Though the Pathfinder is largely unchanged since 2013, the 2017 model receives a mid cycle refresh. A now standard 8-inch NissanConnect system is a vast improvement over previous year models, as is an updated version of the Xtronic continuously variable transmission which had significant problems in 2013 and 2014 year models. It’s pretty well-rounded SUV that doesn’t do anything particularly better than many of its competitors and is beginning to look dated. Poor reliability, less than stellar real-world fuel economy, and a lackluster interior for the price are strong reasons why we’d pass on this SUV.
Last time we checked there were some 20 midsize SUVs in the midsize SUV category. If you add some base model luxury SUVs at a price comparable to the top trimmed Pathfinder, that number grows closer to thirty. With many SUVs competing for your dollar, you deserve a lot of value per dollar spent. With the Pathfinder, that value just isn’t there. No matter what you prioritize, you can find a better SUV for a better price. Want more space and better fuel economy with the same exceptional safety profile? Honda Pilot. Want better performance with a nicer cabin? GMC Acadia. Need to tow? Dodge Durango. All these SUVs outshine the Pathfinder in almost every category. Of course, there are strength and weaknesses to each choice, but we think most SUVs on the market offer better value than the Nissan Pathfinder.
The Pathfinder is powered by a 3.5 Liter V6 that receives a direct injection and variable valve timing for 2017. These modifications bring power output to 284 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 259 lb-ft of torque at 4,800. The V6 is paired with Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission. Straight line acceleration is about average for the class at 7.5 seconds from 0 to 60 miles per hour. That’s respectable for 4,500+ pound SUV, but the real problem is how high you must rev to get any meaningful power out of the Pathfinder. It loves to pull at 4,500 rpm but driving that way will cost you at the pump. Most reviewers got mileage way below the EPA estimated 21 miles per gallon combined, closer to 15 or 16 miles per gallon.
The good news is this SUV does have enough power when you need it: freeway on-ramps, passing semis, and making it to your kid’s recital you forgot about on time. Handling isn’t the Pathfinder’s selling point, but it’s not bad for a vehicle of its size. Suspension may even be on the stiff side for some, but the result is better steering feel and feedback that make this big crossover feel more nimble than you’d expect. If you’re looking for a more engaging driving experience, check out the Mazda CX-9 that’s actually fun to drive. Otherwise, the Pathfinder’s performance should be satisfactory.
Remember how we raved about the Nissan Murano’s luxurious interior? This isn’t that interior. If there was an antithesis to the Murano, it's probably the Pathfinder. Nearly all the surfaces are hard plastics. Nothing about the design is inspiring. There are leather seats in higher trims and faux wood grain in the highest trim that’s acceptable, but not worthy of the $40k+ price tag. At least the NASA inspired “Zero Gravity” seats are comfortable! The first and second row has plenty of space but the third row is barely usable and difficult to access. There are just 16 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row. Fold the third row down for 47.8 cubic feet or both rows for up to 79.8 cubic feet of space. That may sound like a lot, but it’s actually behind most of the competition.
Perhaps the single greatest redeeming quality is the 8-inch NissanConnect infotainment system. It’s bold, bright and easy to use, with an intuitive interface so easy, your grandma could operate it. However, your grandma will have a difficult time operating the climate controls that are tucked below, tiny, and hard to read. If your memory is as bad as Oma’s, Nissan has a nice feature that reminds you to check for your kids in the back seat when leaving the vehicle. There are some nice features available like the Around View Monitor and rear cross traffic alert that will instill confidence in drivers when maneuvering this SUV in crowded parking lots. Though everything in this utilitarian interior serves a purpose and get’s the job done, there are much better alternatives for the money in the crowded midsize SUV segment.
Compared with many of Nissan’s SUVs, the Pathfinder’s styling is rather conservative. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The front fascia features clean lines with lots of diagonals. A trapezoidal grille is trimmed with chrome and a Nissan Badge. The headlights are shaped similarly and complement the grille. Below there’s a single, large intake that’s flanked by fog lights in most trims. Down the sides, there’s more chrome trim that stands out on an otherwise bland side profile.
The rear contains standard looking headlights and a rear bumper trim that makes the Pathfinder appear a bit beefier. There’s also a black plastic molding that runs around the entire exterior to make it appear more rugged. Overall, it’s not a bad looking SUV, but there are definitely better looking alternatives at the price point. If you’re attracted to this SUV, please let us know what you like about the design below!
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the Pathfinder a 5-star overall rating, their highest rating though it receives a 4-star rating in the rollover and front crash test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also offers optimistic safety ratings. The Pathfinder achieved “Good” results in all crash tests and the additional designation of “Top Safety Pick+,” the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s highest award. The top trim’s LED projector headlights are rated “Marginal,” while lower trims’ halogen headlamps receive “Poor” ratings.
