By on August 29, 2016

2017 Nissan Pathfinder blue front quarter

Car shoppers who need to carry more than four people should buy vans. Full stop. The minivan form factor is superior in nearly every manner to the SUV; from passenger comfort, to cargo room, to flexibility, the van wins. Yet American shoppers have largely abandoned the symbol of Eighties momness for the three-row crossover, this decade’s mom taxi.

While Nissan has offered minivans in various forms since the mid-80s, it’s a relative newcomer to the three-row CUV market with the 2013 Pathfinder. For 2017, Nissan has refreshed the Pathfinder — inside, outside, and underneath — all in an effort to make this big wagon appeal to all manner of drivers.

Including those who should be buying vans.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder blue profile

Nissan’s styling of the Pathfinder has been all over the map for the last 30 years. The ‘87 model was basically a truck with a built-in cap. Later models remained a rugged body-on-frame SUV through a few generations, including a V8 powered, off-road capable mid-sized beast. A new, softer Pathfinder arrived in 2014 sharing a platform with the smaller Murano and the Altima sedan.

While Pathfinder enthusiasts cried that their beloved truck was no longer, buyers disagreed. Nissan claims the new, three row, unibody Pathfinder had a 90-percent sales increase over the previous generation. Our own Tim Cain’s numbers at GoodCarBadCar.net bear this out: the 2005-2012 Pathfinder averaged around 44,000 units moved per year, while the newest generation averages over 83,000 per year.

The newest iteration brings a host of styling changes aimed at emphasizing the SUV-ness, if that’s a word, of the Pathfinder. While the platform isn’t changed, the front and rear receive more sculpting with harder, more defined edges to make the big Nissan look a bit more butch. The front and rear fenders have a slightly sharper edge to them — again recalling the older, truck-oriented predecessors. The changes, including a more distinct corporate “V-Motion” grille, do slightly improve the Pathfinder’s drag coefficient from .34 to .326.

The example I tested, a loaded Platinum 4WD edition, wears LED headlamps as well as the LED daytime running lamps found on all Pathfinder models. As my time with the Pathfinder was sadly brief — and completely daylit — I can’t speak to their effectiveness in darkness.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder blue rear

The interior is where the Pathfinder shines against the CUV competition, as it simply feels bigger and more airy than other three-row options. Head and shoulder room are plentiful in all three rows, and legroom is equally excellent in the front two rows. Passengers relegated to the stern will be displeased unless they are young, limber, or short of stature, as the seat cushion is mounted rather close to the floor.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder seats

I’m certain my seven-year-old would be quite happy in the cheap seats, as she has a booster that will at once keep her feet on the floor and her knees from uncomfortable angles. Her older sister, quickly approaching five-feet tall, would not be as complimentary. Accessing those rear seats is quite simple, however, with a sliding middle row that eases entry — even if a child seat is fitted.

The Platinum model that I tested has a leather-lined interior that befits the $44,460 as tested price (including $900 in destination charges). The faux wood trim in the center stack and atop the console isn’t the most convincing I’ve seen, but sports a refreshing matte finish. The aluminum-look trim atop the center-mounted touchscreen is similarly low-gloss and brushed, which should eliminate distracting reflections in that line of sight. Unfortunately, many other surfaces, including the cupholders, are trimmed with bright polished “chrome,” which can and will reflect stray rays within the cabin and heat up to searing temperatures when sitting in the summer sun.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder interior

Nissan is rightfully proud of its VQ series of V6 engines. So proud, in fact, that any review of a Nissan product requires writers and editors search thesauruses for synonyms for ubiquitous. The VQ is found in everything from the Altima to the 370Z to (in highly modified form) the GT-R. The competition never stops improving, however, so Nissan made some significant upgrades for this refreshed Pathfinder.

The biggest change is direct fuel injection, or Direct Injection Gas (DIG) in Nissanspeak. More precise fueling should help both power and efficiency. Other changes include an improved intake manifold and more effective electronic variable valve timing. A new “Mirror Bore” molten iron finish on the cylinder bores minimizes friction losses and improves efficiency.

These changes add up to 284 horsepower at 6,400 rpm (up 24 hp from last year’s Pathfinder) and 259 pounds-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm (up 19 lbs-ft from previous). These power increases help the Pathfinder to a class-leading 6,000-pound tow rating, a full half-ton more than last year. The extra grunt doesn’t hinder the Pathfinder’s efficient aspirations; a 20 mile per gallon rating in the city and 27 mpg on the highway continue unchanged.

