By: Brandon Randall
The Nissan Pathfinder, once built in a truck from to deliver a reasonably rugged mode of transportation, has been softened up considerably over the years. Now, boasting more of a midsize crossover design, it’s transformed itself into a compelling 7-passenger alternative for families who wish to purchase something safe and comfortable that isn’t a minivan.
From the outside there isn’t anything especially exciting about the Nissan Pathfinder. Its design follows a safe, conventional approach in order to appeal to the largest number of people. If you follow its design progression from the early 2000’s to today, the evolution into mainstream boring is plain. There’s a generous amount of chrome accents between the door handles, side molding, fascias and grille. A roof rack is a subtle nod to its less refined beginnings and the fog lights in SL and Platinum trim are a nice touch, but on the whole, the Pathfinder succeeds in looking completely ordinary.
On the inside however, it’s a different story. A big selling point with the Pathfinder has always been the quality of materials used to give its insides a premium look and feel. In 2015 we see no exception to this legacy of luxury. Controls are smartly arranged, its layout is clean and tidy, the 8” touchscreen interface is intuitive, with repeating manual controls adjacent to create a user-friendly experience. First and second row occupants are treated to leather seating that’s comfortable, supportive, adjustable and heated. The steering wheel is leather wrapped and tilt and telescopically adjustable as well.
The second row easily slides forward and back, tilts for comfort and folds completely flat for added storage. The third row bench will be cramped for most adults but the rules for all big family’s usually relegate the youngest and smallest to the back anyways. Cargo space is modest at just under 80 cubic feet. Poor compared to its competitors and usually requiring the third seat to be folded flat for those big trips to the grocery store.
On paved roads the 3.5L V6 offers enough power with its 260 hp to pass cars, speed through yellows and make it to soccer games on time. 0-60 can be accomplished in 8.0 seconds and the CVT transmission has been tweaked for the 2015 model to more closely simulate gear changes. The ride is smooth with a soft suspension soaking up most road imperfections with ease. The steering is on the lighter side and the Pathfinder feels its size as it leans and sways through corners, but this is only really noticeable when driving aggressively.
Not all of the previous roughness has been engineered away however. The Nissan Pathfinder SL comes with hill start assist and a tow hitch receiver and trailer harness with a 5,000 lb towing capacity for fishing trips to the lake and cross country airstream excursions.
So maybe the new Nissan Pathfinder has lost its former edge in an effort to win over a few more of the practically minded. Sure, the Mazda CX-9 will offer all the space with a sportier suspension and better driving characteristics. The Dodge Durango has a more muscled exterior shape and an optional V8 to better get the blood pumping. However, the Pathfinders beautifully appointed interior, long list of safety features and comfortable ride will check mark plenty of ‘must have’ boxes on your family’s list.
Price as tested: $39,185.00