It Started With A Surprise. And Not A Pleasant One
Our first encounter with the Pathfinder was something unexpected. As we were going to pick up the vehicle in Mississauga on Monday morning of the Christmas week, the vehicle was back from a very long journey deep in the USA. The windscreen got small chips along the legendary Route 66. And the hot, pressurized water at the automated carwash station turned these chips to three large cracks intersecting on the driver side of the windscreen. Bhu Kapur of Media Fleet, the company managing media fleets of several makes, acted fast and coordinated the same-day ordering of this critical part and made an afternoon appointment with Nissan Willowdale in Toronto.
As we arrived there around 5.30 p.m., John Lim, the service manager took the matter into his own hands and the Pathfinder got a brand new windscreen in about half an hour. At the same time, they also removed the rooftop cargo carrier that we wouldn’t need during our test drives and would be a problem when entering underground parking garages. So, before we really drove Nissan’s SUV, we happened to experience a service visit to a dealership, which was great.
Drivetrain & Driving Impressions
Nissan Pathfinder comes with one engine option. It is a 3.5L V6 naturally aspirated engine that produces 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque. This engine has been used by Nissan for a really long time, including the other models. However, this one is heavily updated few years ago with new direct-injection, new pistons, and variable valve timing. It comes with Continuously Variable Transmission which mimics gears of traditional automatic transmission.
This CVT transmission, unlike the other Nissan models, has more towing capacity. Pathfinder can tow 3,500 lbs weight which is quite impressive for a CVT. Engine and transmission are matched well and they operate extremely smoothly, which you would expect it from a 3-row SUV. In our tests, Pathfinder had 11.5L /100 km fuel consumption, which is average in this class, but not too bad for a V6, considering there are some entries switched to turbocharged 4 cylinders in this segment.
Although Nissan Pathfinder doesn’t have a front or rear locking differentials, it offers center locking differential system which distributes 50/50 of power equal to the front and rear. There are three different options and it is pretty easy to use. The first one is 2WD mode, which the car moves with only front wheels. The second one is the Auto mode, which distributes the torque front and rear depending on the situation. The third one is the locking mode, which always sends same power regardless of the terrain. In our tests, it improves overall traction when you are in the mud. This locking feature is also getting rare, as all SUVs are getting softer and less off-road capable.
When we drive the Pathfinder, we immediately felt that it is a big SUV, and it is not trying to hide this. It has a front biased all-wheel-drive system as the V6 is a transverse engine, this won’t offer a fun-filled driving experience. This is an SUV meant for comfort and being smooth. With the 3.5L V6 engine and CVT, this is one of the most comfortable entries in this segment. The V6 engine likes to rev, and it has lots of torque in the mid-range rpm. The suspension is tuned extremely well, it is not too stiff or too soft. The overall ride quality is excellent for this price range.
Exterior & Interior
The third-generation Pathfinder, which was launched in 2013, was refreshed in 2017. Most changes were made on the exterior, which still looks modern especially for a platform that is 7 years old. In the interior, it cannot hide its age, as the design gets old. There are no soft-touch plastics on the dashboard. There are only some soft-touch on the door panels, which falls behind the competition. However, where you usually touch is usually leather, soft-touch plastic or well-padded surface so you won’t feel any cheapness.
Pathfinder is a big SUV, and that means it has tons of interior space. We were able to put 65” TV and there were even lots of space left. It is an extremely practical SUV if you are looking for carrying big stuff or hauling people. Both the second and third rows can fold down and it can be a fully flat surface all the way to the front seats. Access to the third row is easy, and it is easy to fold back the seats when you need more space. There are lots of legroom in the second row and the third row is not too bad. However, the third row is not the most comfortable as the floor is located high so you need to keep your legs in a higher position, which is not good for long trips. However, if you are planning to have more than 5 people regularly, maybe you should take a look into a minivan segment.
Features & Pricing
Our tester was the SV Rock Creek trim, which is a special edition that comes with few more exterior and interior visual features. However, there is no mechanical difference compared to normal version. All trims still come with center locking differential. Rock Creek model comes with unique 18-inch dark-finished wheels and black-molded fender guards, as well as roof rails with black accents.
OK, let’s go back to our tester. As mentioned previously, the infotainment system looks old, as it has been on the market for more than 6 years. However, it is easy to use and not too slow compared to today’s standards. It is unfortunately still missing the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which could be a deal-breaker for some people. Considering they are readily available in almost all other Nissan vehicles, this should have been included for a car costs more than $40.000. Not only that, but there are some half-baked technologies implemented in the Pathfinder. For instance, Adaptive Cruise control is available, but it doesn’t have fully stop and go technology. It will disable itself once the vehicle fully stops, and it starts to creep. Also, the car comes with LED low beams, but it was missing LED high beams. We would expect fully LED headlights from a 3-row SUV.
There are some safety features that are available in Pathfinder. For instance, Blind spot monitoring, front collision warning are some of them. Also, there are memory seats, heated steering wheel, Bose premium sound system, tri-zone climate control which are some nice comfort features. Overall this is an SUV fully focused on the overall driver and passenger comfort. It can still keep up with the competition if you are not a tech-savvy person and looking for driving smoothness and comfort. Nissan Pathfinder starts at $36,500 with the S trim and it goes all the way up to $49,500 with the Platinum trim. Since this has been on the market for a long time, it is easy to find a great deal if you shop around as there is intense competition in the SUV market. This could actually be a great option if you find a great deal in Nissan dealer.
Article and Pictures by Dan Gunay and Varol McKars