Now to the transmission, again a frequent refrain heard when discussing Nissan. The automaker has stood fast to the continuously variable transmission as an efficient means of transferring power to the road, despite complaints from auto journalists and confusion from unknowing drivers. The main concern stems from the proper operation of the CVT — Xtronic in Nissanese — where the engine maintains a somewhat-constant speed. This rev-hanging causes a droning sound from the engine bay, which can be at unpleasant or disconcerting.

Nissan has recalibrated the programming of this third-generation Xtronic with D-Step Logic Control, which simulates the jarring motion of an automatic transmission changing ratios.

During my test, I found myself forgetting the Pathfinder was equipped with a CVT. I drove a 2008 Sentra for several months as a company car, and the droning noise was infuriating. Not so with the Pathy. There was only one moment, where I was travelling at a steady 30 mph and matted the pedal, when a brief surge of noise from the engine room marked the Pathfinder’s hesitation. “Are you sure?” it asked, then accelerated after a brief pause. Otherwise, I doubt any driver seriously shopping the Pathfinder will notice the CVT.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder dashboard

The Pathfinder I tested has a touchscreen with smartphone-like pinch-to-zoom capability integrated into its navigation system. As simple as it was to use, the maps were woefully lacking even on our short test loop in suburban Detroit, with many roads not appearing at all on the screen. Naturally, my driving partner and I missed a turn, requiring a retreat to an iPhone’s map.

The same screen, of course, controls the audio system, which provided good quality tunes either via SiriusXM or paired via Bluetooth.

Perhaps the most useful feature on the Pathfinder’s screen is the Around View Monitor that pairs the standard rearview camera with a top-down view of the entire car, which is immensely helpful while parking. New this year, Nissan pairs this with Moving Object Detection, which will alert the driver to small children, soccer balls, and pets that may be moving around the vehicle. While thankfully I didn’t get the opportunity to test this capability, it looks to be another helpful tool to minimize a chance tragedy behind the wheel.

Other safety technologies include forward emergency braking and collision warning, which uses grille-mounted radar to mitigate the consequences of momentary distractions.

Nissan offers the NissanConnect system, which gives a suite of cellphone-linked services to make using the Pathfinder more convenient. Remote locking and unlocking, emergency calling, and remote starting can all be handled through the NissanConnect smartphone app. NissanConnect is included for six months, and costs between $12 and $25/month, depending on the package chosen, after the initial trial period.

As mentioned earlier, I was particularly attuned to the performance of the Xtronic CVT while testing the new Pathfinder. I was pleasantly surprised to find it performed mostly seamlessly: there was no droning, no rev-hanging. I quickly forgot about the transmission altogether.

One other complaint many have leveled against the Nissan VQ series engine is its exhaust note. In older models, the sound has been rather unpleasant; the best way I can describe it is “hollow.” The new VQ35DD has somehow changed that aspect. While it’s remarkably quiet within the vehicle, the exhaust note outside gives a much more pleasant, guttural growl.

Some engines fitted with direct fuel injection can exhibit a clatter from the engine that is almost diesel-like. While I did notice a subdued ticking with the hood open, nothing was noticeable either inside or outside the car with the hood closed.

I didn’t get to hustle this CUV around any parking lot cones — no burnouts, no drifting, sadly — but it was quite composed around corners, with minimal lean considering its bulk and high center of gravity. Over a gravelly, washboard-like surface, the steering wheel was isolated from the road — I felt basically nothing — but it should minimize fatigue over long days of driving.

I have to ask myself two questions when evaluating any new car: Would I buy it? And does it do what it should? While it certainly works nicely as an SUV, I’m not certain I’d give up my minivan for the new Pathfinder. But it’s the closest CUV I’ve yet found to my van, and that gives me pause.

[Images: © 2016 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars]

Nissan provided the test vehicle for review and a pleasant lunch in a barn.

Chris Tonn is the Large Editor at Large for Car Of The Day, a classic-car focused site highlighting cool and unusual finds.

Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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108 Comments on “2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD – The CUV That Thinks It’s A Minivan...”


  • avatar
    VW16v

    Nissan’s version of the Honda pilot minivan is actually a great vehicle. Resale value is the major issue with this Pathfinder. In this department Honda destroys this Pathfinder minivan.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The second-gen Pathfinder was a unibody like the Cherokee. Xterra was BOF.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Thanks for correcting that and sparing me the effort bumpy, my autism was off the charts when I read that ;)

      My other nit to pick is singling out the lame-duck R51 trucks (the final BOF ones) as the ‘offroad beasts.’ The two prior generations are definitely more capable due to chassis geometry (better angles and clearance) and their solid rear axles.

