By on May 26, 2017

2016 Nissan Pathfinder S, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

I have zero patience with people who make pricing comparisons between new cars and used cars. It is almost always done to show off the supposedly superior financial acumen, automotive knowledge, or enthusiast credentials of the person making the comparison. “I sure feel bad for that single mother emergency-room nurse who just wasted her money on a new CR-V. Doesn’t she know that she could get an ’86 Silver Spur for that kind of money? Or a early 308GTS roller chassis? Or a Cessna 152 that just needs a major overhaul to be pretty close to airworthy?” I have a pal, Freddy, who specializes in that sort of article for the nice folks at Jalopnik: “For the price of a new Mirage, you could be the owner of a 1991 Mercedes-Benz 600SEL with 178,000 miles on the clock and half of a wiring harness!”

Just this once, however, I am going to make an exception to my own self-imposed rule, and it goes something like this: Last week, I rented the 2016 Nissan Pathfinder S that you see above. I drove it from Columbus, Ohio, to High Point, North Carolina, over the course of a long morning. It was pretty much okay, as you will read below. If you go a Nissan showroom, you will see the 2017 Pathfinder, which offers some nontrivial improvements, starting at $30,200. And you will see the Nissan Rogue Sport, which is the company’s smallest crossover in this market, starting at $21,800 or thereabouts. But if you open up the used-car search engine of your choice, you will see that a 2016 Nissan Pathfinder S — just like the one pictured above with reasonable mileage and still very much under the factory warranty — can be had for the mildly astonishing sum of $18,000.

So let’s evaluate this Pathfinder in the context of its current price, which is $18,000. Is it worth paying less to get “more truck” than you would get with a brand-new Rogue Sport? Or should we leave questions like this to the Bring-A-Trailer types out there?


2016 Nissan Pathfinder S Rear 3/4, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

The fourth-generation Pathfinder arrived in 2013. It’s basically an Altima on stilts, related to the Murano and the Infiniti QX60. The first and third generations of Pathfinder were Frontiers with hard caps, while the second-gen “Pathy” was a unibody unicorn, a sort of weird-science Japanese take on a Grand Cherokee that somehow managed to display all the individual shortcomings typically associated with both body-on-frame and unit-construction SUVs. If you liked the Pathfinder before this one, you’ll want to shop for a used Xterra rather than consider this plump, soft, CVT-equipped tall wagon any further.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder S Side, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

The specification of the Pathfinder S is so sparse that I spent most of my drive through West Virginia thinking that I was driving a special rental-only trim. Not until the Burger King at the Beckley service island did I manage to pull up the Nissan website to find out, no, this is actually something Nissan will sell to regular people right off the street. Any attempt to enumerate the standard features of the Pathfinder S quickly devolves into the kind of stuff you used to see in print advertisements for the Chevrolet Chevette: Dual-diagonal braking system! Radial tires! Laminated safety glass! Some of the equipment choices seem just plain mean-spirited, like the power window buttons that clearly have an auto-up feature molded into a the plastic switch but which have just as clearly had that feature disabled so you’ll consider the SV or Platinum trims.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder S Interior, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

I cannot say I ever got truly comfortable behind the wheel of this Pathfinder. The seats are very high and the dashboard is very low. The tilt wheel doesn’t tilt up very high, either. I had it in my lap the whole time. This is the “command seating position” as theater, and community theater at that. It would probably work much better for a five-foot-four woman, which is a phenotype that must occur far more often in the Pathfinder owner base than does a six-two man with short legs and an ultra-long torso.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder S Shifter, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

The entire cavern, I mean, cabin is rendered in fifty slightly different shades of black. The center console is some sort of fake black bamboo that surrounds a shifter that would make anybody but Anton Yelchin yearn for a Jeep’s rotary transmission controller. Every attempt to shift into “D” results instead in a shift to “L,” which is directly behind “D” and uses the same lockout button position. This is doubly ironic because in an Pathfinder both “D” and “L” are merely different programming modes for the CVT. New Pathfinder owners will find themselves jackrabbiting out of every parking spot and gas station until they learn the appropriate shifter shuffle: Jam it down to “L” then notch it back to “D.” Once you accept the necessity of this annoyance, you will be fine.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder S Dash, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

The infotainment system appears to be two old-school LCD arrays tossed indifferently into the blank space left by the S model’s lack of a nav screen. I have to admit some genuine affection for the blocky orange displays; they made me nostalgic for the handheld electronic games of my late-Seventies childhood. There’s not quite enough resolution for a decent game of Pong, but I think I could whip up a single-pixel Adventure simulator like the early Atari VCS port, assuming that the player would be okay with a very small cave.

