2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO
Smart sized and powerful
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
• SEE ALSO: Nissan Research and Buyers Guide
If the 2017 Pathfinder isn’t quite as “all-new”, it is more than a typical mid-product cycle styling freshening. There is that — revised front and rear styling, and some useful interior improvements — but the most important attribute is under the hood. The engine is still a 3.5-liter V6, but with claimed more than 56 percent new or new-to-Pathfinder internals it makes more power — up to 284 horsepower from 260 and 259 lb-ft of torque from 240 — on the same amount of regular unleaded. Nissan was one of the first manufacturers to embrace the continuously-variable transmission (CVT), and the latest iteration of that supplies power to either the front or all four wheels depending on specification of 2WD or 4WD.
Which harkens back to SUV days, but again no surprise. Back in model year 1986, the Pathfinder was an early entrant in the small utility vehicle class. Based on Nissan’s Hardbody pickup, that first Pathfinder was a rugged two-door rear- or four-wheel drive machine meant for hard use, road optional. It changed with the market, becoming (for the US) four door-only in 1990. Further reflecting the Great SUV Boom, 1996 saw a much-refined second generation based on a unibody structure, although still RWD or dual-range 4WD in specification. The third generation debuted for 2005, surprisingly back to body-on-frame construction. The current, fourth, generation dates to 2013 and is unibody, related to the Murano crossover, Quest minivan, and Altima and Maxima sedans. It’s a a bit larger and heavier than the Murano, and much more of a traditional SUV (such as that has become) in appearance and demeanor, so the two vehicles complement rather than compete.
The 2017 Pathfinder is offered in S, SV, SL, and Platinum trim levels, with front- or multi-mode all-wheel drive. All, even the S, are seven-passenger spec, with a folding two-place third row that is roomier than usual for a mid-size SUV. A new, larger touchscreen, rearview camera, Sirius/XM satellite radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, hands-free text messaging, bright “Fine Vision” instruments, cruise control, tri-zone automatic climate control, pushbutton start/stop, remote keyless entry, and more are standard, even in the S, with more standard equipment and towing, cold weather equipment, navigation and electronic safety systems, and upgraded audio system packages offered on the SV and SL. Everything is standard in the Platinum, with only a rear-seat entertainment system and various port- and dealer-installed accessories optional.
My test car this week is a new Pathfinder Platinum in 4WD trim. Platinum means that everything optional in lesser levels — trailer towing equipment, navigation, Bose audio, panoramic moonroof, and more — is standard. The only option is the “Family Entertainment Package” of eight-inch screens at the rear of the front-seat headrests and DVD plus HDMI, VTR, and USB connections to such. As equipped, it’s a comfortable and roomy family and stuff hauler. The extra power is welcome, never a problem dealing with traffic. The suspension and steering improvements mean a pleasant ride quality and surprisingly good maneuverability and ability in corners. It’s small enough outside that it fits easily into the average parking space, but second- and even third-row passengers are not unduly cramped. And it has all the modern conveniences, connectivity, and safety equipment. And the ability to tow 6,000 pounds.
APPEARANCE: Differences between the 2016 and 2017 Pathfinder are not huge, but do bring it in line with the latest Nissan styling trends. The grille, headlights, and front fascia are new, and reflect themes first seen on the latest Maxima and Murano. A U-shaped chrome trim piece defines the grille, replacing the previous angular trapezoid. That, and the more complexly-shaped headlights (LED projectors in the Platinum) necessitate a revised bumper fascia, but the changes are apparent only when viewing both generations side-by-side. Changes at the rear are even less, with revised taillights and bumper trim. It’s still a two-not quite box SUV instantly recognizable as a Pathfinder and as a Nissan.
COMFORT: As outside, interior revisions to the 2017 Pathfinder are subtle but not insignificant. The central touchscreen that is the interface for audio, information, and other systems depending on equipment level is larger, and the hard buttons below it have been reassigned functions. Along with the center knob and its inset buttons, that’s the interface to the various systems — and it’s simple and intuitive to use. At Platinum level, seating surfaces are leather. Both front seats are power-adjustable, as is the steering wheel, with two-position memory for the driver’s seat, mirrors, and steering wheel. The front seat cushions are heated and ventilated; the second-row outboard positions are heated. Seats are relatively flat and wide, so should fit most people well. The second row is split 60/40 and minimally contoured so as to make the center position more useable than is usual. Each part has about five inches of fore-and-aft travel, useful for comfort versus consideration of third-row passengers. The rear of the console has climate vents and controls plus (here) 120VAC 150W power, and controls and interface for the rear-seat entertainment system. Each second-row part is also spring-loaded for access to the third row. Which is much better than the usual “shut up Johnny or you’re going to the rear!” penalty box in a smallish SUV, especially if second-row passengers are small or cooperative. Both the second and third row have some recline ability.