  • avatar
    markf

    A minivan without the convenience of sliding doors…….

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      +1

      It also offers no aesthetic advantages over a minivan. In person it just looks awkward and bloated from every angle.

      • 0 avatar
        brenschluss

        No surprise, it typically seems to appeal to people who look awkward and bloated from every angle themselves.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          Thanks for noticing me and it has a decent greenhouse!

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Haha.

            When I think of vans with no slidey doors, greenhouses and awkward and derpy syling – the Isuzu Oasis is the only thing for me.

          • 0 avatar
            Chocolatedeath

            Kenmore, there you go again making me laugh.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Kenmore, does your compressor use R12 or R134a?

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Oh, hell, 28… R134a?

            Dat shit keel U.

            Good ol’ R12. Otherwise we be takin’ all kinda sh1t for Low-T and high plaque.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Oh, hell, 28… R134a?

            Dat sh1t keel U.

            Good ol’ R12. Otherwise we be takin’ all kinda sh1t for Low-T and high plaque.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Gotta watch the plaque in your coolant circulation system.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            *crushes up sodium tablets, mixing them with Alka Seltzer*

            Here you go!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            That’s too acidic for his compressor.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Thanks, Corey, but lady of the house don’t like it when I farts. For t’ree hour.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Corey what about the gen 1 MPV!

            I truly bemoan the lack of a similar option in the modern era: solid rear axle and part-time transfer case with selectable center diff lock for respectable offroad performance (much more so than any of these FWD-based machines), minivan-style interior layout and roofline for maximum utlity and outward visibility. All with a very tidy footprint. Albeit cargo space with the third row in use wasn’t that great.

            I’d argue the MPV was one of the world’s first three row crossovers: car-platform based (929, with a B-series rear axle), available 4wd/AWD, three rows with regular swing out doors (4 with lowering windows on 96+ cars), butched up pseudo SUV styling with wheel arch flares, meaty tires, and two tone paint schemes. The manual 4wd (major unicorn factor) was the only trim to receive a transfer case with a selectable low range sadly.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Ah yes, I forget about the gen 1 MPV. If Eagle had made it to the CUV craze era, they’d surely have made something similar.

            The MPV in upper trims with two tone, nice leather and sunroof is something to see!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @gtemnykh

            I had a co-worker who had a gen 1 imported from Arizona. This thing was a hoot, it is exactly what is needed today and is not what is being produced.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Yep my family scooped up an off-lease ’98 AllSport 4×4 ES with every single option (towing package with load leveling shocks and transmission and oil cooler) back in 2001, after getting a lot of good use out of our ’89 RWD 4cyl model. The good old days of used car prices, where a clean 3 year old MPV with 30k miles that sold for $33k new was now only $18k. Interior is cheaper in the ’98 with more hard plastic and just a cheaper more generic looking style, but still a very nice place to be. Both cars are still in the family although no longer in front-line service. Rust and expensive and hard to find parts are the one thing I would be weary of, but aside from that they are quite reliable/durable, and very straightforward to work on and maintain.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @gtemnykh

            The Russian “it must work” mindset is what is sorely needed in USDM product design, instead we get the opposite.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            28 cars that mindset is why I like to sing the praises of the Land Cruiser Prado/4Runner platform on here. When I poke around a brand new 2016 4Runner, I see that the frame layout and rear suspension is almost literally the same thing that was on my ’96. “If it ain’t broke..” and all that. Easy to wrench on, no fiddly pinch welds to look for to pick a spot to jack the truck up, just pick anywhere on the frame that you see fit. The MPVs both have rotted out front jack-mount points. Aside from the frame thing, and the vastly better motor in the Toyota (Mazda motor is mostly reliable but a slug), they are equally simple as the 4Runner to work on, albeit I prefer the 4Runner’s serviceable driveshaft with easily replaced u-joints to the MPV’s staked-in design. The aftermarket workaround to the staked in joints is not pleasant to install, and the home-brew method of balancing the shaft is not the safest thing in the world (although plenty effective). In essence you lift the rear axle off the ground and put the car in drive. You have two hose clamps on the driveshaft with the screw part facing 180 degrees apart from each other. You take a piece of chalk on a stick and bring it to the shaft as it spins evenly. Wherever your chalk nicked is the high spot, and needs balancing opposite it. Through trial and error you adjust your hose clamps as if they were weights to counter the high spot. I was able to basically eliminate driveshaft vibration up to 75+ mph on that ’98 MPV using this method, post u joint replacement.

