Nissan’s Pathfinder has undergone a major workover for 2017 and the occasion prompts a look at the history of this very long-lived SUV. It’s been in the marketplace for more than 30 years and was one of the pioneers of the most popular vehicle segment in this country. It’s certainly improved vastly since those early days, as has almost any product Nissan or anyone else has produced. Even so, I can remember the older models and they were always highly capable, well-equipped and reliable. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the early models were still on the road. The last major Pathfinder update was in 2013, so in today’s competitive market, the time had arrived for something fresh and according to Nissan, it’s not just a facelift, though it’s not a total redesign either – the product didn’t really need that.
The Pathfinder now has more power; better towing capability, improved dynamics and many new driver assistance features. For 2017, you can order one in 2WD and 4WD depending on needs and usage and there are five trim and equipment levels – S, SV, SL, SL Premium Tech and top-of-the-line Platinum.
Nissan’s key design elements and recognition features are easy to spot and the vehicle uses some styling cues from the design-conscious Murano crossover and the Maxima sport sedan. Nissan’s new grille design is evident and while LEDs are used for some of the lighting on basic models, the Platinum variant is all-LED, front and rear. One interesting addition to the cargo area is a motion-activated liftgate, a worthwhile feature when you’ve got armfuls of bags to load or unload. All you have to do is use a kicking motion under the centre of the hatch and it opens. This feature is standard on the three top trim packages in the range.
Power comes from a 3.5-litre V-6 which, at 284-horsepower, is more potent by 24 hp over the last model. The transmission is a continuously variable unit, which is a third-generation Xtronic system that Nissan has refined over the years. Nissan says the new transmission gives a more natural acceleration feeling. Those who tow boats or trailers will be happy to know that the towing capacity has been upped to 6,000 lbs, which Nissans says is a “best in class.” To get that rating, buyers have to uprate the vehicle a little with an available package. Nissan’s research has indicated that buyers want the ability to tow two-axle recreational trailers for watercraft or for campers.
Although many owners won’t need the capability, the Pathfinder remains a very “off-roadable” SUV and can handle some pretty rough trails. Helping with this chore are selectable 2WD, auto or 4WD lock modes. There’s also a hill start assist system which aids starting or stopping on hills and a descent system that adjusts speed and brake pressure when driving slowly down rugged off-road grades. Like so many vehicle in this class, the Pathfinder has a long list of safety and stability technologies.
It’s likely that the updated Pathfinder will renew buyer interest in this product, which has a lengthy service record and also an excellent record of durability and reliability. A top-of-the-line variant is more or less a luxury SUV, but it’s a little ahead of the crossover pack when it’s time to head off the paved roads.
BODY STYLE: Four-door/liftback mid-size SUV
ENGINE: 3.5-litre V-6, 284-horsepower
TRANSMISSION: Continuously variable (CVT)
TOWING CAPACITY: 6,000 pounds, properly equipped
PRICE: From $32,498 MSRP