What is it?
Nissan’s big, comfortable seven-seat Pathfinder has been available in Australia since 1986.
Initially a tough if rudimentary four-wheel drive built on a Navara ladder chassis, it has evolved through successive generations to become increasingly popular with modern families who appreciate its space, comfort, safety, generous equipment and improved on-road manners.
It plays in the same busy market space as the Mazda CX-9, Hyundai Santa Fe, Ford Everest, Mitsubishi Pajero and Toyota Kluger.
And it has an increasingly important role to play at Nissan following the car maker’s decision to bench its traditional hatches and sedans, and crank up the focus on SUVs.
The upper grades of the current, fourth-generation Pathfinder have been very well equipped, but now the entry ST gets more safety gear as part of an update this month, designed to make the wagon more appealing.
Stuff such as intelligent emergency braking, forward collision warning, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, and intelligent cruise control.
To help amuse the kids, a Type C USB port is included for the folks in the second row.
The 11-strong range, built in Tennessee in the USA, is broad in spec and priced accordingly.
The power-plant choices come down to powerful and durable VQ series 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine (updated two years ago) or a hybrid with a 2.5-litre internal combustion engine that is economical in an urban environment.
You can have any transmission as long as it’s an Xtronic CVT, hooked up to either two wheels or four.
A great people carrier, the Pathfinder is also a useful towing vehicle, especially the non hybrid.
Petrol V6 versions of the Pathfinder are rated to tow 2700kg, but hybrid models are limited to 1650kg.
This current series, more refined than earlier iterations, is offered across four grades: ST, ST+, ST-L and Ti.
What’s it cost?
The most affordable Pathfinder is the base 2WD 3.5 V6 ST which kicks off at $43,390. It’ll cost you another $3500 for the 4WD version.
Along with all grades, the ST features an Advanced DriveAssist Display and 8.0-inch colour touchscreen, along with Bluetooth, and voice recognition. Infotainment stuff includes an MP3 and iPod compatible audio system with a radio and DVD player.
There are 10 cupholders too!
The Pathfinder range also features standard tri-zone climate control with vents for all three rows, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lights, power-adjustable and foldable door mirrors, tyre pressure monitor and auto headlights.
Four-wheel-drive models have hill descent control.
The line-up gets a clever flexible seating system which offers easy access to the third row.
There are also four 12V power outlets, three in the front of the vehicle and one in the boot.
The driver’s seat can be adjusted electrically, and there is manual height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel.
Safety is impressive starting with six airbags to protect occupants in all seat rows.
Of course the more you pay the better the safety and convenience gear becomes.
The virtual overhead view camera on ST-L and Ti Pathfinders is a great reassurance when squeezing through tight spaces at low speeds.
Now, from April, Nissan has also improved the grade walk between ST and the ST-L by adding a new ST+ grade. This adds intelligent around-view monitor with moving object detection and satellite navigation and is priced from $44,590 (2WD) and $48,090 (4WD).
The mid-grade ST-L ($54,890 for the 2WD); $58,390 for the 4WD) is boosted with the addition of LED headlights with auto-levelling.
The high-spec Pathfinder Ti with remote engine start (the version we sampled) now benefits from the addition of rear door alert — an active safety technology making its Nissan Australia debut.
Tragic cases of young kids inadvertently overlooked and left in rear seats of parked cars highlight the importance of the new feature.
Rear door alert is designed to alert the driver if they fail to check whether a person or large item has been left the second row.
The system activates if a rear door has been opened before the journey. Once the ignition is cut a warning alert appears on a driver’s display, while a distinct triple honk is activated if the rear door is not opened.
Second-row heated rear seats are also new to the latest petrol Ti, now priced at $62,890 (2WD) and $66,190 (4WD) and blessed with a luxury feel that owners of earlier generation Pathfinders could not imagine.
The Pathfinder Hybrid range gets similar equipment to the V6 across three levels – 2.5 ST 2WD at $46,390, 2.5 ST-L AWD at $61,390 and the range-king — the 2.5 Ti AWD at $69,390.
The Pathfinder is a big beast – possibly larger and more comfortable than Carlos Ghosn’s Japanese prison cell — with very flexible seating/ cargo configurations.
The load capacity with both the second and third rows folded flat is an impressive 2260 litres and there is additional under-floor storage at the rear.
Though Nissan was tardy to the long warranty party, the Pathfinder is now covered by a five-year warranty with roadside assist.
What’s it go like?
The two-tonne Pathfinder is a grunty and versatile family chariot offering a generous 202kW of power and 340Nm of torque from the V6 petrol engine.
Old school Aussie motorists will enjoy the way the V6 launches aggressively off the line, and its effortless overtaking capabilities.
Though there is a price premium to pay for the supercharged 188kW/330Nm hybrid models, there are fuel consumption benefits.
The 2WD Hybrid returns 8.6L/100km, compared to 9. 9 for the 2WD petrol V6 and 10.1 for the 4WD petrol V6. Remember though that hybrid Pathfinders attract higher service costs.
On road, the Pathfinder is a pleasing, quiet and comfortable highway cruiser but around town you become more aware of its size and mass — and its greater thirst!
4WD Pathfinders have a rotary switch on the centre console which allows the driver to choose from three drive options depending on road conditions: 2WD, Auto and Lock.
In 2WD mode, the Pathfinder drives though just its front wheels. In Auto, and when appropriate, it automatically sends drive to the rear wheels too.
The Lock mode is the employed when the road or bush track is very slippery and progress is limited to under 40km/h. In these circumstances, the system distributes drive evenly between the front and rear axles.
The continuously variable (or CVT) automatic transmission with its artificial ratios or “steps” feels more like a regular auto. There’s none of the weird elastic band sensation that characterise some CVTs.
The Ti is the last word in Pathfinder luxury with a power tailgate (just wave a foot under the bumper), front-seats that can be heated or cooled and, for those in the second row of seats, two colour screens to keep passengers entertained while listening to wireless headsets.
While the lower grades ride on 18-inch rubber, the Ti has lower-profile 20-inch tyres and alloy wheels, giving a firmer ride and a sportier look.
The Pathfinder wasn’t always a satisfying drive, but a broad facelift in 2017 brought some welcome revisions, including firmer suspension and more communicative steering, delivering a more dynamic experience.
The ride is still on the cushy side but the current steering offers a good indication of where the driver would like to head.
Inside, the Pathfinder is strong ergonomically, with the primary controls well located and easy to use.
The driver’s instruments are easy to decipher and overall, travel is relaxing for all the family.
Adults can get comfortable in the middle row of seats, which slide forward and back. The seat cushions and backs, though, are flat and lack support some big backsides would relish.
Those in the easy-entry third row have less legroom, but the space still measures up well against many rival SUVs.
What we like?
- People carrying ability
- Generous equipment
- Strong performance
- 10 cup holders
- Dipping mirrors when reversing
What we don’t like?
- Foot-operated parking brake
- Heavy vehicle and big V6 equals a robust thirst
- Space-saver spare
The bottom line?
A tough, durable all rounder with lots of good gear and some excellent comfort touches, the upgraded Pathfinder adapts to just about everything you’ll ask of it . . . except perhaps competitiveness in a fuel economy contest.
It may not be as trendy as some of the competition, but it is honest and willing.
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Nissan Pathfinder Ti 4x4 wagon, priced from $66,190