            I’m always fascinated to check out mazda “efini” MPVs when I go to Russia, they’re all diesels over there and RHD with neato JDM accessories like obnoxiously huge window rain guards and fender and tailgate mirrors.

            People sure do use them over there to their full capabilities:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbKEmDKzMI0
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRroSWIzDJg
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fu_b8gdavFY

            Good luck doing that with a new Pathfinder!

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    “Car shoppers who need to carry more than four people should buy vans.”

    Car shoppers who need to carry more than four people on a regular basis should buy vans. That third row that comes in most of the SUV/CUVs that have one is fine for occasional use.

    Also, are there direct injection engines in the Nissans sold in the UK? If so, is it called Direct Injection Petrol (DIP) there? I’m not so sure I’d want a vehicle with a DIPpy engine.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      As a buyer of a 3-row crossover I resemble this remark. We’re a family of 3 plus 2 dogs in a Santa fe Limited, which has second row captain’s chairs.

      We got it because I like to be able to carry 4 passengers in the rear in a pinch, but the rear seats stay down 99% of the time. It also gives me a bigger cargo area compared to the 2-row midsizers like the Edge, JGC, or Santa Fe Sport for tailgate equipment, home depot runs, or loading up for a long weekend somewhere.

      Plus my wife liked the look, and wouldn’t be caught dead in a minivan unless we had 3 kids and was forced into it.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      hey Secret Life of Pets has made almost $700 million worldwide and its acronym is rather… unfortunate. (although I think its acronym fits since I found it lacking. Zootopia and Jungle Book were both much better films but I digress)

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    “The minivan form factor is superior in nearly every manner to the SUV; from passenger comfort, to cargo room, to flexibility, the van wins. Yet American shoppers have largely abandoned the symbol of Eighties momness for the three-row crossover, this decade’s mom taxi.”

    Your weasel words belie that it is aesthetics and appearance that leads to all those SUV/CUV purchases, a category in which the boxy minivan is not superior. Even with the admission that appearance is subjective, the divers options and flavors of CUV/SUV means that there is something more attractive to the buyer than the plain box. Hence, the minivan owns no segment anymore – not even people high on the Autism scale, with their spreadsheets and rules that say everybody must do what they say because their math says so.

    Then again, “boxes are boring” doesn’t sell clicks.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Save up some more and buy an Armada instead.

    • 0 avatar
      Ipsa

      A base Armada costs the same amount as the “as-tested” Pathfinder ($44k) in this review. It would be interesting to see how they stack up against each other…

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Having had an Armada as a rental, probably poorly. One of the worst driving vehicles I have ever had the displeasure of renting. In suburban DC, fuel economy was single-digit. And body-on-frame means no space inside relative to the whale-like exterior.

        I suppose preferable if you actually want to tow that 6K pounds.

      • 0 avatar
        Chris Tonn

        I actually drove both, briefly, though the Armada was significantly higher-spec than the base model.

        The extra 100+ hp over the Pathy was quite nice, but for MY purposes the Pathfinder was a more useful vehicle. If I were towing frequently, I’d certainly look at the new Armada, but the differences in usable interior space seemed insignificant.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    The other day I noticed one of these on the road. I paid no attention, as it looked like almost every SUV/CUV vehicle out there until I saw the nameplate on the back. At first thought, I said “Oh, how the mighty have fallen”, getting it confused with the Xterra!

    Compared to the last Pathfinder, this vehicle is an improvement.

    In case you’re wondering how I got the Pathfinder confused with the Xterra, well, simply for the fact that I don’t care about anything Nissan, except the Rogue and how nicely trimmed with chrome the Altima looks, and completely forgot about the Pathfinder!

    Other than that, ho-hum.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    “the jarring motion of an automatic transmission changing ratios”

    Jarring? Have you been driving a beater, or are you perhaps exaggerating?

    How about “the exfoliating friction of a summer breeze,” or “the exhilarating rush of still water,” or “the jolting sounds of elevator jazz”?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Tim Allen, is that you?

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      If you’ve been driving a CVT for a long time, it really is jarring.

      My wife drove a Prius for 12 years, and she’d always do a double take when riding in a regular automatic, because she always thought there was an engine problem when a regular step-shift automatic upshifted. It is abrupt, even if the NVH is under control.