The sound from the stereo system was definitely recognizable as music, though it lacked much of the definition, power, and depth found in such paragons of audio reproduction as the Accord Sport, the standard-equipment iPod earbuds, and the piezo-electric speaker on the motherboard of a Packard Bell PC. It’s very well-suited for talk radio.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder S 3.5L V6 Engine, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

None of the above sounds very promising, I have to admit. But there’s some value to be had here. The familiar 3.5-liter Nissan V6, sans direct injection in all model years prior to 2017, is reasonably sprightly and never feels overwhelmed. The CVT is responsive and programmed to act in a consistent, graceful manner. If you put your foot to the floor for an impromptu freeway maneuver, you will probably be satisfied with the power on tap. Fuel economy, too, is entirely acceptable — slightly over 22 miles per gallon through the West Virginia mountains even though I rarely let the speedometer fall beneath 80 mph.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder S Cargo Seats Up, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

Road noise is more than acceptable and wind noise is almost nonexistent by the standards of the class. The seats are not luxurious but the cloth appears to be utterly unaffected by rental abuse and there is plenty of space in the first two rows.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder S Cargo Seats Down, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

With the third row down, there is a truly mighty amount of storage area available. I don’t think it’s significantly less than what you’d get from my wife’s Tahoe, although I’m not going to actually check the published storage numbers because I suspect they reflect the Tahoe’s considerably greater width. This would suit the needs of a five-person family in a way that a Nissan Rogue simply cannot.

And that is where this 2016 Pathfinder comes into its own. At eighteen grand, it’s a strong value for a family that doesn’t have money to throw away. It’s efficient, spacious, and entirely free of unnecessary frippery. There’s not much to break in the cabin. All the moving parts are well understood and reasonably reliable. It gets “Good” crash ratings across the board from the IIHS. I would feel comfortable driving my son around in this car-that-pretends-to-be-a-truck.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder S at Gas Station, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

Once upon a time, I fell in love with a woman who had two young children. She was always a few dollars away from utter financial ruin. Money didn’t mean much to her, which was good because she had no idea how to handle it. After we split up, she bought herself a Pathfinder of the generation previous to this. She drives around now with her new blended family in that Pathfinder, going to parks and lakes and things that are artsy and fun but most importantly free of charge. I think of her sometimes, completely happy in her pretense-free family wagon. You could give her an AMG G65 and she wouldn’t like it any more or get any more use out of it.

This 2016 Pathfinder is a still a good choice for owners like her. If you’re like me, then the automobile plays a starring role in your life — and star quality is one thing that the Pathy doesn’t have. But if you’re the kind of person for whom a vehicle is more of a supporting actor, then the $18,000 used Nissan wagon is absolutely Oscar-worthy.

[Images: © 2017 Jack Baruth]

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116 Comments on “2016 Nissan Pathfinder S Rental Review – Eighteen Grand...”


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    This is exactly the type of article that converted me into a TTAC reader. An actual, real world appraisal of a vehicle. No mention of G-Force, skid pads, etc. Instead just what matters to the vast majority of consumers.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      Hear hear.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      Ditto the observation that this particular vehicle makes a good 40%-off rental creampuff for the right buyer. That’s a value-added insight rarely found in car reviews.

      Bonus points for poking a finger in the eye of those who brag about driving a moldy old luxury car that consumes 90% of their free time. Whether these folks consider themselves fiscally-prudent or fashionably-eccentric, they are neither.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Weimer

        This is Jack Baruth. He *did* write an article here (successfully) arguing an old car is a luxury item.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          that wasn’t the way he framed it.

          • 0 avatar
            Jeff Weimer

            http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/no-fixed-abode-gotta-rich-cheap-car/

            Last sentence.

            If you’re saying that’s not how he framed it *here*, I disagree. He has no patience for those who tout used cars as the best option – and that was a poke in the eye and entirely consistent with his previous NFA where he had this revelation.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            the operative word in there is “CHEAP.”

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            That’s exactly how he framed it IMO. Basically he expounded upon the “privilege” of being a car guy with a second car to rely on, a job that doesn’t fire you for being late a few times a year, and the knowledge and time to tinker with stuff and do it affordably.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            I completely agree with Jack.

            I own a 50 year old Mustang. That is a privilege because I do not have to rely on it as primary transportation. I have a Toyota for that.

            I own a 13 year old F-150. It is a privilege to the point where I am only carrying liability on it because although there is no reason to sell it there is also no reason to replace it if something happens to it.

            It took me until late in my 30th decade of life to reach that level of privilege.

          • 0 avatar
            Jeff Weimer

            -the operative word in there is “CHEAP.”

            I think you’re making too fine a point.

          • 0 avatar

            “It took me until late in my 30th decade of life”

            You’re 300 years old?

        • 0 avatar
          don1967

          “This is Jack Baruth. He *did* write an article here (successfully) arguing an old car is a luxury item.”

          Yep. That article stuck with me more than 99% of what I’ve read in TTAC over the years.

          Here in the land of road salt and potholes, used-car logic starts to fall apart after 10 years or so, as undercarriage rot sets in. It makes sense to buy a 1-3 year old depreciation queen for 50% of MSRP, and then dump it around year 6-8.

    • 0 avatar
      sonos5

      I’m looking on cars.com….lowest price I see is $24k…and thats a nationwide search…

  • avatar
    DarronS

    Well said, Jack. Your last paragraph illustrates the reason I bought a 2014 BMW X1 instead of a new Honda CRV. I’m more likely to recommend the CRV to a friend looking for a car, but driving it daily would frustrate me to no end and I’d be trading it at a loss after two years. CRVs and Pathfinders are serviceable appliances, and that is what most people want.