This is the one blemish on the otherwise spotless safety test results. Many SUVs on the market fail this headlight test, so it shouldn’t be a deal breaker. On a more positive note, the available advanced safety technology that can prevent a forward collision is rated “Superior,” the highest possible rating. The Pathfinder has some of the most advanced airbags on the market including front seat-mounted torso airbags and full side curtain airbags. These factors combine to create one very safe SUV, sure to protect you and your loved ones. See the section below for this crossover’s weakness, it definitely isn’t safety!
The 2017 Pathfinder receives a 2.5 out 5 predicted reliability rating from JD Power and an abysmal 2 out of 5 predicted reliability rating from Consumer Reports. It’s probably still this poor because of the 2013 remodel launch that may have been one of the worst we’ve researched. The 2013 Pathfinder was subject to 9 recalls by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and had a staggering 561 complaints filed. We sifted through all 113 pages of complaints and were discouraged by a number of problems still plaguing this model to this day. It seems that update after update to vehicle software only creates new problems. The most common complaints had to do with a sudden loss of power, uncontrollable acceleration, and a mountain of problems related to the CVT transmission. We’d avoid 2013 and 2014 year model Pathfinders like the plague!
There are conflicting reports as to whether the 2015 models suffer a similar fate. There haven’t been any complaints filed for the 2016 and 2017 year models, it seems Nissan has since resolved the problem with the latest Xtronic continuously variable transmission. As of the time of this writing, it appears that latest two model years are exceptionally reliable. However, we don’t think that’s enough to make up for the several thousand dissatisfied owners of 2013 and 2014 models. Therefore, we can’t recommend the Pathfinder as a reliable SUV until these models age a bit longer, but it may still be right for you.
The Pathfinder S trim has an MSRP of $30,290 and arrives with a 3.5 Liter V6 engine, Xtronic continuously variable transmission, Electronic Brake force Distribution, Brake Assist, Dual Flow Path shock absorbers, 18 inch aluminum alloy wheels with all season tires, LED daytime running lamps, roof rails, body colored rear spoiler, dual power outside mirrors with LED turn signal indicators, front UV-reducing solar glass, rear privacy glass, Advanced Drive Assist display, 8 inch NissanConnect infotainment system, SiriusXM with Travel Link, RearView Monitor, push button ignition, remote keyless entry, Bluetooth hands-free system, tri zone automatic climate control system, in cabin micro filter, cruise control with steering wheel mounted controls, variable intermittent flat blade windshield wipers, intermittent rear window wiper, front map lights, rear reading lights, two twelve volt DC power outlets, sun visors with vanity mirrors and extenders, tilt and telescoping steering column, front seatback pockets, overhead sunglasses storage, cargo area under floor storage, 6-way manual adjustable driver’s seat with manual lumbar, 4- way manual adjustable front passenger’s seat, EZ FLEX seating system with 2nd row 60/40 split fold flat bench seat, 3rd-row 50/50 split fold flat reclining bench seat, cloth trimmed seating, leather-appointed door trim, Piano Black interior trim, six speaker audio system, HD Radio, auxiliary input jack, RCA auxiliary video input jack, two USB connection ports for iPod interface and other compatible devices, streaming audio via Bluetooth wireless technology, Radio Data System, speed sensitive volume control, illuminated steering wheel mounted audio controls, Nissan Advanced Airbag System, Active Brake Limited Slip, and Zone Body construction with front and rear crumple zones.
The SV trim costs $32,980 and adds smart auto headlights, fog lights, Rear Sonar System, Nissan Intelligent Key, remote engine start system, HomeLink universal transceiver, variable intermittent speed sensitive flat blade windshield wipers, auto-dimming rearview mirror, four 12-volt DC power outlets, sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors and extension, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with manual lumbar, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob, and Tire Pressure Monitoring System with individual tire pressure display.
The $36,100 SL trim equips dual power heated outside mirrors with LED turn signal indicators and reverse tilt-down function, Around View Monitor, motion-activated liftgate with position memory, digital compass, welcome lighting, 120-volt AC power outlet, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support, driver’s seat and outside mirrors position memory, 4-way power adjustable front passenger’s seat, leather appointed seating, heated front seats, heated outboard second-row seats, heated steering wheel, metallic interior trim, stainless steel front kick plates, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Moving Object Detection.
The Platinum trim installs 20 inch aluminum alloy wheels with all season tires, tow hitch receiver with 7-pin wiring harness, chrome body side moldings, dual panel panoramic moonroof, NissanConnect with Navigation and Services, SiriusXM Traffic, Intelligent Cruise Control, power tilt and telescoping steering column, steering wheel position memory, perforated leather appointed first and second row seating, climate controlled front seats, wood tone interior trim, 13 speaker Bose premium audio system with Acoustic Waveguide technology, and Intelligent Forward Emergency Braking.