      She’s spent some time in other cars lately and is more flexible now. But she still prefers a CVT.

      As an engineer, a CVT strikes me as a more precise solution to matching the engine’s sweet spot to the requirements of the wheel. If I’m not going to row my own, it might as well be a CVT.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        It’s not really more precise on a modern engine with variable valve timing. The sweet spot isn’t just one RPM/throttle combination for a given torque requirement, it’s a range. A modern 8, 9 or 10-speed automatic is probably just as capable of putting the engine in the efficiency sweet spot as a CVT.

        As with all things in engineering, it’s a compromise. A CVT may have slightly lower weight, but higher friction, for instance. Or it may experience more wear over the service life of a car.

  • avatar
    CoastieLenn

    If only Nissan’s CVT game wasn’t terrible for longevity. I’m a 2014 Sentra owner and we have a game going on our Facebook community called “who’s transmission goes out next?”. Maxima’s? Same thing. Altima? Yep, not left out of the terrible party. Pathfinder? Well… they’re so bad on long term reliability, my dealer neighbor refused to sell my wife and I one last year on the grounds that “he wouldn’t do that to us”. We went with a Pilot instead.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Some things never seem to change. Friend bought the new CVT’d Pathfinder when it first came out. Last I heard, it’s on its third CVT in <50K miles. He plans to dump it when the extended warranty is up.

      Sad think is he traded a mint condition 5spd '90s Maxima for it. Two kids (out of car seats, BTW) and a wife, so of course a reasonably spacious sedan simply would not do!

      • 0 avatar
        VW16v

        Coworker had a 2014 Pathfinder. Had the cvt reflashed multiple times, then it was replaced. After a new cvt installed it was still having issues. They payed $34,000 in 2014 and was offered $14,500 in 2015 for a trade-in value. They took the lose just to get out of the Pathfinder. He will never buy another Nissan product again.

  • avatar
    vvk

    My Traverse lease in up in January and I am starting to think about a replacement. I find myself very limited in my options because few of these CUVs have a third row comfortable enough for adults. I also much prefer captains chairs in the middle row. There is nothing I would like more than a Dodge Caravan, since they have the perfect passenger seating configuration and are super cheap. As in $12k for a brand new 2016 cheap — listed on Autotrader. Unfortunately for me, my wife is aggressively against a minivan.

    I am thinking Highlander, Pilot and GM Lambdas are about my only options if I want a usable third row. Anything else I am missing? I don’t want a Suburban type body on frame truck…

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      You should probably just get the van. I brought one home one day and she ended up loving it. You could probably get a Pacifica and get her to believe it’s a CUV.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Flex.

    • 0 avatar
      markf

      “Unfortunately for me, my wife is aggressively against a minivan.” My wife was the same way, but she is a convert now.

      But what I find interesting about the comment is that it perfectly aligns with my own wife’s and my observations that it is women 99% of the time who are vehemently against minivans.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I think what you’re suggesting is that women are responsible for the SUV and CUV craze, and thus are the cause of global warming.

        :O

      • 0 avatar
        Truckducken

        Just have her drive the minivan and SUV options back to back. Cured my wife of her minivan phobia by the second corner.

        • 0 avatar
          vvk

          Her daily driver is a 550i M-Sport RWD with manual transmission, active anti-roll bars, etc… Her dislike of minivans has nothing to do with the way they drive. She does not like to be seen as a minivan mom.

          By the way, we both love the way our Traverse drives. Handles and rides like a European car.

          Flex is at the top of our list, as we both like the way it looks. However, Flex’s third row seems to be much tighter than Traverse’s.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Santa Fe. Three rows, reasonable prices and excellent reliability.

      • 0 avatar
        vvk

        I just looked at pictures of Santa Fe. The third row looks tiny, more like jump seats. I will have to check them out in person.

        Also, prices seem to be pretty high.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    “These power increases help the Pathfinder to a class-leading 6,000-pound tow rating, a full half-ton more than last year.”

    Does the Pathfinder not compete directly with the Durango which has up to a 7,400 pound capacity?

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I’d just like to point out that the 2004 to 2012 Pathy had an available 3rd row of seats. Although, said third row was ideal for people without legs. Protective services might be called for putting children back there. One feature that it did have, that I loved was the rear window opened separately from the the lift gate. Was great for large items.

    • 0 avatar

      The R51’s are SUV’s, though, not CUV’s – the are body on frame.