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      People do not understand why an old X1 would be a superior choice for the enthusiast. My practical side doesnt see it either… the Rogue Xtrail is just a larger vehicle of more utility for the same weight.

      But back to the topic… I find it amazing that this thing is $18k.

      In my country even the lowest level Pathfinder is pushed as a $45k quasi lux SUV.

      IMO the $18k US poverty spec. has a lot going for it… you can fix the audio and screen and backup camera with any number of chinese 3rd party gear.

      There’s nothing terminal about the $18k S – I’d buy one and customise it to how I like.

      The plastic steering wheel? You could probably fix that with an upper spec swap.

      The bones are there. Its up to you to make it how you like.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Tony, $18k is for the used model, he was saying its a decent choice used for $18k because it does family car duty things decently, is safe, and isn’t likely to destroy one’s savings in repairs when it gets older. That last part is what I take issue with, I find it hard to trust modern FWD(-based) Nissans, and most having CVTs espeically strikes me as risky.

      • 0 avatar
        DarronS

        “People do not understand why an old X1 would be a superior choice for the enthusiast. My practical side doesnt see it either… the Rogue Xtrail is just a larger vehicle of more utility for the same weight.”

        That’s why I would be more likely to recommend a CRV to finds and family. I love the way the X1 drives. Hell, I’d recommend to CRV over the current X1 even to enthusiasts. The CRV is much more practical and drives almost as well as the much more expensive BMW.

        • 0 avatar
          joeaverage

          Or for new CRV money, you could have a 2014 MDX with 45K miles. That’s what we did.

          I expect it’ll last 200K miles plus. At 10K miles per year that’s a very long time for us. Rust is not a major factor here.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    Thanks for this, Jack. The interwebs need more of this kind of content.

    I Had a similar experience in a Pathfinder S last year. It was fine except for the hood jiggling at highway speeds, which created a distracting glare in the Florida sun. I also didn’t know $30,000 cars still don’t all have bluetooth audio.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      No bluetooth, but Nissan includes dual-zone climate control. That’s an odd way to spec a car.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        Enabling/disabling bluetooth is probably a software change, single-zone climate control probably needs hardware changes.

        You are going to increasingly see oddities like this in the future with base no frills cars. Standard would be gizmos and gadgets built into the hardware of all other trim levels so they can keep production costs low, but missing the tech options that just require changes in code (easy to build, easy to offer as an incredibly overpriced option or justify offering other trims at higher prices).

        • 0 avatar
          HotPotato

          Yeah. First time I encountered this was in an ’06 Mazda3 Touring. I was too cheap to go with the GT trim instead but I wished my car had the trip computer like the GT. Turns out it was there but deactivated; the forums explained how to activate it with the right sequence of button presses. I couldn’t believe my luck!

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            My favorite example is Ford’s DRLs. They are required in Canada but not in the US. However if it is a fleet order you can pay $40 to have them activated. So when they do the initial programing of that lighting module they check the box to load code with it turned on. However if you go in with the scanner you can turn it on and off at will.

            They will also gladly charge you $40 to have dark mode activated. Again it is just a check box on the initial programming that can also be done or undone with a scanner.

          • 0 avatar
            Sam Hall

            About a year ago, I had to have the front driver side power window module replaced in my ’12 Focus Titanium. The new module at first didn’t do auto up, just auto down. I made plans to take the car back to the dealer in a couple days, but by then it had started working correctly. Exactly as if it had communicated with some kind of main controller and been reconfigured to do both.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        And you can buy a nice touchscreen stereo from one of the stereo catalog websites for a reasonable price and install yourself.

  • avatar
    deanst

    I don’t know if better equipped pathfinders are surprisingly better than this, but it does reinforce the idea that strong sales of Nissan products are an utter mystery to me.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Nissan’s center lock for its AWD system must be pretty decent because I see AWD Rouges far muddier than they have any right to be. (Around here a muddy vehicle usually means that you were just trying to get home – not that you have any special affection for mud bog activities.)

    Point for point you nailed it, Jack.

    Good to see there’s still some room left behind the third row when it is in the up position. Should be able to stand up a few carry-on bags back there.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      The 1st gen Rogues have surprisingly decent ground clearance and lower trims have nice fat tires. My sister in law has a ’10 with over 180k miles on it now, 6 or so of those miles each day are on state game land access roads, and another 1/4 mile of their rutted gravel driveway. I believe she’s had the swaybar end links done at 160k miles and both front wheel bearings in the 130-140k range. Struts and everything else are holding up well so far, CVT is perfectly healthy (largely highway commute aside from that one piece of rugged road driving).

      Nissan deserves a bit more credit that the B&B typically gives it I think.

  • avatar
    tornado542

    Jack, no mention of the myriad of CVT problems on this model year that would bankrupt said single mother?

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      The single mother in this case has warranty protection which should out-last her bank loan. If not – and if a $6,000 repair bill would “bankrupt” her – then she should not be buying a $6,000 car let alone an $18,000 one. She should be riding the bus or using Uber.

