First, to clarify, the midsize crossover category is jam-packed with dozens of vehicles, but is split into two-row and three-row varieties. The Pathfinder resides in the three-row segment, offering seating for seven. Having gone through various identities over the years, the Pathfinder has long left its truck roots and instead joined the rank of family-focused crossovers in recent years, and that’s still the case in 2017.
The exterior of the Pathfinder sees a slight refresh up front, and in the rear, but nothing too extreme. Inside you get upgrades via the new and improved standard infotainment system (a wise choice), and under the hood with a more powerful engine and greater towing capacity.
Space inside is adequate, though not class-leading. Passengers have room to stretch and cargo space will work for a family. I have taken the Pathfinder on road trips in the past and had plenty of room for people and cargo (numbers are 16 cubic feet behind third row or 50 cubic feet with third-row seats down). Though to be fair, there are some competitors who do better in this area.
Access to the third row is easy, even if you have a car seat set up in the second row -- a key consideration for families.
This isn’t a rocket, but it’s a capable power plant. Your only option is a 3.5-liter, V6 engine; paired with a CVT automatic transmission that works very well. FWD and AWD are offered.
Total horsepower is 284, an increase from 260 hp on the 2016 model, and you get 259 lb.-ft. of torque. Acceleration is adequate, but won’t impress as much as some rivals.
Overall ride quality and cabin quietness is about mid-pack for the segment, and handling can’t be called agile, as this is a large vehicle, but an upgraded suspension is noticeable in the performance on the 2017 Pathfinder, in a good way. Some rivals in this category do eclipse the Pathfinder’s overall driving profile -- such as the Mazda CX-9.
One big positive on the Pathfinder is improved towing -- up to 6,000 pounds can be towed now, which is best in class. If you haul things behind your family ride, this is a bonus.
A nice upgrade is the standard 8-inch touchscreen Infotainment system that is intuitive and new for 2017. It responds well to voice commands, and offers hands-free text messaging, and is very easy to use on the whole. One downside is it’s not quite up to date in some tech areas, such as not offering Android Auto or Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility, which some crossovers do have (Honda Pilot, and the two-row Nissan Murano, for example).
Safety ratings are high (all four or five stars), but there is also a slight concern about reliability in the long-term with a Pathfinder compared to its rivals. And the NissanConnect service is offered, featuring automatic collision notification and many other helpful features.
A full array of high-end tech features is offered on the Pathfinder, and I’ve found them to work as well as any in the business. They include: Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert; Intelligent Cruise Control and Forward Emergency Braking. Some are only available on the top trim level.
For the FWD versions of the Pathfinder, fuel mileage is 20 city/23 combined/27 highway; Numbers drop to 19/21/26 for AWD. These are strong numbers, only slightly behind class leaders.
My test Pathfinder (a Platinum model with AWD, near top of price range) came in at $44,460; but the base price starts about $30K. So your out-of-pocket costs can vary widely depending how high-end your Pathfinder needs to be. The vehicle is built at Nissan’s plant in Tennessee and shares the same platform as the Infiniti QX60 luxury SUV.
Among other alternatives in the three-row crossover category to consider are: The roomy Honda Pilot, The speedy Mazda CX-9, Safety-focused Toyota Highlander, the No. 1 in 3-row-crossover sales Ford Explorer, and the redesigned GMC Acadia. If you’re willing to lose the third row, the excellent but smaller Nissan Murano is worth a look, too, and is almost universally praised. The Murano weighs about 500 pounds lighter and is about 6 inches shorter than the Pathfinder.
While it doesn’t distinguish itself in any extreme way, there’s no denying the 2017 Pathfinder remains a strong option to consider if you’re looking for a three-row SUV.
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