      I’ve got a 2012 Pathfinder. The separate window in the tailgate is OK, but I wish it had a sweet rolldown window window like the 4Runner.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        “The separate window in the tailgate is OK, but I wish it had a sweet rolldown window window like the 4Runner.”

        Yep it’s better than nothing for short haul trips with long items from the hardware store, but I wouldn’t want that flipped out window hanging up like that at highway speeds or offroad. I can’t imagine NOT having a rolldown rear window now after owning a truck that has one, which would severely limit my car shopping options.

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    OK Pathfinder sales have increased but how is the Murano going? Has it been cannibalised?

    Nissan have the Rogue>Murano>Pathfinder and they are very close in terms of size.

  • avatar
    Bonzai

    The front fascia resembles the new Explorer. I don’t care for the taillights. Why do manufacturers have such an aversion to amber rear turn signals?

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Agreed on the resemblance to the Explorer. None of these vehicles would ever darken my driveway by choice, but if I had to have one that wasn’t a Flex, it’d be either Explorer, Pilot or Acadia.

      The Pathfinder only looks “okay” now (it was hideous before this refresh), but that CVT is a deal breaker. I have a hard time trusting a Nissan CVT mated to the 2.5L I-4, no way would I chance it mated to a V-6 in a heavy vehicle like this. The GM-Ford 6 speed auto is pretty good and has a decent track record.

  • avatar
    don1967

    A unibody Pathfinder was still a “real” Pathfinder back in the mid-1990s.

    As a Nissan salesman I participated in event in which the public was invited to tear up a gnarly off-road course in a gen-2 Pathfinder. The machines took a huge amount of abuse, always feeling in their element. But they had less bloat, and I suspect more dedicated SUV parts, than the current model which resembles a Hyundai Veracruz knockoff. Today’s CUV shopper might as well take a Dodge Caravan into the forest for all the good it will do.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Gen 2 Pathfinder is definitely a respectable offroader. Compact dimensions, good articulation, decent clearance, and “real” 4wd hardware. The more interesting part of it is just how car-like they were on-road thanks to the mcpherson strut front end and unibody construction. The R50 is like a highly refined XJ Cherokee in a way. Real hotrod when equipped with the Maxima VQ35 and stick shift.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I’d like to start spraying “minivan” across these. Perhaps the proles will finally make the connection and revulsion will set in.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    It sort of irks me that people don’t know the difference between an AWD and 4×4. Or for that matter a CUV and SUV.

    Here is a real SUV and 4×4 test. This Pathfinder would not even have been considered in this test.

    The older Pathfinders, all of them were superior to this suburban hauler, in this sense it’s a van and not much more.

    http://www.drive.com.au/new-car-comparison/ford-everest-v-toyota-prado-v-toyota-fortuner-outback-4wd-comparison-20160822-gqyql4.html

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      So Al what exactly draws the line between AWD and 4wd for you? I get what you’re trying to say, but there’s just so many ‘middle ground’ cases and even within the ‘AWD’ realm systems that work better or worse.

      Likewise with SUVs, I think everyone considers a Grand Cherokee an SUV if ever there was one, and yet it has all independent suspension on top of being unibody now. Same thing has been the case for Range Rovers and LR Discoveries for quite some time now. How about the Mitsu Montero/Pajero? Also unibody and independent suspension all around. It’s gotta be a measure of capabilities more so than just technical specifications then.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        gtemnykh,
        You are correct that the difference between a CUV/SUV and AWD/4×4 is more than just technical specification.

        It more about application and function of a vehicle, in other words intended design and use. Sort of like a PT Cruiser being defined as a truck, which I do consider laughable.

        A SUV is a dedicated off road vehicle. A CUV isn’t. I believe this is the easiest way to describe it.

        You can’t define a vehicle just by is body type, ie, whether full chassis or unitary construction. The Pajero, both the Triton based and actual Pajero are both SUVs as is the Grand Cherokee. Where the difference lies is in a 2WD variant. This makes it difficult to define the vehicle.

        Really, what is a two wheel drive Grand Cherokee? Why would you buy one for starters when there are so many other and better options out there to be driven on the blacktop, like this so called Pathfinder.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          There is no clear differentiator between SUV and CUV. The vehicle is what marketing decides it is.

          Case: The Escape is marketed as an SUV.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I disagree with marketing, I say no transverse mounted drivetrain can be called an SUV.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            Do you believe that utility vehicles with transversely mounted drivetrains should be allowed to use the same mechanics as real SUVs with longitudinally mounted drivetrains?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Mechanics as in people repairing it or mechanics as in the design physics of forces and displacements?

