You know what it’s like when you go back for your high school reunion and that hot beautiful cheerleader or muscular football jock aren’t quite the way you remember them? As they slide towards middle age, their proportions aren’t quite as trim? Let’s be honest, they’re fat. Their muscles lost definition and now they’re just flabby. They’re big. Like today’s Nissan Pathfinder. But, a little toning for 2017 makes that former hot shot much more desirable.
Somebody obviously finds it attractive, but I don’t understand Nissan’s design philosophy. I remember when the Pathfinder was a muscular hard-core SUV that hunkered down over its stylish alloy wheels. The four-door version was especially handsome. And, it could actually go off road. Nissan needed a large, three-row crossover, so the Pathfinder left its heritage trailside.
However, what was form without flattery is noticeably more toned. There’s no disguising the tall profile and slab body sides, but a revised front facia with Nissan’s trademark “V-Motion” grille, boomerang-shaped headlights, and LED running lamps dress it up. There’s also a new front bumper, fog lights, rearview mirrors, and 20-inch aluminum wheels. Around back, designers updated the taillights and bumpers. All of the cosmetic changes add up to a sportier looking ride.
Fortunately, the big body translates into cavernous interior space. Seven passengers fit comfortably in three rows of seats. The rear two fold flat, giving me enough space to haul home a king size bed, two nightstand cabinets, entertainment system, rocking chair with cushion, and a ‘50s replica side table from IKEA. Front seats are comfy; rear passengers enjoy an optional dual-monitor video system with 120v outlet and wireless headphones.
Our Platinum edition’s interior was also loaded with Bose audio, leather trim, heated/cooled front seats, and heated middle-row seat. The sunroof is huge. While interior style is beautifully similar to the Infiniti QX60’s, Nissan drivers are given wide expanses of hard plastic. Tap your fingers and they’ll find stuff they don’t love.
Designers also took the opportunity to overhaul Pathfinder’s information and safety tech. The big crossover adopts Nissan’s Advanced Drive-Assist Display, placed between the tachometer and speedometer that provides additional information including Navigation settings, one-shot voice destination entry, Sirius XM Traffic, and automatic collision notification. The Safety suite includes Forward Emergency Braking, Intelligent Cruise Control, Moving Object Detection, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and available Around View Monitor.
Drivers will quickly notice more power. The 3.5-liter V6 features a 56 percent new (or new to Pathfinder) engine components and direct injection. Accordingly, horsepower climbs from 260 to 284 while torque rises from 240 lb-ft to 259 lb-ft. We’re still stuck with a continuously-variable transmission that sometimes buzzes and whines, but Nissan’s is among the best.
All-wheel-drive with lockable 4x4 mode should handle bad weather and wet soccer fields. Removing nearly 500 pounds from the last truck-based Pathfinder (re-designed for 2013) enables brisk acceleration and relatively-frugal 19/26-MPG city/hwy. Maximum towing capacity increases by 1,000 lbs. to 6,000 lbs. That’s all quite respectable for a large crossover.
Re-engineering the Pathfinder as a car-based crossover greatly improved ride and handling. The four-wheel independent suspension provides a smooth highway ride, even if it is not fond of curves. I don’t love the numb steering either, but it is fine for long distance driving and daily commutes. It just feels like Nissan gave the chassis a 9/10ths effort. With a little finesse, it could be top-of-class – and far better than any truck-based SUV.
I always liked the immensely capable Pathfinders from the ‘80s and ‘90s, but the current version is making friends with continent-crossing families. It’s smooth, quiet, and roomy. Now, it’s even more powerful and better styled. Those athletes you remember from high school will never get back their physiques, and neither will the Pathfinder. But, it’s looking much better these days. An as-tested price of $44,685 is competitive with the GMC Acadia, Toyota Highlander, Mazda CX-9, Buick Enclave, Dodge Durango, and Ford Explorer.
2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum
- Seven-passenger, AWD crossover
- Powertrain: 284hp 3.5-liter V6, CVT
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
- Wheels: 20”/20” alloy f/r
- Brakes: disc/disc fr/rr with ABS
- Must-have features: Efficiency, style
- Towing: 6,000 lbs.
- Fuel economy: 19/26 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Smyrna, TN
- Base/As-tested price: $30,290/$44,685