It's a fresh new look for a familiar face. The Nissan Pathfinder gets more power and torque, along with better efficiency, but is it enough to bring it to front of mind for buyers?
Nissan calls the Pathfinder one of its unsung heroes. Selling over 20,000 units since launch, Nissan hopes Pathfinder continues its sales success in Australia with a facelifted model that’s jam packed with features.
This week we headed to the nation’s capital to put the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder range through its paces ahead of the vehicle going on sale nationally. Pathfinder launches in Australia with three models — the ST, ST-L and Ti.
Each of the three models comes with an updated version of Nissan’s naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 engine and a new continuously variable transmission (CVT) and each can also be optioned with a four-wheel drive system or a hybrid drivetrain (hybrid comes in two-wheel drive for ST and four-wheel drive for ST-L and Ti).
Surprisingly, pricing remains unchanged across the range, except for the entry-level two-wheel drive V6 ST model, which increases by $500 to $41,990 (plus on-road costs). The range tops out with the $69,190 (plus on-road costs) Ti hybrid model.
From the outside, the new Pathfinder stands out in traffic thanks to its new ‘V-Motion’ grille design, new headlights with LED daytime running lights and revised bonnet, bumper and fog light design. Integrated turn signals now sit within the wing mirrors, while the tail-lights and rear bumper bar have also been updated.
Mechanical changes come in the form of more power and torque for the entry-level petrol V6. The 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 produces 202kW of power and 340Nm of torque (up from 190kW of power and 325Nm of torque) thanks to the addition of direct injection and a mirror bore coating on cylinders to reduce friction.
That has also reduced fuel consumption to a combined 9.9L/100km (for two-wheel drive models) and 10.1L/100km (for four-wheel drive models), down from 10.0 and 10.3L/100km respectively.
Ride and handling has also been improved thanks to a firmer ride tune. An 11 per cent increase at the front-end teams with a seven per cent increase at the rear, along with a quicker electrically assisted steering rack.
The hybrid drivetrain remains unchanged, powered by a 2.5-litre supercharged four-cylinder petrol engine mated to a 15kW electric motor, it produces a combined 188kW of power and 330Nm of torque and consumes 8.6L/100km for two-wheel drive and 8.7L/100km for four-wheel drive models.
Both models receive a next-generation X-Tronic stepped CVT. Instead of increasing revs and staying at the top end of the rev band like most CVTs, the X-Tronic unit steps gear changes to simulate a torque converter gearbox.
CarAdvice asked Nissan about issues with the previous CVT gearbox fitted to the Pathfinder and according to Nissan there’s no official issues with the transmission in Australia. That’s despite the first page of a “Pathfinder CVT” Google search suggesting otherwise. Nissan claims to be dealing with any customers on a case by case basis.
Inside the cabin, the design remains largely unchanged, which isn’t a bad thing. All variants receive extra technology and features, which include the following new items:
Standard equipment on the entry-level ST grade include seven seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with manual lumbar support, cruise control, LED daytime-lights, tri-zone climate control, keyless start, rear-view camera with dynamic guidelines, rear parking sensors, 8.0-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system, two USB ports, tyre pressure monitor, power folding mirrors and privacy glass.
Stepping up to the mid-tier ST-L adds heated mirrors, front fog lights, panoramic glass roof with a front sunroof, power lumbar support for the driver, four-way adjustable front passenger seat, heated front seats, leather trim (black or ivory), 13-speaker Bose audio system, satellite navigation with traffic monitoring, Around-View surround camera system with moving object detection, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking with forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
Finally, the flagship TI gains 20-inch alloy wheels, an automatic tailgate, LED headlights with auto levelling, memory function for the driver’s seat, remote engine start, heated and cooled front seats, rear entertainment system with dual screens and wireless headphones, along with automatic reverse tilt-down side mirrors.
Everything in the first row is within easy reach and there is stacks of storage both in the glove box and centre console (which is dual tiered). You’ll find three 12V outlets at the front, along with USB, auxiliary audio and a HDMI port.
The 8.0-inch colour touchscreen looks impressive, but lacks most of the features available in competing vehicles. It doesn’t get Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or DAB+ digital radio and accessing some menus can be a little slow at times. It’s backed by a voice recognition system, though.
Pathfinder also comes with Nissan Connect, which is built into the infotainment system. It allows the user to pair their phone with the Nissan Connect application and add applications to the car’s unit. Currently it’s free for the first three years and comes with Facebook, Pandora and Google search, but is expected to expand to offer extra applications at some point in the future.
