The Year of The Pathfinder

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder

Nissan has declared 2017 as their "Year of The Truck." It is with plenty of fanfare to help boost their entire pickup, SUV and van lines as drivers for improved sales.

There are those who have a problem with how the term "truck" is being used in the marketplace. For example, when the North American Car/Truck of The Year jury awarded their truck award to the Volvo XC90, there were calls to reform that award. Now, the NACOTY has been split into three awards – the third being for the SUV of The Year. Still, most OEMs see sales of pickup trucks, vans and SUVs as one combined market as reflected in their sales reporting. True, SUVs were once derived from truck frames with bodies bolted on top of them. Today’s SUVs are actually more derived from a car platform than a truck one.

We can go on about market distinctions and definitions. The point is simple: Sales have risen for Nissan's SUV and truck products in 2016. It is a trend that will continue into 2017. This a great time to polish up the lineup and add new products. The all-new Armada arrived with a global look and a specific purpose to battle with the Ford Expedition and Chevrolet Tahoe. The Titan pickup added a half-ton version with a choice of cabs and trim levels – all powered by the uprated 5.6 liter Endurance V8 engine. The Rogue got a mid-cycle refresh and the addition of a hybrid driveline that will be different than anyone else's in the marketplace.

Nissan was not done. They did a mid-cycle refresh of the three-row, mid-sized Pathfinder. It was reconfigured to compete directly with the likes of the Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Kia Sorento and the three-row version of the Hyundai Santa Fe. It is highly competitive, but the entire segment seemed to have cooled off. It is not because of the rise of the compact SUV/crossover – the Rogue included. Rather it is the rise in pricing for these family haulers. For a well-equipped three-row mid-sized vehicle, you would be lucky to get a new one under $38,000.

Still, the Pathfinder and its competitors are essential and relevant in the marketplace. It certainly was served its share of criticism – most of it as a eulogy of it no longer being built as a body-on-frame SUV. The reality of today's market was semi-forgivable, but there were discussions about the lack of power, its bland design and for the entire vehicle trying too hard to compete in the arena owned by the Explorer.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder 4WD Platinum

Now, we have the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder – updated and ready for family hauling.

From afar, it looks the same as it has been since its debut for 2013. A new grille based on current Nissan design trends, new headlamps, taillight units and wheels denote the updates for 2017. Not to mention, new paint choices to move the Pathfinder a bit upmarket, especially in the Platinum trim. You can also get the Pathfinder in the S, SV and SL for those seeking a better value and price point.

There are some great attributes that have not changed from 2013. Large rear doors is the norm in the class, especially when it comes to third row access. In the case of the Pathfinder, they are among the largest – wide enough for children to scamper into the far reaches of the SUV. The step-up is easy, which is one of the traits of being successful in this class. Yet, some may argue its "lower" ground clearance may be a point of contention for those aspiring for the likes of the two-row Jeep Grand Cherokee.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder 4WD Platinum

How do you argue these traits in favor of the Nissan? One could pine for the pickup truck-based Pathfinders of the past. For today's marketplace, the parental units have spoken. They want softroaders with exactly what the current Pathfinder offers – easy access and comfort above capability.

The comfort part is what Nissan offers in this Platinum model. Front occupants are treated to large seats swathed in leather. There is some support from the bolsters, but these seats are all about comfort. Power adjustments area available for rake, recline, height, lumbar, along with heating and cooling elements. Second row occupants can adjust their seats for rake and recline, along with hear restraint height – all manual adjustments, however.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder 4WD Platinum

Then, there's the third row – which offers space in-between that of the Chevrolet Traverse and the Ford Explorer. Not to mention access from the wide rear doors making that space easier to manage. To get to the third row, lift up a lever on the outboard second row seatbacks, see the cushion fold up, while the seatback leans forward…then, slide. All the second row seat needs to do is to be repositioned to ensure proper comfort way in the back.

