2017 Nissan Pathfinder

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Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Senior Editor
June 27, 2017

Buying tip

The Infiniti QX60 is the Pathfinder's upscale twin, and buyers looking for more luxury may prefer it, though the Pathfinder now has more power.

features & specs

4x4 Platinum
4x4 S
4x4 SL
MPG
19 city / 26 hwy
MPG
19 city / 26 hwy
MPG
19 city / 26 hwy
MSRP
$43,760
MSRP
$31,980
MSRP
$37,790

The 2017 Nissan Pathfinder offers good space for seven in a composed, quiet environment and it manages a some decent capability for off-road duty and towing.

The Nissan Pathfinder mid-size people mover gets a modest refresh for 2017 after its 2014 redesign.

Changes to this seven-passenger crossover SUV include new front and rear fascias that create a more truck-like look, engine improvements, a new infotainment system, and new active safety features.

We give the Pathfinder an overall score of 7.0, with high points being its comfort, utility, and available features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Review continues below

Nissan offers the 2017 Pathfinder in S, SV, SL, and Platinum, each with front- or all-wheel drive.

Styling and performance

Blockier front and rear bumpers and fascias give the Pathfinder a more macho appearance this year. They blend well with the car-like lines of the long hood, raked windshield, and flowing side creases. Though large, the Pathfinder's design makes it look smaller than it is. It requires standing side by side with it to truly appreciate its immensity.

Inside, the Pathfinder leans toward functional, rather than over-designed. The hard, smooth, textured plastic surfaces of the interior will no doubt clean easily and prove durable. But a glossier dashboard top surface meets semi-matte, soft-touch door panel material in a way that just doesn't feel quite right.

Some of the hardware is updated this year. The 3.5-liter V-6 engine gets direct injection and variable valve timing. Those features help increase horsepower from 260 to 284 and torque from 240 to 259 pound-feet. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) carries over. The CVT has Nissan's "D-Step" logic, which gives it the feel of shifting through a traditional automatic transmission in a series of steps. It removes a lot of the dissonant high-revving behavior of a CVT, while still letting the transmission vary itself in very small increments for maximum fuel economy.

Together, that duo provides strong, smooth acceleration that is slightly quicker this year and plenty powerful for family needs. However, there can be delays when quick bursts of power are needed for passing.

The 2017 Nissan Pathfinder is EPA rated at 20 mpg city, 27 highway, 23 combined with front-wheel drive. Specifying all-wheel drive knocks that down to 19/26/22 mpg.

Handling has been controlled since this generation of the Pathfinder made its debut, but Nissan has stiffened the suspension for 2017. The handling and cornering are more sedan-like than reminiscent of an SUV, and this seven-seater's heft is never apparent at the wheel. The Pathfinder is lighter than the full-size crossovers from General Motors, including the Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave, and its hydraulic-electric steering is particularly well tuned for comfortable driving. While the ride is generally pleasant, the stiffer suspension settings bring a little more road feel into the cabin, especially over bumps, than some may prefer. It's never harsh, though, and Nissan has done a good job of muffling road noise and coarseness through the suspension.

Comfort, features, and safety

Inside the Pathfinder there's some influence from the Infiniti luxury division, but the cabin still feels conservative due to a limited selection of just two colors and otherwise unremarkable fabrics and plastic surfaces. A new NissanConnect infotainment system features an 8.0-inch touchscreen, pinch and swipe controls, tile icons, and lots of connectivity features.

The Pathfinder clearly has been designed to prioritize elbow room and comfort for passengers. The considerable size gives it not only two usable rows of seating, but also a very accessible and useful third row.

The bench seat in the second row slides back and forth, allowing for more leg room if the third row is empty. It also has a complex sliding-and-folding mechanism for access to the back row that lets parents leave their child seats locked in place even while the seat partially collapses—truly a parent-friendly feature. That third row has short, flat, van-like cushions that sit surprisingly low. That's good for head room for growing teens, but it's still marginal for adults. Nonetheless, that actually makes it roomier than most third rows, which are really kids-only accommodations.

The lineup consists of S, SV, SL, and Platinum models. The base model gains some nice equipment this year. Starting around $30,000, it comes with such features as tri-zone automatic climate control, the 8.0-inch center touchscreen, HD radio, satellite radio with SiriusXM Travel Link, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a rearview camera, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

At the top of the lineup, the Platinum model gets heated and ventilated front seats, a 13-speaker Bose audio system, a panoramic sunroof, a motion-activated power liftgate, a navigation system, 20-inch wheels, and a suite of active safety features that includes rear park assist, blind spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts as carry-over features; Nissan's surround-view camera system that adds moving object detection this year; and, new for 2017, adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with emergency braking. 