Back up front, all trim levels get Nissan’s bright “Fine Vision” electroluminescent instruments, with a useful information display between the tach and speedometer. That’s controlled from the steering wheel, which also has controls for audio, phone, and cruise control systems. The Platinum gets a two-part panoramic moonroof. The front tilts and slides; the rear is fixed — and the best view up is from the third row. Compensation…
There’s a full complement of cup- and bottle-holders and plenty of storage spaces, even on the sides of the center console. The glovebox locks. Luggage capacity is compromised by the third row, as in all smallish three-row vehicles, but that row won’t always be used. There’s a bit of space under the rear load floor, as the space-saver spare is in the traditional SUV position outside and underneath the rear.
The best bit of electronic gadgetry here for me is the “Around View” monitor system comprised of video cameras in the grille, under each outside mirror, and above the rear license plate. Images are stitched together on the central screen for a “bird’s-eye” view of the area around the car, with enough detail to actually be useful and with a close-up view to the front on the passenger side, a space otherwise hidden. If you saw my driveway, you’d know why this is good… and also will help prevent scratched wheels and body panels when parking in tight spots.
SAFETY: Standard passive safety features in every Pathfinder include a full complement of airbags and safety belts, Zone Body Construction with front and rear crumple zones and side-door beams, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and immobilizer. Active safety includes good maneuverability, strong four-wheel vented disc brakes with antilock and electronic brake-force distribution, and Vehicle Dynamic (stability) Control and traction control systems. SL and Platinum get a blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning system; the Platinum also has forward emergency braking.
RIDE AND HANDLING: In the chassis department, slightly stiffer springs and quicker steering make the newest Pathfinder surefooted on any surface, with better control and no loss of comfort. It’s high and heavy — 4600 pounds in 4WD Platinum form — so it’s no Z in the corners, but not soft and tippy. Steering is near-perfectly weighted, for easy parking (you do want power steering with 235/55 R20 wheels and tires!) and secure control at highway speeds. The “4WD” system is a single-range multi-mode all-wheel drive system controlled by a knob on the console. “Automatic” means just that — front-wheel drive most of the time, with torque to the rear when needed. Front-wheel drive is an option, as is “4-lock”, all four for slippery surfaces. Hill Descent Control acts as a low-speed cruise control down steep grades. With 7.0 inches of clearance and no 4-lo, this Pathfinder is not really meant for rugged trails, but should be fine on forest roads and in winter conditions.
PERFORMANCE: Yes, a fully-equipped Pathfinder is no lightweight. And its 3.5-liter V6’s specified 284 horsepower (at 6400 rpm) and 259 lb-ft of torque (at 4800 rpm) seems on paper to be at higher revs that commonly used. But continuously-variable cam phasing, electronically-controlled for intake and hydraulic for exhaust, a new intake manifold, and direct fuel injection allowing higher compression mean that there’s plenty of urge and ability at all engine speeds. The CVT helps there, too. The result is quick acceleration for a vehicle of its mass, with a 0-60 time around 7.5 seconds (versus 9 to over 10 for some older examples in my records) and a towing ability of 6,000 pounds. That’s a substantial boat or camping trailer. EPA estimated mileage is 19 mpg city, 26 highway. With mostly city and backroad driving, I got 18. That’s better than the 16 of the old ones in my records, and if less than the advertised, my score of 44 out of 100 in the “Eco” category in the information system may point to the reason. A heavy right foot is a survival factor on the roads in my part of the world.
CONCLUSIONS: The 2017 Nissan Pathfinder is right-sized and has the power to tow 6000 pounds.
2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD
Base Price $ 43,560
Price As Tested $ 46,100
Engine Type DOHC 24-valve aluminum alloy V6 with direct fuel injection and continuously-variable cam phasing
Engine Size 3.5 liters / 213 cu. in.
Horsepower 284 @ 6400 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 259 @ 4800 rpm
Wheelbase / Length 114.2 in. / 198.5 in.
Curb Weight 4660 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 16.4
Fuel Capacity 19.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement 87 octane regular unleaded gasoline
Tires 235/55 R20
Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around, ABS, EBD VDC standard
Suspension, front/rear independent strut / independent multilink
Ground Clearance 7 inches
Drivetrain transverse front engine, multi-mode all-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 19 / 26 / 18
0 to 60 mph est 7.5 sec Towing Capacity 6,000 lbs.
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Family Entertainment Package — includes: rear tri-zone entertainment package, HDMI video input $1,700
Destination Charge $ 900