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            “I disagree with marketing, I say no transverse mounted drivetrain can be called an SUV.”

            Okay, but Ford disagrees and markets their vehicles as such anyway. And so it shall be.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        gtemnykh,
        I forgot to add 4×4 or 4WD denotes off road use as well. AWD is just that.

        4WD means TX case, high and low range, not this Pathfinder.

        I did have a brief discussion regarding the VW Amarok with it’s low first gear in it’s 8 speed auto as a 4×4. But, on thing the Amarok didn’t offer was the spread of gears like a 4×4 with a two speed TX case.

        The Amarok would not be very good off road, it is limited by limited gear choices and the engine even though it’s a diesel doesn’t offer the flexibility required.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    3 row crossovers, aka belly draggers (not my creation), bka “minivan coupes”. For family duty the uncompetitive Quest is better in just about every way- 10″ more total legroom, 1/3 more cargo space, more headroom, sliding doors, a usable 3rd row etc. etc. Pathfinder can now more (5,000 vs 3,500) and has available AWD but come on. If you need 3 rows on a regular basis just surrender and get a minivan.

    Personally I think the peak crossover permutation is the midsize 2 row… Santa Fe Sport/Edge/RX/RDX etc. If you need more than that, but don’t need to tow 8,000lbs, I just can’t see why you wouldn’t get a minivan. Minivans even look better than these things. To each their own but I just don’t understand it, unless you are married to a brand without minivans like GM. One good thing is these things at least maintain price/content parity with minivans for the most part so you at least get your money’s worth.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      The midsize CUVs make sense in terms of 2 comfortable rows of seats+ quite a bit of cargo room behind said 2nd row, a lot more than the Edges and Muranos of the world have to offer (they tie compact SUVs like the CRV, if that).

      To me the sweet spot was the first 2 generations of Highlander, as well as the gen 1 Pilot and MDX. Still some respectable ground clearance if not actual rock-bashing durability or anything resembling articulation or serious 4wd hardware. But enough to get you down a fire road if it isn’t too slick, or through some decently deep snow. Excellent cargo room with just the first two rows in use. Simple styling and big greenhouses. Comfortable rides with decent enough handling.

      The newest variants of the same models sit too low with many compromises in the pursuit of fuel economy. The Highlander in particular lost a lot of its utilitarian nature IMO.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Well I mean if you are going to sacrifice practicality for style with a CUV, I’m thinking stuff like the Murano/Edge are better. They look and drive better and have decent cargo space with the back seats up.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Don’t the Quest’s crash results suck?

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I personally find the Odyssey and new Pacifica attractive. I also don’t understand the aversion to looking like a “mommy” or “daddy” while you drive. If it’s such a problem for you, you should have thought twice about reproducing in the first place. Frankly, you’re fooling nobody with your “Sport” utility vehicle anyway. Look, I used to have the booster seat mounted in the front passenger seat of my 1984 Porsche 911. I wasn’t fooling anyone about my status in life and women were more drawn to my 4-year-old’s smiling face than the car, anyway. Get over yourselves.

    However, one issue that remains is the lack of AWD minivan options. I believe the Sienna is the only one left on the market. A lot of people are convinced that without AWD they are endangering themselves and their children even if they live in a place that sees snow flurries twice a year. It’s silly as even here in Northern Michigan most of the cars on the road are FWD and we do just fine. But I do think FCA could really have something if they made the Chrysler 200 AWD system available on the Pacifica. It’s a crappy AWD system and probably costs them nearly nothing to add to the car but they can get a $2k premium in return.

    The funny thing is that this is all generational. I grew up in a full-size station wagon and Minivans were cooler. Those who grew up in minivans want SUVs. My kids (now 12 and 7) want a minivan. I just want my 1984 Porsche back.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      I’ll take your word for it that most vehicles in Northern Michigan are FWD. Whenever I’m up there, which is 30+ times a year, I see a preponderance of 4×4 trucks.

    • 0 avatar
      markf

      “I also don’t understand the aversion to looking like a “mommy” or “daddy” while you drive.”

      I am with you, it baffles me, I’ll never understand why someone would be embarrassed about being a parent. And yes, they are fooling exactly no one.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      We just had a 2005 Pontiac Montana SV6 with Versatrak through work today. Rather rare beast. Also had a FWD Buick Rendezvous today. Both seem less compromised than modern AWD or FWD CUVs respectively (the Buick was a poorly made and poorly styled exercise in fantastic packaging, the final GM U-Body “crossover sport” vans were some of the worst packaged minivans since the turn of the century). But both failed, and the market is vacuuming up ever higher numbers of CUVs.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I’m not so sure that it’s an aversion to appearing as a parent but to appearing as parent who isn’t trendy. People in general are proud of being parents and they want you to know it…by trading in their postively un-kid friendly sedan for a trendy new SUV/CUV.

