Big SUVs have become the family vehicle of this decade, the segment continuing to grow rapidly. We spend some extended time with Nissan’s big offering, the Pathfinder.
Recently we have been enjoying the company of Nissan’s big Pathfinder. That’s the royal we, management initially using it to, er, manage things, and then the keys found their way to my desk towards the end of last year for the holiday break. Gladly received these were as the family needs a big vehicle to get around in these days and sizeable is what the Pathfinder is. Even though it’s not the biggest SUV Nissan makes – that would be the leviathan Patrol – it’s quite enough for most needs.
To jog one’s memory, the Pathfinder was refreshed in 2017 with a new look for the front end, an improved powertrain and added goodies inside. The three-model range starts with the ST available in both 2WD and 4WD, there’s the 4WD mid-spec ST-L and the top Ti, which we had. The price tag of this model matches the dimensions, a sizeable $69,990, but it is brimming with gear.
Swish leather trim, smart key, electric tailgate with kick-to-open functionality, a glass top and an opening sunroof, and the powered seats have both a heating and ventilation function. The eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system includes sat nav, there’s an around-view camera and Bose audio. Also added is a rear seat entertainment system featuring two monitors mounted in the front seat headrests along with wireless headphones. The Ti benefits from active cruise, AEB and blind spot monitoring.
A revised 3.5-litre V6 kicks out 202kW and 340Nm thanks to the addition of direct fuel injection and intake and valve timing fiddling. It’s hooked to a CVT, this particular unit being honed for improved response and added smoothness. Pathfinder runs an on-demand type AWD set-up but also offers the option of operating in 2WD, or locking it in 4×4 at lower speeds for better traction off road.
Fuel use is quoted at 10.1L/100km on average, with an urban figure of 13.1. Those numbers can soar higher if you’re heavy on the go pedal, especially in city running. Achieving the quoted average requires a fair amount of easy motorway miles where the auto has the engine ticking over at 1200rpm on a steady 100km/h cruise. While some scoff at CVTs, here it lends the Pathfinder a definite creaminess, its take-up and general progress fluid. It’s a refined operator this, the ride smooth, particularly on gravel trails, and it’s quiet too over rough coarse chip roads.
Pathfinder weighs in at over 2000kgs and while that mass is ever present, it doesn’t lurch about ponderously in the bends, at least at a family-friendly rate, and though the steering is fairly remote it’s accurate enough to help keep progress smooth so as not to upset the bods on board.
Helping the cause for comfort are the seats, well shaped and padded to provide good support during longer stints. The ventilators up front help you keep cooler when the mercury rises and summer time road trips seem less frustrating. Helping also in this regard is active cruise, which is easily set though oddly doesn’t keep speed in check on descents. A lack of a digital speed readout is annoying in the days of harsh limit enforcement too.
The central display between the main dials has many menus but the info offered is of questionable use, while fuel use data is buried in the main infotainment system. In the Pathfinder, this is displayed as kilometres travelled per litre used, which for some is a more logical measurement of fuel use, although the bar graph makes it difficult to gauge an accurate number.
The infotainment system isn’t leading edge tech either, but operating the wireless and heater is easy thanks to a swag of buttons on the dash. While this and a few other surfaces might be made of hard plastics, the interior is well screwed together and the areas of high use and abuse seem tough enough to cope with family life.
Big is good when it comes to seven-seater SUVs and space is what the Pathfinder has aplenty. It’s no issue to fit everybody in, especially if those being ferried still require car seats. These safety devices take up more seat space than your average adult but with the added cabin width of a full-size SUV, it’s not a problem to fit three across the back seat, or for an adult (who drew the short straw) to sit in between two infants.
The Pathfinder’s second row can be tilted forward just enough to allow access to the third row with a car seat strapped in place. The rearmost seats are adult friendly, if you have to, while the kids have plenty of room and can clamber back there more easily too. The abundant cupholders about the interior are appreciated.
While you can open the boot with a waggle of the foot under the bumper (if you manage to find the sweet spot), it’s a slow operator and a little sensitive when closing if you’ve tried to stuff too many things in there. However, even with one of the rearmost seats in use, there’s still plenty of boot space left over to load the clobber for the day trip to the beach.
While sizeable, Pathfinder isn’t unwieldy and though you notice those dimensions in the tighter confines of inner city car parks, the surround view monitor helps place it precisely, a button on the dash quickly activating and changing the view of the camera to help keep those bumpers blemish free. The steering could be lighter at parking speeds and that foot-operated parking brake should have been replaced in the refresh.
As a troop carrier, Pathfinder fills the brief nicely with space and a functional interior replete with all the conveniences required. It’s pricey at $70k so a deal should be sought to help claw back the value proposition of some key competitors, like the CX-9.
|Model||Nissan Pathfinder Ti||Price||$69,990|
|Engine||3498cc, V6, DI, 202kW/340Nm||Drivetrain||CVT, on-demand AWD|
|Fuel Use||0L/100km||C02 Output||234g/km|