      For a 40% discount I’d take the bet that my Pathfinder’s transmission will probably not blow up as quickly as the keyboard warriors insist. Especially if it allows me to pay cash, or at least be debt-free by the time the warranty expires.

      It’s just math.

      • 0 avatar

        Oh please an unscheduled 6k would bankrupt close to half the US population, taking the bus is not an option in 90% of the US.

        That said the CVT is not really that bad from what I can tell failures are about average for large CUV’s

      • 0 avatar
        quaquaqua

        John, for god’s sakes, do you honestly think you can pay for a $5000 repair on a monthly basis, like a car? That’s your logic?? I swear, people with money have a remarkable knack for not understanding people without money. And that’s over half the country that couldn’t afford to repair the unquestionably TERRIBLE transmissions they put in these Pathfinders.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          This is Don:

          http://www.theonion.com/blogpost/an-open-letter-to-a-starving-child-10972

        • 0 avatar
          joeaverage

          So rather than buying a $20K vehicle this fictional woman prob ought to buy a $10K vehicle and bank the other $10K for a rainy day. Pay it off, keep making payments to her savings account – and pay cash the next time ’round.

          We did this exact thing with an unloved but presentable and reliable domestic sedan for $2K. Now several years later we have sold it for $300 less than we paid for it. And we’ve moved on to the next vehicle.

          In reality I suspect the same fictional person without the financial creativity to consider that they might not be able to afford a $20K vehicle (even though the payments are affordable THIS month) won’t have the foresight to buy something cheaper and bank the extra.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Oh just use a bus or Uber, because nobody lives outside the city. Nobody. Just like nobody lives far away from an EV charging network. Its a myth perpetrated by fly-over state-dwelling Duck Dynasty fans excusing their awful cheap Silverado High Country when they could have a LEAF instead.

        If you aren’t rich like *everyone*, walk 24 miles and ride the bus the last 4 go your McJob, rather than run the risk of a transmission repair. You don’t need a car. I KNOW you, nothing about your life requires a car.

        Your kids will be waiting in front of the school at 10pm when you finally get there to wait another hour for the bus, before that 24 mile walk to get them home. Invest in your 401k. Plan your retirement from the Dollar General 30 years in advance and never worry because problems don’t happen to people without money. Shop at the mall. Things are great.

        Signed,
        Richy McNeverStruggle

    • 0 avatar
      Joss

      Wonder if Jack’s nailed repairfinders CVT issue with D & L?

  • avatar
    tonycd

    Damn, Jack, you’re on a roll this week.

    I’m the kind of geek who’s the only one in my family of enthusiasts utterly uninterested in six-figure, 400-horsepower two-seaters. I just can’t relate to them because they don’t serve the function of a “car.” I’m precisely your target audience for green-eyeshade analyses like this.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    -The interior looks very cheap.
    -I don’t like dark Nissan cloth. (Shows lint and grabs your clothes.)
    -Shifter design is awful.

    BUT

    -VQ35 is no worries.
    -22MPG when you’re not going easy on it is great for a fairly big SUV.
    -The rest will be reliable.
    -And it’s cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Clothes grabbing is OK on a date.

      It’s bad when the date is your Nissan. But I guess the good news is that a Nissan is a cheap date.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “The rest will be reliable.”

      A few others have mentioned this, the CVT in the first few years of this CUV-ified Pathfinder did in fact have fairly widespread CVT issues with many getting replaced. Having said that I think the worst of the issues have been mitigated(?)

      Perhaps somewhat tellingly, my neighbors down the street were a two-midsize CUV family (three small kids and a small dog). One car is a 2011ish Highlander, the other was a loaded up ’13 or ’14 Pathfinder. The Pathfinder was traded in on a upper trim Odyssey, not the older Highlander (which would have had much better resale for the year/mileage). I strongly suspect CVT issues.

      • 0 avatar
        Corey Lewis

        Wah oh, do not trust quite yet then. I wonder if it’s the weight causing the issues – this is the heaviest Nissan thing with a CVT in it.

      • 0 avatar

        Looking at the forumns 13-14, bad 15 better with minor updates. 16 and up is a redesigned CVT with quite a few changes apparently. Nissan seems all over the map with CVTS really varies by year how they hold up. Looking up the quest for instance shows far fewer issues.

  • avatar
    jh26036

    I guess this is better than the Dodge Journey for low spec 3-row people mover. This Pathfinder appears to be a FWD model so a Dodge Caravan is probably the same value as this when used.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      Oh, yeah he needs to say whether it’s AWD or FWD. The fuel economy number doesn’t impress if it’s FWD.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        It’s FWD. There’s no badge on the hatch. Even an AWD base spec Pathfinder receives the little “AWD” badge on the rear.

        • 0 avatar
          Corey Lewis

          Well then, this is a nice Altima wagon.

        • 0 avatar
          jh26036

          I only noticed it because there is no AWD rotary knob next to the shifter.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I had a Grand Caravan “GT” last week with less than 2k miles on it for a rental. I was quite impressed with the features and how it drove for being an ‘old’ platform. Got an easy 25mpg going 75mph+ on the highway, and the utility and interior room is obviously hard to beat. Lightly used ex-rentals go for about $20k-21k (including certified). That gets you heated seats and heated steering wheel, nav, pleather seats, voice commands to connect bluetooth and such.