6

2017 Nissan Pathfinder

Styling

Styling tweaks this year bring a blockier, more SUV-oriented shape to this family crossover.

In the fourth year of its current generation, the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder gets a styling update to make it look a little more butch.

In our ratings, we start at 5 and give the Pathfinder a point for its generally attractive exterior. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The only changes are to the front and rear ends and the wheel designs, but they change the look considerably. Instead of a rounded, swept back appearance, Nissan has given the Pathfinder squared off edges to make it look more truck-like The new chromed grille takes on the bolder look of the brand's trucks, and the front and rear fascias are more angular instead of the flowing design of the outgoing vehicle.

That look can be a bit incongruous with the swept back exterior stance enabled by the fairly long hood, steeply raked windshield, flowing side accents, and the upswept third window. These all echo the themes found in passenger cars. Those accent lines actually start at the thick chrome bars on either side of the grille, run over the hood and front wheel wells, then dip below the window line, and flare again to arch up over the wheel wells at the rear. Taken in a vacuum, the look holds together well enough, marrying bolder SUV themes with softer car cues.

Inside, the 2017 Pathfinder leans toward functional, rather than over-designed. The hard, smooth, textured plastic surfaces of the interior will no doubt clean easily and prove durable. But a glossier dashboard top surface meets semi-matte, soft-touch door panel material in a way that just doesn't feel quite right, and it catches the driver's eye time and again. While buyers can choose from several paint colors, there are just two interior tones: the inevitable Charcoal, and the lighter Almond.

Review continues below
6

2017 Nissan Pathfinder

Performance

Nissan's already peppy 3.5-liter V-6 is even stronger this year. Firmer suspension settings add more control but firm up the ride.

The 2017 Nissan Pathfinder drives more like a car than a truck, but it can tow a healthy amount, and can—when it needs to—venture slightly off-pavement.

From our base score of five, we give the Pathfinder an extra point for engine performance. The driving character and towing capability are quite good, too, but not quite enough to merit a point against the world of vehicles. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Some changes for 2017 make the Pathfinder more powerful and more capable.

Powertrain

The engine is Nissan's familiar VQ-series 3.5-liter V-6. However, this year it gets several upgrades to boost power and fuel economy. According to Nissan, 57 percent of its parts are new. Among the important new features are direct injection instead of port injection, a new air intake system, electronic variable valve timing, and a mirror bore coating process for the cylinder walls that reduces friction. Compression also climbs from 10.3:1 to 11:1. These changes help improve horsepower from 260 to 284 and torque from 240 to 259 pound-feet.

A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is the lone transmission. It has Nissan's "D-Step" shift logic, which allows it to emulate gear changes rather than revving endlessly under heavy throttle.

We like the Pathfinder's engine, and, dare we say, the CVT as well. Nissan says the added power for 2017 cuts the 0 to 60 mph time by two tenths of a second but doesn't provide a figure. We estimate it is about 6.5 seconds, and that's plenty of power for getting out in front of traffic or passing on the highway. However, the CVT and engine aren't always responsive. Sometimes, when it's been loafing along at low revs, there is quite a delay as you request more power and the engine speed spools up to deliver it.

The added power helps increase the Pathfinder's max towing rating from 5,000 to 6,000 pounds, which is quite good for a crossover. Body reinforcements around the trailer hitch area also contribute to the gain.

Ride and handling

Nissan also firms up the suspension for more control this year. The front shocks are 11 percent stiffer and the rears are 7 percent stiffer. Rebound springs have been added to the front struts and the rear rebound springs are 25 percent stiffer.

All of this adds up to a vehicle that is firmer but still comfortable and slightly more controlled. The Pathfinder drives more like a sedan than a large utility vehicle, and it's easy to forget how much metal is following behind you. It's lighter than some competitors, so there's less sense of heft behind the wheel. The new suspension settings help reduce body lean a little bit but add some more road feel that families may not like, especially over bumps.

The hydraulic-electric power steering is fairly quick and well-weighted, and it has decent on-center feel. Throw the Pathfinder quickly back and forth on choppy roads, and you'll get better control than some competitors. The one drawback is that the low-rolling-resistance tires fitted to most models don't offer nearly as much grip as you'd expect from the well-controlled body. The problem occurs with both the standard 18-inch and optional 20-inch wheels.

