Review of: 2017 Nissan Pathfinder 4WD 4dr SL
2017 Nissan Pathfinder: Was good, now it's better
By Jil McIntosh
Jan. 3, 2017
Few vehicles have gone through as many major greasy-bits changes as Nissan’s Pathfinder. It started out as a rear-wheel-drive, body-on-frame SUV based on a pickup truck for 1987. A decade later, it switched to a unibody design, and then for 2005, it was back to a frame.
For 2013 it returned to unibody, and it’s unlikely that it will ever switch from that again. Now it gets a refresh for 2017, with styling changes, more power, and increased towing capacity.
Pricing starts at $32,498 for the base S trim in front-wheel drive, and at $35,398 for the S 4WD. All other trim lines—the SV, SL, and Platinum—are 4WD only, topping out at $48,398. My tester was the SL, starting at $41,098, which was further optioned with a Premium Tech package that added navigation, dual-pane sunroof, and Bose premium audio system for $3,200, along with a $135 coat of extra-charge metallic paint, bringing it to $44,733 before freight and taxes.
Pros & Cons
- + Driveability
- + Towing capacity
- + Ride comfort
- - Trackpad controller
- - Hard rear seats
- - Secondary controls
The front-end do-over streamlines the Pathfinder’s face. The grille now has the company’s signature “boomerang” chrome surround, while the headlights become curvier and the lower fascia is smoothed out.
At the rear, the taillights, previously a red slash inside a white background, gain more red plastic with smaller backup lights tucked inside. The side profile stays the same, with a fairly large greenhouse for good visibility. Eighteen-inch wheels fill the arches on all but the top-line Platinum, which gets twenty-inch hoops.
Everything but the S trim level includes automatic headlamps, fog lamps, and roof rails. Moving up to my SL tester added tilt-down exterior mirrors and a towing receiver. While the previous model could pull 5,000 lbs., the 2017 model can tow 6,000 lbs.
The cabin is basically untouched from before, retaining a handsome design that’s good overall but with some fiddly bits. The numerous controls are all straightforward, but some of them can be difficult to see and reach, such as the two rows of buttons on the lower left-hand side of the dash that operate the heated steering wheel (my new favourite feature), the blind spot monitor, and the SL’s power-operated liftgate. The centre stack recesses slightly at the bottom, and if you like to sit with the driver’s seat raised, the controls down there are a bit low as well.
All models come with three rows of seats, including a three-passenger second-row bench and two-chair third-row bench. That third row is flat and hard, and you sit with your knees very high, but while legroom certainly isn’t limousine quality, there’s a bit more than in some of its competitors.
The rear seat tumbles ahead for accessibility, and it can be slid fore or aft to maximize space for second- or third-row passengers, depending on who has the longer legs. While I didn’t try it out, Nissan says that when a child seat is latched into the second row, it can still be moved with enough room for third-row access. All three rows fold flat, and easily, for maximum cargo space.
One step below the top-level Platinum, the SL includes a few interior items missing on the two lower trims, including leather upholstery, auto-dimming rearview mirror, eight-way power driver’s seat with memory, heated second-row seats, and a 120-volt power outlet.
All models come with rearview camera, Nissan Connect mobile app integration, satellite radio, two USB connectors, Bluetooth streaming, and illuminated steering wheel controls. The SL adds a 360-degree camera, while my tester’s Premium Tech package added navigation with Sirius XM traffic, Bose premium stereo with 13 speakers, and an integrated compass.
The infotainment system is easy to use, although I preferred to handle it through the touchscreen, rather than via the clunky joystick controller on the dash.
Among its rivals in the midsize SUV category, the Pathfinder is a really sweet machine to drive. The new 3.5-litre engine has the same displacement as before, but now there’s gasoline direct injection. Horsepower rises to 284 from the previous 260, while torque now peaks at 259 lb.-ft. instead of 240 lb.-ft.
All of this proceeds to the wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT), but don’t curl your lip just yet. It’s quiet and smooth, and unless you’re really paying attention to it, you probably won’t even notice that it isn’t slipping through a series of gears. The four-wheel system can be set into front-wheel drive, into automatic all-wheel that distributes torque as required, or locked for low-speed traction on snow or other slippery surfaces. Press the middle of the dial, and you also get downhill descent control.
The steering has been tweaked for quicker response, but it’s still smooth rather than twitchy. It drives much smaller than it is, with a car-like feel and well-planted stance. Nissan hasn’t made all that much fuss about this overhaul, given that its appearance hasn’t changed all that much, but the differences in the engine and handling are a considerable improvement over the 2016 model.
The 4WD model officially rates at 12.1 L/100 km in the city and 8.9 on the highway, while I split the difference in combined driving at 11.5 L/100 km, and with a regular 87-octane requirement.
While more than $44,700 for my tester seemed like a fair chunk of change, the Pathfinder’s overall pricing scheme is in line with rivals. That said, it can be tough to do head-to-head comparisons, since not everything with a footprint this size adds a third row of seats, should you want one. And not everything rides and drives quite as well as this one does.
A few of Pathfinder’s most notable direct rivals are the Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, GMC Acadia and Toyota Highlander. And if you really like the Pathfinder but want more luxury, Nissan’s upscale Infiniti brand sells the QX60.
It’s not often that I fall for something that’s intended to get the whole family where it’s going, but Nissan has really made something out of this. It took a while for the company to figure out just what the Pathfinder was going to be, but this newest incarnation has it pretty much nailed.