2018 Nissan Pathfinder

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
May 14, 2018

Buying tip

When considered in two trims: SV and SL, the Nissan Pathfinder is a relative deal among competitors. Base models are too thin, Platinum-trimmed models don’t have the same refinement as others.

features & specs

4x4 Platinum
4x4 S
4x4 SL
19 city / 26 hwy
19 city / 26 hwy
19 city / 26 hwy

The 2018 Nissan Pathfinder should be on the list for shoppers looking for a large crossover. The Pathfinder is highly functional, but not entirely interesting.

If there were any confusion as to the 2018 Nissan Pathfinder’s mission, it should be clear this year.

The big, seven-seater SUV adds a rear-seat alert to remind parents (children or fur parents) to check the back seats before leaving the car and standard automatic emergency braking on all models. Both are common-sense standard features that will hopefully increase safety and cut down on the number of unattended pets and children left in cars during extreme weather.

We rate the 2018 Nissan Pathfinder at a 6.5 overall with points for interior space and safety. The Pathfinder isn’t big on style, but it’s not bad either. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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All Pathfinders look the same under the hood. A competent, but sometimes noisy, V-6 is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission and front- or all-wheel drive. The Pathfinder has evolved into a smoother, competent crossover since its origins as a trucky off-roader decades ago.

The Pathfinder’s forte is its interior space. Front-seat occupants will have the best seats in the house, but Nissan’s approach to the second row is relatively unique. Rear seat passengers sit lower and closer to the front row, which benefits the Pathfinder’s third row that’s standard across all models. While we’d stop short of recommending the third row for adults for long stretches, its relatively comfortable for children and adolescents.

Base Pathfinder S models are relatively spartan, but Platinum models can rival luxury competitors.


2018 Nissan Pathfinder


The Nissan Pathfinder is more practical than other family-friendly crossovers—good or bad.

The 2018 Nissan Pathfinder is one year removed from a styling update, which means that it’s one year removed from looking new.

We give the Pathfinder a 5 out of 10 for a big glass of OK. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Last year, Nissan mildly resculpted the front and rear bumpers to add a more butch look to the Pathfinder—whose personality had skewed anything but over the past few years.

The squared off edges appear slightly more masculine, instead of a swept-back look that the last generation had. The front and rear bumpers are more squared off, adding to the effect. A new chrome grille adds to the appearance, bringing the Pathfinder in line with the rest of the Nissan portfolio.

In all, we’re not sure the small changes have worked with the crossover’s long hood, raked windshield, and rear windows, which have been adapted from passenger cars. Alone, the Pathfinder manages to look fairly put together, but compared against others in its class, the look falls down.

Inside, the Pathfinder marries Nissan’s utilitarian look with a segmented approach that lacks the cohesive styling that others have found in recent years. It’s hard to penalize Nissan for building a family-friendly vehicle that prioritizes function, but other automakers are starting to find ways to practically style those vehicles without feeling sterile.

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2018 Nissan Pathfinder


The Pathfinder takes an approach most have followed: Smooth engine, transmission, and suspension setup.

The Nissan Pathfinder is equipped with an aging V-6 and continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that works hardest to keep the powertrain in its sweet spot.

The engine has been upgraded over the years and now produces 284 horsepower, which is worth a point a point above average. We’re not sure most people will be impressed beyond that, which is how we arrive at a score of 6 out of 10 for performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Unlike previous years, the Nissan Pathfinder is geared more toward comfortable cruising rather than off-road bruising. The V-6 engine planted in the front is the only option—a slow-selling hybrid was available in previous years—that makes 284 horsepower. It’s a fairly unrefined mill, but one that’s made its way around Nissan products for several years and has been tamed.

That V-6 is mated to a CVT that’s built for efficiency. It helps the Pathfinder realize more than 20 mpg combined, but not much else. Its wide spread will be a boon for long-distance cruisers, but a bane for performance seekers.

We nearly awarded another point for the Pathfinder’s smooth ride, but withheld. The front struts and rear multi-link setup has helped keep the Pathfinder planted on pavement, but off roaders will miss the nameplate’s previous prowess.

Last year, Nissan stiffened up the front suspension by 11 percent and the rears by 7 percent to help control the Pathfinder’s two-ton-plus mass. It’s lighter than some of its competitors, but not necessarily nimble.

Overall, the ride in the Pathfinder is calm—if unremarkable.

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2018 Nissan Pathfinder

Comfort & Quality

The Nissan Pathfinder is spacious for up to seven people, but adults will appreciate the first and second rows only.

The Nissan Pathfinder has evolved from a full-size brute to a family-friendly ‘ute. Families will appreciate its size and cargo capacity, which has been improved since its early days.

We say the Pathfinder is good for front- and rear-seat riders. With the small third row folded, cargo capacity is pretty stellar too. We give it an 8 out of 10 for comfort. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Even though cavemen might not recognize the Nissan Pathfinder in its newest form, we’re guessing that families will.