            Mine did have an unsettling “clunk” into overdrive on a warming-up transmission, a reminder that you’re driving a ChryCo van and what you might be in for transmission wise. How a Chrysler van stacks up in reliability to a CUV Pathfinder is anyone’s guess. I’d give the nod to the Nissan, CVT and all.

      • 0 avatar
        SirRaoulDuke

        Jack posted his fuel economy for the West Virginia Turnpike, going south with lots of uphill driving. 22 mph at 80 mph on that route in this size of SUV is pretty damn good.

  • avatar
    omer333

    Damn, I wish I found one of these over a now ten-year-old MDX for my wife. The MDX carried the same price as the Pathy in Utah, because EVERYONE HAS TO HAVE AWD.

    I’ve resigned myself to the fact I was probably screwed.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Unfortunately, people like the single mother mentioned at the end of the article probably don’t read TTAC.
    .
    .

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      You nailed it. People in tight financial condition ought to be studying personal finance and retirement blogs every day until they have their financial life in order.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I think your analogy is spot on. If you car does NOT have a starring role in your life get and you need a SUV get used rental rocket pathfinder or if a car with good mpg is your need used rental rocket Camry. As far as a new Pathfinder goes, I just don’t see the value. The technology is too old, anvil like as compared to what you can get in other showrooms for the same money.

    I don’t miss my Frontier that I had for 18 months one bit. Nissan seats, at least in poverty spec rigs, are just awful. I could handle my Frontier for about 100 miles and then I was done.

    • 0 avatar
      Mandalorian

      New Pathfinders are not a bad value considering they are often heavily discounted. A fully loaded Pathfinded + discounts competes price with with a low-mid level Highlander/Pilot/Explorer.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    “the piezo-electric speaker on the motherboard of a Packard Bell PC”

    I love when Jack’s computer nerd comes out.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      The dig at the Accord Sport, an Accord LX with big wheels and a spoiler (and lousy stereo), got my attention!

      Honda, make that a package throughout the lineup! (Then they wouldn’t have to saddle the Touring with 19-inchers with paper-thin sidewalls!)

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        Accord Sport SE is a hidden gem though, if you can get over the lousy stereo. Optional manual transmission, and heated leather seats. $100 in aftermarket speakers will fix 80% of the sound quality problem.

        My only real complaint would be the lack of a carplay/AA availability, but it still has bluetooth and USB, so the infotainment is functional enough.

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    Anton Yelchin.

    :snort:

    Too soon?

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    As good of a value as this may be, its austerity depresses me. It’s like a Versa that crossed paths with some nuclear waste.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Having a 2013 Rogue for nearly a year it seems like some of the issues are across all the tall wagon ranges. Our sound system sucks. The BT integration sucks. The seating sucks. Last week I found the CVT in low as I left the parking lot. You are tight there isn’t much to stop it from going all the way back. You have to go to neutral, release the button and then drop it into drive. The doors automatically lock when you start it, but you can’t open either front door from the inside unless you unlock them. This is the first vehicle I have owned that was that way.

    That said, the only issues I hate that also bother my wife is the seats so as long as she doesn’t drive far she is OK with it.

    One of the few redeeming qualities of the car is it has low trade in value. Because of the low trade in value my mother in law gave it to us rather than trade it. So I guess for what we have in it, it is a decent value.

    Since we are comparing to acting roles, I would say it is like Hayden Christensen’s portrayal of Anakin Skywalker.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Seems more like Nissan problems than “tall wagon” problems. I experienced horrible seats, a terrible sound system, and other annoyances in a later-model Altima.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Seat preference isn’t universal and the Accord has a garbage stereo as well. That said, the Rogue’s seats and driving position are so bad I don’t think I’d even bother test driving it. 40 seconds in the showroom was sufficient.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Which demonstrates just how subjective these things are.

          We just acquired a new Rogue because of all the vehicles in that segment, its seats and seating position were the ones that all potential drivers in our family felt comfortable with.

          I have problems with sciatica, caused by driving for many years/miles with my wallet in my right back pocket. Have found that seats with intrusive side or front bolsters create the most discomfort for me.

          While I used to prefer the PLC driving position with the wheel low and tight and my legs stretched to reach the pedals, I am now much more comfortable with the traditional Italian ‘gorilla’ driving position.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      Horrible seats is a Nissan feature in my experience. I haven’t sat in one since the Altima grew in size that I liked outside of a Z. I feel like I should say sat on rather than in, because that is the disconcerting feeling that nissan seats nearly always give me.

  • avatar
    punkybrewstershubby aka Troy D.

    Excellent article!

    But! The first-gen Pathfinder was simply a D21 truck with a wagon body. And it had those triangular side windows. Triangular side windows!

