Rental Car Review: Has The Nissan Pathfinder Aged Well?

I’ve said it many times that the money is on the mid-sized, three-row SUV segment. Look at how it turned out with the reigning #VOTY19, the Kia Telluride, setting new standards. As have the Hyundai Palisade with its high style and class-leading technology. The new Toyota Highlander is truly coming onto its own. Not to mention that Volkswagen done some tweaking to its big Atlas.

All of these leaders have one thing in common: chutzpah.

Chutzpah – a Yiddish term that is best described as having bravado or that something extra in its step and the gumption to do anything it wants. Some vehicles got it. Some…well

I always had high hopes for the Nissan Pathfinder. Then again, I always had high hopes for Nissan. That cut on the chin was there because the dealers that have sold them for years are not happy with the product they had to sell.

Oh, but look at the new Altima. The new Versa. The new Sentra. They got swagger. As does the upcoming 2021 Rogue.

The Pathfinder has been with us since the 2013 model year. It had been revised a couple of times, added some needed chutzpah for its Rock Creek package, and have been a solid value against its competitors.

It now seemed to be outclassed and dated.

In the midst of awarding #VOTY19 to Kia, there was a void in my memory that simply forgot the Pathfinder still existed.

To fill a void in a schedule of vehicles to work with, I played Rental Car Roulette. It’s an expensive game, but, hey, I needed a filler…

The roll landed on the Nissan Pathfinder. I swallowed my pride and took it in for a couple of days of reacquainting myself with it. I had the chance to review this vehicle twice – a 2013 and a 2017. Obviously, this should be a reference review, right?

It should have been. As I mentioned before, times have changed since 2013. The competition improved over time. All of which provided a different take on this 2020 Nissan Pathfinder SV with 4WD.

Looking at it, it was not as handsome as it once was. It looked more like a minivan than an SUV. The Pathfinder is frumpy all around. Not just compared to its newest competitors, but in the automotive world as a whole.

The [previous generations of Pathfinders were designed on Nissan's pickup truck platform and exhibited superior off-road capability through its tough four-wheel-drive system. I look at it now – in its eighth model year – and wonder if the Rock Creek editions are doing it any justice.

My SV rental exhibited none of the chutzpah of the Rock Creek package. It simply looks "meh."

"Meh" is also what I describe the interior. Not because it is the popular trim level for consumers on a budget and for fleets. It is actually comfortable with supportive cloth seats and only a few power adjustments available. It is spacious for the first two rows and the large rear doors do help in third row access.

Then, I looked at the dashboard. Save for the main dials on the instrument cluster, everything else just seem dated. Not 2020 or even 2013. I’m thinking 2005.  There are buttons and controls that I saw on an Infiniti FX35 from the late 2000s on this Pathfinder. When its competitors offer less buttons or ones with excellent logic, I am concerned that the Pathfinder will leave some customers cold.

The TFT information screen in-between the large dials on the cluster is quite small. Not to mention the equally small font for the odometer and fuel range readouts. I guess I’ve done more nitpicking than usual with this rental Pathfinder SV.

Underneath the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 – a VQ, of you will. With 284 horsepower on tap, it does move well. I did find some sluggishness on occasion, but it only lasted for a few seconds. However, the Xtronic continuously variable transmission s actually pretty decent when it comes to “shifting” and power transfer.

This rental had the all-wheel-drive system, which Nissan proudly labels "4WD." There is a knob on the center console that controls this system, giving you the option to lock the system for all four wheels to gain traction. There is also a Hill Descent Control switch on this knob.

All and fine, but I did average 22.5 MPG in the Pathfinder. That is about where I averaged the last time I worked with this vehicle.

I like the smooth ride the Pathfinder offered. I wish the suspension did not have to roll every time I made some turn. Speaking of which, I loved the weight of the steering wheel on this rental. Turns were fine, as were the brakes. Pedal feel is good, while normal stops were fine.

The Pathfinder lineup starts with an S model with front-wheel-drive at a base price of $31,680. If my rental were for sale as a brand new unit, it would come with a sticker price of $37,225.

The purpose of doing these rental car reviews is to get something I have not worked with in a while – or something completely new to this work – and put it through my daily routine. Maybe, some road trip. These rentals give me a perspective of how a vehicle will go through after some hard miles presenting an extreme point-of-view on new vehicle ownership. Perhaps to prepare us for when these vehicles come off of the rental fleet and onto our used car lots.

While there are some levels of competency in the Nissan Pathfinder, it is showing its age. Dependable, sure. But, new vehicle customers want the latest and greatest in technology, design, engineering, and so forth – especially in the mid-size, three-row SUV segment.

I’m sure Nissan has a new Pathfinder coming soon. Hopefully one that follows the design, technological,  and engineering standards being established by their latest products, such as the just-introduced 2021 Rogue. Until then, Nissan has to pour on the hard sell on the Pathfinder – at least over at the used car section of the dealership.

DISCLAIMER: This vehicle was rented by Victory & Reseda for the purpose of publication

All photos by Randy Stern

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