Those looking for sharp SUV styling and three rows of seats may find a lot to like in the Nissan Pathfinder, which aims squarely for the middle of the road.
Prior to its last redesign for the 2013 model year, the Pathfinder was a truck-based SUV. Then, sensibly, the Pathfinder joined the ranks of car-based crossovers to open up more room inside and provide easier handling.
With its standard three rows of seats, it’s fair to assume that there are some minivan vs. crossover debates happening with buyers. Nissan’s Quest isn’t far off from the Pathfinder’s footprint; the Quest is 3.6 inches longer and 2.8 inches taller and about as wide.
Interior room is a different matter, with the Quest having just under 10 more inches of legroom in third seat, which tops even the back seats of some full-sized sedans at 40-plus inches. Meanwhile, the Mini Cooper‘s rear seat has 0.6 inches more legroom than the Pathfinder’s third row. So that’s where biggest price is paid to NOT have to drive a minivan, if that’s how’s you’re feeling about it.
The Pathfinder’s styling is quite expressive, with swoopy body sides that catch some crazy reflections.
Once the minivan vs. crossover debate is settled, then you see that the Pathfinder falls on the larger side of larger crossovers – it’s more than six inches longer than a Honda Pilot to more three inches shorter than a GMC Acadia. In terms of size, the Pathfinder seems to be right where Nissan wants it to be.
The Pathfinder is sold in six different versions; base prices start at just under $30K for the S and top out at $41,410 for the Platinum. The base S has seven seats but no Bluetooth or backup camera, so we’d start our shopping one step up at the $32,990 to get those items and more.
The SL goes in three steps – the $36,060 SL (adds power liftgate, remote engine start, leather), the $38,090 SL Tech (adds navigation, Around View Monitor, Bose audio, trailer hitch receiver with wiring) and the $39,390 SL Premium (adds dual panorama moonroof).
The test car was the SL Tech and came with Nissan’s brilliant Around View Monitor, which gives a clear view of the Pathfinder’s perimeter. It definitely comes in handy with the Pathfinder’s 77-inch width and bulging bodywork, and it’s a shame you have to spend $38K and up on a Pathfinder to get it.
The tow hitch and trailer harness are new additions to the SL Tech for 2015.
There was a hybrid version of the 2014 Highlander, but it seems to have disappeared for 2015. So all Pathfinders are powered by this 3.5-liter V6 with 260 horsepower. It’s typically smooth and powerful for a Nissan V6, and it has a satisfyingly brisk throttle response.
The continuously-variable transmission (CVT) is common across all Pathfinders. The were hints of CVT “ballooning” of the revs as we climbed some of San Francisco’s steepest hills, but overall it made a decent impression of a geared transmission, which Nissan says is thanks to its D-Step Logic.
Hill Start Assist was a help when accelerating from a stop, and the 4×4’s standard Hill Descent Control for added confidence in off-road declines.
Handling felt safe and composed, with reasonablly open communication to the wheels below and remarkably minimal body roll.
These 18-inch aluminum wheels are standard on all trims except the Platinum, which gets 20-inchers.
Inside, the Pathfinder was both stylish and straightforward. Front seats were firm and comfortable, with the lower cushion tipping up for excellent support for long legs. Although, since we just drove a Nissan Murano with its deliciously comfortable Zero Gravity Seats, we’d recommend that Nissan offer them here, too.
The middle row has a few tricks up its sleeve, including sliding on 5.5-inch tracks to accommodate more cargo or longer legs behind it.
Rear-seat amenities on the test car included climate controls, seat heaters and a 120V outlet.
The second row folds forward for access to the one behind. Room back there is best for kids and manageable for adults in short trips – third row legroom is 2.5 inches less than the Acadia’s and 1.3 inches less than the Pilot’s.
The seatbacks recline…
…and the side panels have ventilation, along with enough drink holders for each passenger to double-fist their juice boxes.
Cargo room behind the third row seems decent at 16 cubic feet, but it’s two cubic feet short of the Pilot and fully eight cubic feet short of the Acadia’s.
The third row folds down to open up enough space for a decent IKEA run, even before the second row is folded.
There’s a nice-sized bin under the load floor, part of which is occupied by the Bose system’s subwoofer.
Up front, the instrument panel had Nissan’s Advanced Drive-Assist Display between the gauges, and it was a nice compliment to the center eight-inch screen.
Ancillary controls were logical and sat above two power points and a phone tray on the console.
The console bin is topped with a felt-lined tray…
…and beneath it are the USB and media connectors.
Overall, the Pathfinder delivers on much of what buyers want in the large-crossover segment. Its middle-of-the-road persona informs not just its features but also its driving experience. It’s likely that you’ll remember more your destination than your trip in the Pathfinder, but your needs will be met all the same.
Tell us in the comments – what do YOU think of the Pathfinder?
2015 Nissan Pathfinder SL Tech 4×4
Base Price: $37,750
Price As Tested: $40,875
SL Tech Package: $2,030
BOSE 13-Speaker Premium Audio System
Navigation (Deletes Mirror With Compass)
XM NavTraffic And NavWeather Capability
Bluetooth Streaming Audio
8-Inch WVGA Color Monitor
Around View Monitor
Tow Hitch Receiver With Integrated Finisher
Limited Around View Monitor availability
What happened to the Pathfinder Hybrid?