Nissan also worked hard on eliminating secondary vibrations and reducing noise, so minor road coarseness is far less intrusive than in some competitors—and the same goes for wind noise. Despite the CVT, the engine drone is tolerable under most circumstances (though still not quite as pleasant as Subaru's CVT, still our favorite among all makers).

We did notice some torque steer in front-wheel-drive models, but not in the all-wheel-drive versions, which send most of the power to the front wheels until it's needed in back for traction or stability. The driver can select front-wheel drive only, maximizing fuel efficiency, or a locked all-wheel-drive mode to distribute power equally front and rear (the system still modulates power delivery side to side).

While this crossover has less ground clearance than, say, a Subaru Outback, it handles rutted surfaces with assurance, and the locking center differential gives the Pathfinder more traction in light off-road situations than most rivals.

Review continues below
8

2017 Nissan Pathfinder

Comfort & Quality

The Pathfinder does a good job of trading off the incompatible goals of space, comfort, and access for all seven seating positions.

The 2017 Nissan Pathfinder makes no bones about its family-friendly intentions. It's a big, spacious, flexible crossover, and it has three rows with seating for seven passengers.

In our new rating system, we give the Pathfinder points for front and rear seat space, as well as cargo room, which results in a total of 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The front seats are comfortable, offer good back support, and the driver has a wide adjustment range. There's little side bolstering, but they proved comfortable on long highway trips. The Pathfinder isn't a vehicle that really rewards a driver who tosses it around on hilly roads, either, so the front seats are fine.

For family miscellany, the Pathfinder comes equipped with various bins, map pockets on the backs of the front seats, and a pair of large trays in the center console. The three bottle holders in each rear door panel may be a new record, along with cupholders on each side of the third row, and four altogether up front: two in the console, plus one in each door.

The second-row seats are slightly disappointing. There's plenty of space, but full-size adults may squirm and fidget trying to get comfortable. The seats are short, flat, and sit quite low to the floor. That demands a leaned-back, legs-splayed seating position that doesn't bode well for comfort on long road trips. Head room is more than adequate, so the less-than-perfect second-row seat is likely due to its ability to fold surprisingly far forward for third-row access.

The most impressive feature—for families, anyhow—is the fact that the second row can slide fore and aft 5.5 inches, permitting easy third-row access while a "Latch and Glide" child seat remains installed in the middle row. (Yes, you have to take the child out first.)

The third row is also low to the floor, and like most such installations, is really suited for children, without enormous amounts of head room. The third-row seat back does adjust for rake, though, and overall the Pathfinder does a good job of trading off the incompatible goals of space, comfort, and access for all seating positions.

Cargo space maxes out at 79.8 cubic feet with both the second and third rows folded forward. While that's a lot of room and competitive with most rivals, the Chevrolet Traverse has a massive 116.3 cubic feet of space. With all the seats up, the Pathfinder has only 16 cubic feet of space, which is barely enough for a family grocery run. Again, the Traverse beats it with 24.4 cubic feet.

Review continues below
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2017 Nissan Pathfinder

Safety

New safety technologies and historically good crash test scores should inspire confidence.

Standard safety equipment on the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder includes six airbags, with the side-curtain airbags offering a rollover sensor and covering outboard positions in all three rows. A useful feature unique to Nissan is the standard Easy Fill Tire Alert, which sounds the horn when you've inflated the tires to the recommended pressure. A rearview camera and rear parking sensors are also standard.

The SV model gets rear park assist, and offers blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts in an option package. The SL model comes with those features and also gets Nissan's Around View Monitor, which displays a 360-degree view of the car's surroundings and adds rear object detection this year.

Adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with emergency braking are standard on the Platinum model.

The 2017 Nissan Pathfinder received top "Good" marks from the IIHS in every category except the newer headlight test. The addition of forward-collision warnings help it earn a Top Safety Pick nod.

In NHTSA testing, the 2017 model received five out of five stars in the overall rating, including a five-star rating for side impact and four stars for frontal crash and rollover.

To our base rating of five we give the Pathfinder an additional point for its five-star NHTSA rating and another for its available active safety features, resulting in a 8 out of 10. That rating could increase when new crash results are available. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Review continues below
8

2017 Nissan Pathfinder

Features

The Pathfinder is generally well-equipped, but most buyers will want to move up a trim level or two to get the amenities they want.