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Worth mentioning too that the R51 (3rd gen, BOF) Pathfinder deviated significantly from the truck platform on which it is based (along with the Xterra, Armada) by having an independent rear suspension. I don’t care for it at all, the third row sucks anyways, and it is sprung stiffly to the point that a 5-link solid rear axle 4Runner of the same age rides much better IMO. The Xterra kept the truck-like leaf springs and solid rear axle, not an ideal solution either. In that case they put in a super soft leaf pack to help with ride, all it does is give the Xterra a pathetic 895lb payload and make it bottom out even on the street. Nissan should have put in a coil-sprung solid rear axle in both the Pathfinder and Xterra, and gotten a superior result in both cases.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    We are entering MY18, so a MY16 is two MYs old and was probably built sometime in 2015. Unless “reasonable mileage” is about 10-12K otc, but more likely close to 40-50, its a definite pass.

    This thing new at the end of the MY for like 20ish (so MY17 in August or thereabouts) might be a buy.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    I literally* laughed at the picture of the center stack. That LCD display just screams “we don’t give a sh!t.”

    * yes, literally as in literally.

  • avatar
    TeamInstinct

    What in the world is up with that silver piece of plastic that surrounds the gear lever? Why does it get so big at the rear? It’s so ugly.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    This kind of used vs. new makes more sense because the used car is a recent-year low mileage example of a model with nosedive depreciation. It’s a lot of car for $18K. Granted that’s true in the same way that the 48-pack of socks on Amazon is a lot of footwear for the money, but a lot of people just want wheels that fit the family.

    Used for $18K is the way to buy this Pathfinder as I don’t imagine it would be a satisfying way of spending $30K. The Pathfinder is now a characterless shell of its nameplate, reduced to the lowest common denominator of contemporary consumer trends. Beyond the form factor, it’s kind of an amorphous blob, CVT fragility rumors abound, and fuel economy of the AWD version is only 1 mpg better than a 4Runner if the Consumer Reports testing procedure is to be believed.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “fuel economy of the AWD version is only 1 mpg better than a 4Runner if the Consumer Reports testing procedure is to be believed.”

      I saw similar real-world results in renting a 4Runner SR5 4wd and a Explorer Limited (3.5NA, AWD) for the same drive with same driving style (72ish mph laid back cruise). 4Runner was showing 20mpg, Explorer 21 mpg. The CUV advantage is definitely not in MPG when comparing midsize vs midsize.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Yeah, I noticed that awhile ago when I was researching fuel economy figures before purchasing the 4Runner. It didn’t change the fact that the 4Runner uses a lot of fuel, but it was somehow validating to see a number of low-slung CUVs with no off pavement ability and newer drivetrains getting very similar economy and acceleration results.

        The Pilot, Highlander, and Sorento start paying some dividends there, though.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Another place where the unibody CUVs don’t quite give as big of a benefit as claimed is interior/cargo space. For the purposes of this biased claim I will ignore third rows (the ones in BOF SUVs with solid rear axles are crap admittedly short of gen 1 Sequoia or Suburban). Seat up/seat down cargo room in the 4Runner is damn close to the pathfinder, Explorer, Highlander, Sorento, etc. In fact it beats them in total seat down cargo space last I checked. The second row in the 4Runner is plenty roomy and comfortable as well. And on top of all of that, you get that fabulous roll down rear window.

          The CUV angle is truly if you insist on a third row, and really place an emphasis on more car like handling. And the AWD systems in the CUVs as pathetic as they are are more useful and user friendly on slick paved roads than the non-Limited 4Runner’s part time system.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I never thought I’d say this, given that it’s probably my biggest pet peeve in auto design, but please, if you’re not going to give this car foglights, add some black plastic inserts to the front fascia.

    Even that would be better than just painting over the empty circular mould where the lights belong. I’ve never seen a company do that before. How incredibly cheap!

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    It’s basically dead even wit the Tahoe on cargo space. Pathfinder has more with third row up, Tahoe has more with third row folded.

    Pathfinder cargo volume: 16 cubic ft behind 3rd row, 47.8 with third row folded
    Tahoe cargo volume: 15.3 cubic ft behind third row, 51.7 with third row folded

    For comparison sake, the upcoming 2018 Traverse is 23 cubic ft behind the third row and 58.1 with third row folded.

    All pale in comparison to the almighty minivan, with the Pacifica offering 32.3 cubic ft behind the third row and 87.5 with the third row folded, while still offering a payload rating competitive with the BoF Tahoe, but of course, as utility goes up, your cool factor plunges for driving a mommy mobile, which clearly something like the Pathfinder isn’t.

  • avatar
    ajla

    In Freddy’s defense, he’s writing for an enthusiast audience, it seems he practices what he preaches, and he’s fairly transparent about the ownership experience.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Yeah the Freddy guy is alright. Out of the whole Jalop crew, he and David Tracey are cool dudes. They do their own wrenching document it. The rest of the nu-male crew is highly questionable.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        I haven’t ventured to Jalopnic since I created a screen name and started commenting here.

        Its like trying to eat a piece of nasty cake with good frosting throughout it. The good isn’t worth the crap you have to dig through.to get it.

    • 0 avatar
      baggins

      I enjoy Freddy’s stuff. He has enthusiasm for what he does and seems genuine.

      His point is that, if you are willing to work on your car, spend a lot time reseaching how to do it, and deal with the inconvenience, you can drive and interesting car for less moeny

      I dont think he would recommend a 12 year AMG to a single mom.

