that robust chassis arrangement for this, although save some gratitude for Nissan’s Tow Mode setting, too.
Hit the Tow Mode button and ratio upshifts through the transmission are delayed, reducing the frequency of gear swaps.
This mode also employs engine braking in all forward gears when in “D” — a handy fallback when you have a tonne or two on the towball.
Opinions vary, but one is you shouldn’t tow with a Continuously Variable Transmission, as fitted to the Pathfinder.
Tow Mode works to protect the trannie though, managing the load on it and ensuring the SUV remains useable for the sort of reason it has been purchased.
“Useable” is the key word here. In top Ti 4WD trim, the Pathfinder is an $80,000 spend. But looking at the broad spread of specs in this SUV, mixed with excellent onboard space and the ability to get into several degrees of gnarly terrain if you need to, it remains a good buy.
Engine: 3.5-litre, V6 petrol engine (202kW/340Nm)
Prices: $55,490 (ST 2WD), $59,990 (ST 4WD), $65,490 (ST-L 4WD), $69,990 (Ti 4WD)
Pros: Fantastic boot space, three rows of seats, family-friendly entertainment packaging in Ti 4WD
Cons: Fussy centre console switchgear, heavy steering