Nissan offers the 2017 Pathfinder in S, SV, SL, and Platinum, each with front- or all-wheel drive.

A strong base equipment set and abundant equipment on higher line models both earn points in our new scoring system, as does the Pathfinder's relative value, bringing the total to 8. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For a starting price around $30,000, the base Pathfinder S comes with cloth upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, a six-way manually adjustable driver's seat, a four-way manually adjustable front passenger seat, cruise control, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with an 8.0-inch center touchscreen, HD radio, satellite radio with SiriusXM Travel Link, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a USB port, a rearview camera, an Advanced Driver Assist 4.0-inch instrument panel display, remote keyless entry, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, roof rails, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Move up one level to the SV and you get remote engine starting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift lever, an eight-way power driver's seat, a universal garage door opener, the programmable Nissan Intelligent Key, rear park assist, automatic-off headlights, speed-sensitive wipers, and four 12-volt DC power outlets.

The SV is offered with a a Trailer Tow package that comes with a trailer tow hitch receiver and a wiring harness. Also offered is a cold-weather package with heated front seats, steering wheel, and outside mirrors. A Technology package comes with a navigation system, NissanConnect Services, three years of SiriusXM Traffic, blind spot monitors, and rear cross traffic alerts.

A hint of luxury starts to appear at the SL level, where Nissan adds leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a surround-view camera system, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, a motion-activated liftgate with position memory, and stainless steel kickplates.

An SL Technology package adds a navigation system, NissanConnect Services, three years of SiriusXM Traffic, a Bose 13-speaker audio system, and the items from the Trailer Tow package. A Premium Package comes with the Tech Package equipment plus a panoramic sunroof.

A new Midnight Edition package adds black wheels and special black exterior accents for $990. 

The top of the heap is the Pathfinder Platinum. It gives you the Trailer Tow package standard, front-seat ventilation, navigation, the Bose audio system, the panoramic sunroof, woodgrain interior trim, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with emergency braking, LED headlights, and 20-inch wheels. A Family Entertainment package is offered with dual 8-inch headrest DVD screens. This year it adds USB and HDMI ports, in addition to the VTR jack. This system lets you play separate DVDs or games on the two rear screens, as well as the front screen (the front only when the vehicle is not moving). 

Nissan Pathfinder infotainment

Not much is new inside the Pathfinder except the infotainment system. The new NissanConnect system is the brand's most advanced system and it includes several connectivity features plus a larger, 8.0-inch center touchscreen. In addition to touch controls, the system has hard buttons and can be controlled by voice commands. The icons on the screen are arranged in tiles like a smartphone and users can employ swipe and pinch-and-stretch gestures to control the functions. 

NissanConnect comes standard with satellite radio and SiriusXM Travel Link, which provides access to sports scores, movie listings, stock prices, gas prices, weather, and other information. When the navigation system is ordered it also adds SiriusXM Traffic information. Also offered is NissanConnect Services, which includes such features as automatic collision notification, emergency call and stolen vehicle locator, dealer service scheduling, maintenance alerts, and other customizable alerts. NissanConnect Services is standard on the Platinum model and otherwise available on all but the base model.

This is our first exposure to this system and we'll need more time with it before rendering a final verdict. However, most drivers should like the touchscreen, the tile format, and the wealth of connectivity features on offer.

Review continues below
6

2017 Nissan Pathfinder

Fuel Economy

The continuously variable transmission helps give the Pathfinder top-of-the-class V-6 fuel economy.

The Pathfinder offers just one powertrain. It pairs a 3.5-liter V-6 with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The 3.5-liter V-6 adds direct injection this year, which improves both power and fuel economy, and yet the EPA ratings remain the same. Nissan explains that, without the 2017 improvements to the engine, the EPA ratings would have fallen by 1 mpg due to the new calculations the EPA uses for 2017.

Like the 2016 model, the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder is EPA rated at 20 mpg city, 27 highway, 23 combined with front-wheel drive. Specifying all-wheel drive knocks that down to 19/26/22 mpg.

Those ratings put the Pathfinder at the top of its class for models with V-6 power. One of the reasons for the efficiency is the CVT. It is a CVT's ability to vary the gearing ratios almost infinitely that allows it to run efficiently more often and get the most out of fuel economy.

We give it a 6 for its overall fuel economy. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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7.0
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Styling 6
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 8
Features 8
Fuel Economy 6
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