We had the chance to sample the ST and Ti models (both in V6 all-wheel drive form) during the drive that had us cover terrain from sweeping country roads through to tight mountain roads and a hint of gravel driving.
While the ST is the value leader, the cloth interior looks a little cheap and may not be as hard wearing or easy to clean as the leather product offered in ST-L and Ti models. Even our small group climbing in and out managed to scuff parts of the door trim.
In terms of interior room both the first and second rows offer a stack of leg and head room. The second row can be reclined and move forwards and backwards offering a lot of added versatility. It offers a 60:40 split folding configuration and Nissan’s easy access system for the third row.
Using the 40-split folding section, it’s easy to pull a lever and watch as the seat slides forward and the base tilts out of the way. It means even taller adults, like yours truly, can easily climb in and out of the third row.
The third row is also spacious, even for adults. There are cupholders and cubbies for odds and ends. The top-specification Ti model also gets a rear entertainment system with wireless headphones and the ability to stream video over USB or HDMI.
What surprised us most was the amount of boot capacity, even with the third row in place. There is 453 litres available with the third row in place, 1354 litres with the third row folded and a crazy 2260 litres of capacity with both the second and third row folded flat. A versatile 2700kg braked towing capacity is also available on petrol models, with the hybrid limited to 1650kg braked towing capacity.
Our drive program covered a wide range of roads that gave us an opportunity to test the Pathfinder across a huge range of conditions. In and around the urban sprawl, the Pathfinder’s trademark cushy ride remains unchanged, despite increased ride firmness.
It reacts well to bumps and bridge connections, while dispatching speed humps with relative ease. That ride comfort, coupled with very comfortable seats means it’s a big tick in the box of urban driving.
The low-down torque of the V6 engine is also enough to make it quite zippy around town. The light steering and sharp throttle response ensure it’s quick to react regardless of the situation it’s found in.
Visibility out the front and sides is great, but rearward visibility can be limited with the third row in place due to the high head rests. Thankfully all models come with a rear-view camera, with the Ti picking up a surround-view camera with motion detection.
Heading out through winding, sweeping country roads the flexibility of the V6 becomes evident. It has enough pep to move with pace and the stepped function of the CVT works well to make it feel more like a torque converter.
It’s at these higher speeds that the lack of steering feel becomes obvious. It lacks feel about centre and doesn’t feel overly progressive. The calibration feels tailored to lower speed driving where it’s easier to steer. At higher speeds it lacks the accuracy to make minor adjustments, which isn’t a huge problem, but there should have been more time spent on fine tuning the feel.
With that said, it’s one of the few complaints as the car eats up country miles. It flows nicely through bends and has more than enough power for overtaking and merging on to freeways. It also helps that it has a nice engine note once it moves into the top end of the rev range.
Brake pedal feel is good and feels confident, meaning you won’t feel overwhelmed if you have a heavier load in the car and need to stop in a hurry.
In terms of four-wheel drive equipment, the Pathfinder isn’t quite the rough and tumbled off-roader it replaced. But, it manages to do well with the equipment it has. Featuring an intelligent on-demand four-wheel drive system, it runs in two-wheel drive until it needs to send torque to the rear.
It also uses a manually lockable centre differential for unsealed surfaces and occasional visits to the camp site – although don’t expect to do too much off-roading with a ground clearance of 181mm.
Nissan offers a three year, 100,000km warranty with the Pathfinder, which includes 12 monthly, 10,000km service intervals and three years of roadside assistance. Servicing over three years costs $945 for the V6 and $919 for the hybrid.
Despite being the newest model in this segment (following the recently refreshed Toyota Kluger), the Pathfinder doesn’t really bring anything new to the game. While the extra kit and better engine and transmission are welcomed, the Pathfinder remains a vanilla SUV option in the segment.
The Mazda CX-9 pips it for interior layout and driving dynamics, while Toyota rules the game with trademark reliability and resale value. The Koreans then step up the game even further with long warranties and value for money.
But, if you do need an SUV that offers a stack of interior room, a gutsy petrol V6 engine and a design that won’t blend in with the crowd, maybe the Pathfinder is for you. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with it, it’s very much just a big bit of family haulage equipment.
We’re looking forward to stacking it up against its competitors in this segment to see if enough has changed to make it a more appealing proposition.