2016 Nissan Pathfinder SL Photo Shoot 001

REVIEW: 2016 Nissan Pathfinder SL Gets My Mind Right

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When Cool Hand Luke was offered an opportunity to “get his mind right,” it involved a day’s worth of digging, filling, and re-digging a ditch in a prison yard. Thank goodness Nissan’s version of helping me “get my mind right” about the Pathfinder only meant spending another week in a higher trim spec than the last Pathfinder I reviewed a few weeks prior.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder SL Photo Shoot 001
Photo: Lyndon Johnson

Regular readers will remember my review of the 2015 Nissan Pathfinder SV being, shall we say, not-so-glowing. In fact, I went so far as to use the phrase “The Minivan of SUVs.” If that’s not a damning review in a segment whose primary buyer demographic consists of people who can’t stand to be seen in a minivan, I don’t know what is.

To be blunt, most of my complaints dealt with the 2015 Pathfinder SV’s seats, which I found difficult to adjust to a comfortable position, and its infotainment system, which I found equal parts dated and befuddling.

Great news, then, that the “get your mind right” 2016 Pathfinder Nissan sent to me was the full-zoot SL trim, as that trim spec addresses both of those major complaints with grace.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder SL Photo Shoot 002
Photo: Lyndon Johnson

The red exterior color of the 2016 Nissan Pathfinder SL that arrived in my driveway should have served as a clue that my comfort and infotainment experience was going to be quite a bit different from the blue 2015 Pathfinder SV of which I had been so critical earlier. Opening the door of my 2016 tester to reveal soft, almost buttery leather seating surfaces should have been my next clue. The final indicator of a more positive pending experience upon my initial inspection of the 2016 Nissan Pathfinder SL was the fact its dashboard held the latest NissanConnect touchscreen rather than the ancient-feeling screen found in my earlier Pathfinder SV.

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Photo: Lyndon Johnson

In theory, the leather-covered front bucket seats in the 2016 Nissan Pathfinder SL should be the same under their skins as the cloth-covered seats I experienced in the 2015 Pathfinder SV trim weeks earlier. Nonetheless, I found the leather more comfortable — the cloth tended to hang onto my clothes like Velcro — and I had an easier time adjusting the seats to my liking.

I’ll readily concede that positioning the seats may have come easier this time mostly because of my earlier review. I’ll also admit there was still a bit of the odd backrest angle that I remembered not liking in the SV. That said, some of my friends own this generation of the Pathfinder in different trim levels, and all of them told me they love the seats after my last review. I guess maybe it’s just me.

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Photo: Lyndon Johnson

NissanConnect in the 2016 Pathfinder SL is far and away easier to use than whatever dated infotainment system I experienced in the 2015 Pathfinder SV. Also, thank goodness, the SL was able to stream music over Bluetooth — something I was unable to do in the SV. Everything was more user-friendly, from the menu layout to the easier voice command structure. Heck, I even had an easier time pairing my phone for hands-free operation.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder Photo Shoot 005
Photo: Lyndon Johnson

With my biggest concerns addressed, I was finally able to focus on seeing the Pathfinder for what it really is: It’s a big, cushy, capable family hauler that makes no promises about off-road prowess or “trail-rated” capability — here’s looking at you, Jeep crossovers. That said, its intuitive 4×4 system and tall-sidewall Michelin rubber promised a degree of all-weather preparedness not offered by some in its segment who trade comfort for vanity in the form of bigger wheels and shorter sidewalls while offering more carlike AWD systems as extra-cost options.

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Photo: Lyndon Johnson

I recently had to traverse a steep, rutted gravel driveway in my daily driver. It was at that moment I wished I had the Pathfinder again. For families who need an occasional dose of SUV ruggedness and capability for rough driveways or a few snowy days a year, but who don’t want to spend the rest of their time driving something that rides and drinks fuel like the trucks upon which more traditional 4×4 SUVs are based, the Pathfinder could be the right tool for the job.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder SL Photo Shoot 007
Photo: Lyndon Johnson

In mixed driving with a lot of idle time, I was able to pull down 22 MPG — mighty respectable given the Pathfinder’s size, and pretty much on-the-nose for the EPA combined fuel economy score. It’s rated at 19 MPG city, 26 MPG highway, and 22 combined. Also, like the previous Pathfinder I tested, I enjoyed the relative ease with which it accelerated away from a stop thanks to its 260-horsepower V6 and, yes, the Xtronic CVT. That may not be a popular opinion among buyers in this segment where some automakers offer more horsepower and/or a traditional, geared automatic transmission, but having driven a fair number of its competitors, I am totally OK with Nissan’s powertrain choice for the Pathfinder.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder SL Photo Shoot 008
Photo: Lyndon Johnson

To be clear, nothing in the Pathfinder’s segment is really my kind of vehicle. I like far smaller, quirkier vehicles as a general rule. But among its classmates in the large crossover segment, you can do a lot worse than our tested 2016 Nissan Pathfinder SL for around $40K.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder SL

Base Price: $38,050

Price As-Tested: $42,475 (including $885 destination charge)

Options: Carpeted Floor Mats ($210); SL Premium Package including Bose 13-speaker Premium Audio System, Navigation, Voice Recognition, Sirius XM Nav Traffic and NavWeather, Bluetooth Streaming Audio, 8-inch WVGA Color Monitor, Around View Monitor, Dual Panorama Sunroof, Tow Hitch Receiver with Integrated Finisher, and Trailer Harness ($3,330).


  • NissanConnect infotainment system’s ease of use
  • Effortless powertrain returns decent fuel economy
  • Doesn’t ride or drive like a truck, yet still capable enough to tackle occasional bad weather or rough roads


  • Seats — I still can’t feel fully comfortable, even though the leather covering helped reduce the annoying clingy tendencies of the fabric seats in the Pathfinder I tested earlier.
  • The center stack should be redesigned to cut down on a cluttered button layout.
  • Though I realize some need a vehicle that can haul seven people in relative comfort while offering some SUV capabilities, I am not one of those people — the Pathfinder is way too big for me.
Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon Johnson is a husband and father of two who has now spent more of his life as a journalist than as a non-journalist. He serves as assistant editor at his hometown weekly paper in rural Tennessee and freelances in the automotive journalism world.