Every Pathfinder includes three rows of seating, but only two are suitable for adults. The third row is best considered for occasional use only, and best even for children then.

The front seats are comfortable, but don’t offer much bolstering, and offer great back support. They’re all-day comfortable and offer plenty of storage and cubbies for phones, drinks, snacks, and the occasional map—if you can find one.

The second row is relatively easy to get into and out of, with a wide rear door aperture and plenty of space. Once adults are in, we’re not sure that they’ll wish they would have called shotgun. The Pathfinder’s seats are flat and low, which means that knees may be up slightly higher than in the Honda Pilot or Chevy Traverse. The seating position in the second row isn’t uncomfortable—just slightly different. We suspect that the small compromise in the second row is meant to benefit the third row, which is slightly more spacious than comparable third rows.

The second row can slide fore and aft 5.5 inches, which should permit easier access and exit, but limits whether parents can leave their child seats in the second row without removing them for easy third row access.

The third row is best suited for children, although it does adjust for rake, which makes it suitable for tall pre-teens.

Without the third row folded down, which we think many users may do, the Pathfinder swallows 47.8 cubic feet of cargo. With the third rows up, that space shrinks to 16 cubic feet, or about the same room you’d find in a mid-size sedan. Cargo space maxed out with the second and third rows folded: 79.8 cubic feet.

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2018 Nissan Pathfinder


The Nissan Pathfinder now includes standard equipment to help prevent children and animals from being stranded in cars in extreme weather.

The 2018 Nissan Pathfinder adds a useful rear seat reminder that may help remind drivers or passengers to remove small children or animals from the rear seats to prevent extreme weather-related deaths.

That’s a common-sense safety feature we can get behind. The Nissan Pathfinder also features a five-star overall rating from the federal government, good enough for a 7 out of 10 on our safety scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Federal officials gave the Nissan Pathfinder a five-star overall score, including a four-star frontal crash protection score and a four-star rollover protection score.

The independent IIHS rated the Pathfinder “Good” on every crash-test score, including the small overlap crash test and a “Superior” score for front-overlap crash prevention. Only a “Marginal” score for the Pathfinder’s headlights keeps it from the IIHS’ good graces.

All Pathfinders come equipped with dual-stage front airbags, seat-mounted side airbags, side-impact airbags, and forward automatic emergency braking.

SL and Platinum models are equipped with blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts. A rearview camera is standard across all models.


2018 Nissan Pathfinder


The Nissan Pathfinder is equipped for family duty, with plenty of value found in lower trims.

The 2018 Nissan Pathfinder’s big news is its newly standard safety features that include forward automatic emergency braking and can remind drivers to check the back seats for small children or animals. Both are worthwhile features that other automakers are making standard in hopes of reducing the number of deaths each year.

The Pathfinder offers in all models as standard keyless ignition, 18-inch wheels, cloth upholstery, a 4.0-inch driver information display, satellite radio, four USB charging outlets, Bluetooth connectivity, an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, and a smile.

That’s pretty good standard equipment, and the touchscreen is beats the average. The Pathfinder earns a 7 out of 10 on our features scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The base model is the Nissan Pathfinder S, which is fairly spartan but still features third-row seats.

The next step up is the one you’re most likely to see on lots. The Nissan Pathfinder SV adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power adjustable driver’s seat, rear parking assist, remote start, and popular optional packages, such as heated front seats, blind-spot monitors, and towing.

The SL trim level is next, with more creature comforts such as leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, power liftgate, standard heated and power-adjustable front seats, heated outboard rear seats, navigation, adaptive cruise control, surround-view camera system, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, and better options availability.

The top-of-the-line Platinum package goes the distance: 20-inch wheels, LED headlights, dual-pane moonroof, heated and cooled front seats, premium audio, wood grain accents, and an optional rear-seat entertainment system.

Like other Nissans, the Pathfinder doesn’t offer many optional extras, and most of them are bundled into pricey packages.

Our advice: Stick to SL or SV trims with a little flexibility in a small number of packages.

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2018 Nissan Pathfinder

Fuel Economy

The Nissan Pathfinder is fuel efficient when it’s loaded full of folks and ready for adventure.

The 2018 Nissan Pathfinder manages 19 mpg city, 26 highway, 22 combined with four-wheel drive. That’s good enough for a 6 out of 10 on our fuel efficiency rating. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Front-drive versions of the Pathfinder don’t do much better. They’re rated at 20/27/23 mpg. Platinum-trimmed versions of the Pathfinder are a little heavier than the rest, so they get their own fuel economy rating. The Nissan Pathfinder Platinum, with all-wheel drive, is rated at 19/26/21 mpg.

That’s not bad, especially considering that the Pathfinder is best when it’s full of kith and kin. The Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, and Chevy Traverse manage roughly similar overall numbers. To do much better requires a battery pack—the Highlander Hybrid manages 28 mpg combined—or a much smaller engine and flat terrain—the Mitsubishi Outlander manages 27 mpg with a 2.4-liter inline-4.

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