  • avatar
    GermanReliabilityMyth

    I feel compelled to offer my $0.02 on this, but I’d be wise to don my flame-retardant comment suit.

    The whole running gag with Nissan equates to guaranteed CVT failure, credit criminals buyers and that they’re garbage is a bit rote. My current opinion on them is that they’ve sort of usurped some of Mitsubishi’s identity as offering vehicles nearly as solid as their competitors for less and only being somewhat slightly rougher around the edges for the discount.

    How do I know? Well some of you may be aware of my Nissan Quest (haven’t died yet in a frontal small overlap collision yet, BTW). I liked how that drove, so when a life change put me on a longer commute, I decided to cast off my ’14 Sportwagen 2.5 SE in favor of a ’16 Altima 3.5 SR. After a few weeks in it, I’m of the belief that I bought the drivetrain, particularly the VQ35DE, and they threw in a car along with the deal. The dealer was very interested in getting it off their lot, so I did very well for myself.

    Since it was a holdover, I didn’t get to take advantage of current captive manufacturer financing, although I would’ve qualified for it. Instead, I went to my bank and negotiated a very low rate, thanks to my credit score that sits closer to 900 than any other number. In my opinion, it isn’t *quite* as polished as an Accord, but it fits me better in most dimensions and the seats, driving dynamics and tiller are superior. Better still, it’s yielded over 28 miles per gallon on my commute route, which is biased toward city driving at a rate of 60/40. And it’s that’s during the break-in period.

    As someone who used to make their car(s) the star of their life’s story, my kids now enjoy that role, and now I’m satisfied with trading some character for different qualities. I’m okay with that chapter of my life being concluded, at least for now, but maybe my priorities will change in the future. In the mean time the Altima is a good supporting actor, to use Jack’s metaphor. Count me among those who enjoyed this piece.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Curious as to why you cast off the Sportwagen. I had a 2010 with that engine and thought the excellent seats, driving position, and road noise control would make it a pretty good long-commuter. Though, if your Altima is an afterthought car wrapped around a fine drivetrain, the Sportwagen is a fine car wrapped around an afterthought drivetrain.

      I won’t flame you for the more charitable view on Nissan. We bought an ex-rental 2012 Altima as a cheap kid-hauler that frankly isn’t bad to drive either.

      • 0 avatar
        GermanReliabilityMyth

        That’s a fair question, 30-mile. I think part of it can be attributed to my self-diagnosed automotive ADD and part of it was little niggling things that came up as I put more daily miles on the Sportwagen. I should say that that was a very good value, though maybe not quite the value of the Altima, and polished around the edges. The interior was good quality, it consistently got 26 MPG and had pretty good driving dynamics.

        The parts that bugged me was that highway mileage never crested 28 or 29 MPG even when going 65-70 MPH, the automatic transmission was somewhat laggy, the interior was somewhat cramped, the seats became more uncomfortable as I lost weight, the suspension felt firmer than it was due to the short wheel base and it had right-hand pull that an alignment or tire rotation just wouldn’t fix. You’d be right to ask whether I even test drove the thing, but these issues either exposed themselves over the 19,200 miles we owned it or become more obvious when I started using it as my primary driver.

        All of those issues were largely addressed by the change in vehicles. Nearly 40% more power for similar, or better, mileage, more interior room, larger seats, a longer wheel base and greater comfort, it tracks straight and is overall well suited for its role.

        In regard to your insight on how the cars wrapper and contents are the inverse of one another, I’d largely agree. That said, the 2.5 is still a little gem of an engine, but its real claim to fame is the damning praise of “reliable for a Volkswagen.” I’d actually consider that Sportwagen as the closest modern iteration of the beloved Volvo 245.

        So in the end, the net result is an improvement. If the Altima had nothing else going for it besides the seats and the VQ, I’d probably still have selected it because that engine is so enjoyable.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          Interesting perspective. We kept our wagon until 85K miles and fortunately had no issues. Tracked just dead straight and stable on the highway, I loved the way that car handled 85mph interstate cruising. The manual transmission livens up the 2.5 and I do like the unique sound and the low & relaxed power curve of that engine. But you’re right–29mpg is typical and a 3.5L rocketship sedan burns no more while giving you two full echelons of additional power. Once you know that, it’s hard to forget it at every fueling stop. Seats are tough; everyone’s different and it can take far longer than even a thorough test drive to discover some deficiencies there.

          • 0 avatar
            GermanReliabilityMyth

            During our first long trip with it, we had a near miss and ended up on the shoulder for a few seconds at highway speed, which I suspect may have affected a control arm. But who can say for sure besides the alignment tech? :)

            You’re right on with all the points you made and nailed the power-to-efficiency thing I mentioned. As far as seats go, the JSW had seats that were a tad narrow for someone as wide as me, but I’m still adjusting to the Altima’s seats. Although my lower back is free of discomfort (which wasn’t the case before), I’m trying to find the perfect position for leg and thigh comfort.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            GRM,

            Very interesting to hear the feedback on a 3.5 Altima. That’s definitely a bargain rocketship, reminiscent of the older Maximas when they cheaped out from the 4DSC halicon days but prior to weird French bloat. The current Maxima is just way to overwrought IMO, the potent VQ motor in the lighter weight Altima is just the ticket. If only they made one with a stick shift!