A few updates have been noticed on the Pathfinder’s instrument panel. Nissan had been working on getting their infotainment suite right. The touch screen is still operated by a multifunction knob below it, along with a plethora of buttons for various controls. The graphics have improved, as have connectivity via Bluetooth. Instrumentation is clean with backlit dials and a decent TFT screen for vehicle and trip information. Though the Pathfinder is very well laid out ergonomically, there are a few buttons by the left knee that can be hard to reach. Certainly, these are for functions that could be touched perhaps once or twice during its care – Blind Spot Monitoring, for example – but us tall people would have to stop the car, get out to see what those switches are. It is only a detail, though.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder 4WD Platinum

Though driven by NissanConnect, I found major improvements with navigation and audio functions with the Pathfinder's infotainment system. I decided to not use NissanConnect, as there are already a few things I utilize through Bluetooth and USB connection for my music playback. Bose offers 13 speakers of solid sound reproduction in the Platinum.

Cargo space begins with all rows up, equaling to 16.0 cubic feet of space. Fold the rear seat down, and that space expands to 42.4 cubic feet. So far, so good. Now, if you have no one sitting behind, all seats folded down will give you 79.8 cubic feet of whatever you can find at any given store or curbside. The cabin is not entirely tall to take on, say, a couch, but a day at Ikea would be easily achievable in the Pathfinder.

Under the hood is an improved VQ35. Though the excellent 3.5 liter V6 really didn't need much improvement, there was a concern about the 260 horsepower it laid down before this new model year. In this class, 260 horses is no longer enough. Nissan went back to work on the old VQ to come up with more ponies – 284, to be exact. The low end went up to 259 pound-feet of torque, too. That improved power also means added towing capacity – now at 6,000 pounds maximum. If that isn't enough, there is still 4,660 pounds of mid-sized, three-row SUV to push around.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder 4WD Platinum

Connected to Nissan's four-wheel drive system is the Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission. That, too, has improved with better "shift points" and low end response than before. The 4WD system can be locked for all four wheels to be driven in tougher conditions – including snow, of course. Hill descent control is also part of the 4WD system, ensuring a smooth downhill slope without any cause for alarm.

The one concern I had with having more power under the hood is perhaps some loss in fuel economy. The Pathfinder did average 22.1 MPG in my care – actually an improvement from the last Pathfinder I reviewed.

Driving the Pathfinder, you do feel its 4,660 pound weight. Yet, it offers a very smooth ride without any feedback from the road. However, it can exhibit some lean and roll when pushed into a cloverleaf or a curve. The Pathfinder tracks quite well and offers a quiet atmosphere with its Bridgestone tires keeping pace and the shiny side up always.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder 4WD Platinum

The electric steering system is OK. It does tight maneuvers, but has a long travel from lock-to-lock to do so. The size of the haunches may obscure vision, but it is pretty easy to put the Pathfinder in place – mostly in part to the 360-degree camera system. Still, the steering felt fine from making exact turns while offering a solid on-center feel. Braking is quite good in terms of response and stopping power. Normal and panic braking returned good results for the Pathfinder.

Let's talk active safety for a moment. It is now essential for a family hauler to be designed as one that is built safe, but designed to avoid the inevitable. Choosing the Pathfinder Platinum model offers features designed to so exactly that, such as Blind Spot Warning, Moving Object Detection, Forward Emergency Braking, 360-degree camera – OK, Around View Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Rear Sonar System, Intelligent Cruise Control…and so forth. As much as you think you do not need these safety features, there will come a time when they could possibly save your life. Just saying…

2017 Nissan Pathfinder 4WD Platinum

Pricing for the Pathfinder starts at $29,990. That price will get you just the S model with only front-wheel drive. This tester is on the complete opposite side of the spectrum – the Platinum 4WD model. The sticker price for this gorgeous Sandstone example came to $44,685. This is about where most high trim level models in its class.

Families want great conveyances. When families grow to beyond 2.2 children with mother and father running the household, they need a three-row vehicle to do the job. Granted, there are plenty of choices – many of which have been reviewed on this site. Looking back at the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, it was clearly in the ballpark. For the mid-cycle refresh of the 2017 Pathfinder, it was clear that Nissan went back to it and addressed several things to make it even more attractive to buy and consider against the rest.

It already offered plenty of advantages, such as greater third row access and a very flexible cargo space. The improvements made to the Pathfinder were designed to deepen the value of this vehicle for families looking to spend the same amount of money they would on its competition. This is the exact point of looking at the revised 2017 model – a manufacturer can deepen the value by adding more to the complete package.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder 4WD Platinum

This is why the Nissan Pathfinder is a contender in a class where you have to cater to families wanting more from their vehicle. It falls within Nissan's strategy well – a big part of the "year of the truck."

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Nissan North America

All photos by Randy Stern

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