  • avatar
    Nellakwah

    Every time I see a Nissan product, I want to like aspects of it but I can’t help but look at the steering wheel and dash and see really cheap looking plastic. Am I alone? Is it the sheen? The grain they choose?

    It just reminds me of 90’s GM-grade plastic. In this Pathfinder and the Platinum Murano, it looks no different than a Versa Note or Sentra in terms of material in that area. Not ideal given the price.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      You are not alone. Big ’90s Nissan fan here. My first car was a ’98 Maxima GXE and I owned a ’95 Infiniti G20. Both had, for their day, very stark but high quality interiors. I have spent quite some time in newer Nissans and Infinitis in my years in rental cars and now as a service advisor. I can’t say any Nissan has looked anything but cheap since the Renault matchup. The newer ones are better than the dark days of the 2007-2008 Sentra and Altima, but they look far cheaper (and puffier/more rounded) inside than the plastics actually are. I think it’s poor styling and too many rounded surfaces. The steering wheels always look cheap but do not feel cheap.

      • 0 avatar
        Nellakwah

        Agreed. One friend of mine had a ’99 Maxima SE, and the other a ’95 Altima, and both were nice places to drive or be a passenger in. Especially the Maxima – loved the white face gauges and Bose stereo.

        I’d also agree that the round shapes in the dash/buttons dp give off a dated vibe.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I’m no fan of Nissan, but as much as they frequently use some awful stuff, none of it gets as atrocious as 90’s GM. By the time you get up to the Pathfinder, it’s actually mostly adequate, although if 5 year old Muranos are anything to go by, ditch it once the lease is up.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I walked away from a (I think) mechanically sound ’02 Grand Prix in favor of my Maxima in part because I couldn’r stand the Pontiac’s interior. And I just slammed to cost cut interior of said Maxima in a post above, so that says something!

        • 0 avatar
          Nellakwah

          Funny you should say that – I bought a used ’02 Grand Prix GTP in 2006 as my first car out of college. Interior was a squeaky beast, but it was in excellent shape overall and the car was an awesome cruiser with the torque – the SC’d 3.8 and 4spd are still going strong, my folks still drive it.

  • avatar
    drockman

    Surprisingly no discussion of cargo space. We all know that minivans have more capacity, but if you’re the CUV/SUV route, it can be surprising how tight some otherwise large vehicles can be. We just finished the process of replacing our old Saturn Outlook, and were surprised at how much less space all of the Nissan, Toyota and Honda offerings (and their respective premium branded siblings) have. Ended up with another GM Lambda, this time a Buick Enclave.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      The Lambda vehicles and the Flex seem to be the only truly full-sized CUVs, and everything else is just a mid-size with a third row.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Well GM is about to fix that as they downsize the Lambda vehicles for the next generation, right?

        Also, come to think of it I’m surprised Toyota has not capitalized on this lack of large CUV and made an upsized Highlander which it can also turn into another Lexus.

        Though I suppose the GX would have to die for this to happen. Which makes me go :( but would make their profit margins go :D.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    SO. I respond to this article without using profanity or degrading anyone. Just merely stating my thoughts on this and it gets erased..

  • avatar
    St.George

    Well, we bought one of these in September last year. My wife didn’t want a minivan due to the image although we did test drive an Odyssey. The pros & cons in a nutshell:-
    – Price was $25k for the base Pathfinder. The cheapest Odyssey was over $30k, as was the new Pilot. Even Hyundais etc cost more for a 3 row vehicle
    – We have 2 kids (5 & 7) and one (small) dog & wanted 3 rows for occasional use. Yes, we have used the third row with car seats and they work quite well
    – The vehicle is generally smooth, quiet and comfortable on poor Houston streets
    – 25mpg on a run, averaging about 23 right now with short school runs etc

    Now the cons:-
    – No Bluetooth
    – Poor stereo
    – Quite vague steering but its a 3 row CUV, not a Miata……

    Generally, it does what it has to do well and was cheap for what it is. So far no problems except for having to replace one key fob battery.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    No gallery? (sigh) No pictures of the third row up, hatch open, see the luggage room, or lack thereof? (sigh)

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