            My brief experience with a ’00 Maxima last year left me with a bag of mixed emotions, that on balance I’d call positive and I actually miss driving the thing. Picking up a cast-off 3.5 Altima sounds like a way to relive the previous Maxima experience but with a not-worn out car.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      The comparison to Mitsubishi is more than accurate, but not for the reasons you cite. Its more like “trust us, this is a Japanese car, it’s just like a Honda or Toyota” and then you get to 100k and everything starts falling apart. The car’s value tanks, it ends up being one failure away from the junkyard much sooner than it should be.

      They’re disposable cars, and if you don’t keep it long-term, I can see how one could get the impression that it’s not that bad.

      If you bought a course 4 cylinder-equipped cheap model Altima, you’d be begging for the VW back by now.

      • 0 avatar
        GermanReliabilityMyth

        John, I would definitely still be driving the VW if the 3.5 was not available to me.

      • 0 avatar

        Nissan are not honda or toyotas but they aren’t VW’s either. In my experience the average Mitsubishi or Nissan will hold up about as well or a little better then a US big 3 car. Much like the big 3 the key is to pick the right model and the right year. I know plenty of people who have racked up 200-250k miles in Maxima’s and Altimas. Personally I would take a Nissan well before I grabbed another Subaru.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    “Off-brand” models such as this that just aren’t very competitive as new cars are often great buys as late model used cars because the resale value is terrible yet they are ok appliance type vehicles. The real mystery is why anyone would buy something like this new in the first place, although I expect fleet buyers get huge discounts to take the sting away and they don’t actually have to drive it.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Credit criminals buy the Altima because they couldn’t get financed for anything else, then the Pathfinder because they already had a Nissan.

      Brand loyalty is real.

  • avatar
    St.George

    Time to get the flame suit on!

    Yes, we bought one of these new at the end of 2015.

    My wife didn’t want a minivan but wanted three rows. The Pathfinder (just under $25k new) was way cheaper than a Highlander although I know that a Toyota will have lower depreciation. We expect to keep this for as many years with no plans to swap it out any time soon.

    We have 2 children (6 & 8) but despite that got the lighter beige interior which considerably cheers things up (& so far has held up well).

    Things to like:-
    – Plenty of room
    – Space in trunk even with 3rd row up
    – Quiet, calm driving experience
    – It’s no sports car but has plenty of power for what it is
    – Decent towing believe it or not
    – Split climate control plus separate rear controls
    – Decent value and of course easy financing! (here come the myriad of Dave Ramsey like financial TTAG commentators)

    Negatives:-
    – No Bluetooth (that is annoying….)
    – Stereo sucks in all honesty, particularly the radio. CD’s are a little more acceptable
    – A little spartan in its equipment ‘issue’ but I guess less to go wrong and my wife isn’t big into car gadgets and gizmo’s anyway

    • 0 avatar

      BCT450 (probably a new Model by now) plugged into the aux in….you got bluetooth phone and music. $45. You need bluetooth today, it’s not a luxury item.

      If you need reality perspective as to what folks really drive, go to any chain auto parts store in a ‘less desirable’ part of town, or just look at reddits’ “just rolled into the shop”.

      • 0 avatar
        newenthusiast

        “You need bluetooth today, it’s not a luxury item.”

        In all seriousness, since I don’t use my phone in the car, is this how most buyers feel now, or just younger ones? Wouldn’t plugging in the USB connector give you the exact same functionality AND charge your battery at the same time?

        My car is old enough to only have the bluetooth function for phone calls only, so I literally have no idea if the idea of pushing a button on a steering wheel or dashboard is now considered poverty spec even in basic transport vehicles. Because that sounds insane to me. They’d rather look at and fiddle with their phone or a touchscreen than use muscle memory and push something on the wheel?

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    This is a great piece, which eloquently describes the difference between “wants” and “needs” , but I’d have to think a Kia Sedona with 0% financing and 100k warranty( and a torque convertor automatic to boot) would better serve this demographic.
    edit: this wasn’t meant as a reply to above post, it just ended up there chronologically. Minivans don’t work for everyone.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    “The sound from the stereo system was definitely recognizable as music, though it lacked much of the definition, power, and depth found in such paragons of audio reproduction as the Accord Sport, the standard-equipment iPod earbuds, and the piezo-electric speaker on the motherboard of a Packard Bell PC.”

    But never fear, it’s better than 100% of any and all aftermarket audio ever made. Or so I’ve heard…

  • avatar
    legacygt

    If looking for value alone, I’d be curious how a used Quest stacks up in terms of price. If I wasn’t interested in AWD and wanted something with three rows off the Nissan lot, I’d drive away with a Quest. If I needed AWD and was shopping price, I’d settle for this Pathfinder and feel like a genius knowing how much this shares with the QX60. And every time I had to keep my finger on the switch for the entire time it takes for the window to go down, I’d feel fine knowing that the effort saved me $30-40K.


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