2017 Nissan Pathfinder seven-seat SUV road test and review
TWO out of three large sports utility vehicles sold last year were from the claytons genre.
You know the ones, they have the key off-roader hallmarks like ride height and dimensions, but these crossovers are destined to rarely leave the bitumen. Designed for the school run, not burly bush fun.
Which vindicates Nissan's decision to "soften" its Pathfinder SUV.
Before late 2013 the hulking four-wheel drive was of the utilitarian variety. When the R21 arrived it went from Path-finder to Path-kinder.
This latest update includes a new face with a corporate grille, improved tech smarts, along with extra power and overall improvements to the V6 variants.
Prices have remained the same across the Pathfinder line-up, apart from the entry level 2WD model that is $500 more at $41,990 plus on-roads. That's still a jump from the initial launch, when it had a $39,990 price-tag. The range-topping Ti starts from $62,190 in two-wheel drive.
Nissan Australia boss Richard Emery said extra value had been thrown at the big SUV, along with plans for improved marketing, to grab the attention he says it deserves against offerings like the Toyota Kluger, Mazda CX-9, Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe.
"We think it has become a forgotten car," he said.
"Maybe it flies under the radar, maybe it's our fault, the nature of the segment or the style of vehicle it is.
"When we moved from R51, we have never sold so many Pathfinders. Our volume has been slowly creeping up. We think it deserves a greater level of consideration."
There are still three specs, ST, ST-L and Ti, with a choice of the revised V6 or a four-cylinder hybrid with an electric motor.
Among the key changes is better connectivity through a standard eight-inch colour touch-screen with two USB ports, while ST-L and Ti get satnav with updated graphics.
Ti models have three USB slots and a HDMI input which allows separate viewing on the rear screens. Parents rejoice.
Radar cruise control, forward collision warning, rear cross traffic alert and all-round camera functionality has also been introduced to mid and top-spec models.
On the road
All the gains come with the volume-selling V6, courtesy of changes to more than 50% of engine components.
The performance is smoother and more refined thanks to the "D-Step" continuously variable automatic transmission - the same system we have seen in the X-Trail. It performs more like a standard self-shifter, and mimics gear changes under heavy acceleration.
For those who like manual control there is no option for shifting, with the absence of steering wheel paddles and even the ability to knock back gears via the shifter.
Improvements to the V6 send 12kW more power to the front or all wheels (depending on model) while torque is boosted to 340Nm from 325Nm.
It offers linear power delivery, although fuel consumption remains at the upper end of the scale by modern standards. Our test on rural surrounds saw figures around 12 litres/100km.
What do you get?
Standard gear includes eight-inch colour touch screen display, Bluetooth streaming for phone and audio (you used to just get phone connectivity), voice control, two USB ports, cruise control, tri-Zone climate control with air vents for all three rows, remote keyless entry and LED daytime running lights.
Extra new features on the ST-L for 2017 are sat-nav, the intelligent cruise control and the associated suite of safety equipment, while the Ti gains a motion-activated tailgate (a kick of the foot under the centre of the tailgate lifts the door when you have your arms full), LED headlights with auto-leveling and HDMI ports for the dual entertainment screens with wireless headphones.
Excellent road manners and a quiet, feature-laden, cabin ensure there is a lot to like about the Pathfinder.
Its United States heritage is evident in the plush ride, but the tuning for our market has been stiffened and the steering quickened in this 2017 model.
Going without Apple Carplay and Android Auto is a key omission, while fuel consumption in double digits will raise eyebrows - but this is a sizable offering with a genuine capacity of seven.
Those new safety inclusions are outstanding for the mid- and top-spec offerings.
There is excellent space in all three rows and the Pathfinder remains a refined and well-sorted family hauler with the V6 offering burly underfoot response.
PRICE From $41,990.
WARRANTY Three year, 100,000km.
MENU SERVICING $945 over three years; hybrid $919.
INTERVAL 10,000km/12 months; hybrid 7000km/6 months
SAFETY Five-star, six airbags.
ENGINE 3.5-litre V6 petrol 202kW/340Nm; 2.5-litre four-cylinder supercharged petrol with electric motor 188kW/330Nm.
TRANSMISSION Continuously variable automatic.
THIRST 9.9 litres/100km (2WD); 10.1L/100km (4WD); hybrid 8.6L/100km (2WD), 8.7L/100km (4WD).
TOWING 2700kg; hybrid 1650kg.
DIMENSIONS 5042mm (L), 1960mm (W), 1768mm (H), 2900mm (WB). WEIGHT 1921-2170kg.
SPARE Space saver.
What matters most
WHAT'S IT GOT Refined and quiet driving experience, nice turn of speed under acceleration, improved performance from CVT, excellent space in three rows.
WHAT IT HASN'T Rain sensing wipers in top-spec model, radar cruise control doesn't hold speed downhill, safety suite option on ST models, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.