2016 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum AWD
One of the easiest mid-size SUVs to live with 2016 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum AWD
You need to be very good to keep ahead in today’s mid-size SUV segment, and Nissan’s Pathfinder has done quite well despite seeing much change since this totally reimagined fourth-generation car-based crossover replaced the outdated body-on-frame truck-sourced model in 2012 for the 2013 model year. It’s not fancy and hardly exciting, but it’s exactly what many families need and therefore remains a popular choice amongst seven-passenger SUVs.
It makes sense of course. Large SUV buyers tend to be practical people even if somewhat disenchanted with their parents’ minivans, so a vehicle that does most things a minivan can while looking a great deal more SUV-like should fare well. To that end the Pathfinder provides best-in-class passenger volume and the segment’s most accessible third row thanks to EZ Flex seating that tips the lower cushion of each second-row outboard seat upwards as the entire mechanism slides forward, this opening a gap that’s wide enough for average sized adults to easily pass through on their way to a set of rear seats that said adults won’t have any problem using. You’ll need to slide the second-row forward to improve third-row legroom, but this allows adult seating in all seven positions, which makes the Pathfinder a far cry more accommodating than most competitors. Another bonus is the ability to access the rearmost seats without removing a forward facing child seat from the second row, although you’ll want to remove the child.
The big SUV strikes a minivan pose when it comes to cargo capacity too, although I must say it’s easier for hauling large items than most vans that require removal of the second-row seats (the Quest’s more SUV-like layout not included). Just tumble the 50/50-split third row into the floor to expand the Pathfinder’s 16.0 cubic-foot minimum capacity to a much roomier 42.4 cubic feet, while the 60/40-split second row flips forward just as easily for a maximum of 79.8 cubic feet. Sure that’s not as much overall space as any modern van with all seats removed, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to make happen. I chose it for picking up a sizable load of furniture consisting of two wide and three narrow Ikea Pax wardrobes with shelves, the latter trio complete with heavy mirrored doors no less, and it not only swallowed them up without need to push the driver’s seat uncomfortably forward but it also remained extremely stable at highway speeds. Surely there’s little this SUV can’t do, it’s tow rating even measuring a considerable 5,000 lbs.
Nissan reconfigured the Pathfinder’s continuously variable transmission last year for a more engaging driving experience and it really feels more like a regular automatic thanks to positive shift increments when getting on the power, although it remains one of the smoothest operators in the segment and one of the more efficient amongst six-cylinder powered offerings. Engine output hasn’t changed since this generation’s inception, still making 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque, which is more than ample to get it moving quickly from standstill and keep it ahead of traffic on the highway, while passing performance is excellent. Just the same the Pathfinder is more about comfort than speed, which seems to be how most people like their crossover SUVs, the ride as smooth as the powertrain with good compliance over rougher pavement, while the big ute is still quite capable through the corners as long as you don’t ask too much of it, which is par for the course in the large seven-passenger crossover SUV segment.
My Pathfinder tester was priced at $43,300 plus freight and dealer fees due to its top-line Platinum trim with AWD, which meant its wheels were 20-inch alloys and rubber 235/55 all-seasons, no doubt helping it navigate corners more effectively. Additional Platinum features include a powered tilt and telescoping steering column with memory, climate controlled front seats, and upgraded leather upholstery, the only options being $395 for Pearl White paint and a $1,700 rear DVD entertainment package with dual seven-inch displays, two wireless headphones and rear audio/video input jacks.
All of this gets added to a host of other features pulled up from lesser trims, these consisting of the $29,830 S, $33,150 SV, $36,410 SL, $38,440 SL Tech, and $39,740 SL Premium (AWD adding $1,690 across the line), such as auto on/off headlights, fog lights, powered heatable side mirrors with reverse tilt-down, chrome body side moldings, roof rails, remote start, welcome lighting, proximity access with pushbutton ignition, stainless steel kick plates, a heatable leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, woodgrain trim, leather upholstery, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with powered lumbar, driver’s seat and side mirror memory, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, heatable front and second-row outboard seats, speed-sensitive variable intermittent wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, tri-zone automatic climate control, a 4.0-inch multi-information display, an eight-inch touchscreen with a 360-degree Around View monitor, navigation, nav traffic and nav weather, a great sounding 13-speaker Bose stereo with streaming Bluetooth audio, Bluetooth, aux and USB ports, satellite radio, voice recognition, a 120-volt household-style power outlet, rear parking sonar, a powered liftgate, a tow hitch receiver with a seven-pin wiring harness, hill start assist, hill descent control, tire pressure monitoring with individual display, all the usual active and passive safety features and more.
As far as refinement goes the Pathfinder Platinum mixes straightforward utilitarianism with a decent dose of luxury, although Nissan doesn’t dress up the dash and instrument panel with soft touch synthetics like most of its competitors, preferring instead to relegate pliable plastics to the door uppers, whereas the door inserts and armrests are nicely padded and covered with the same comfortable leather as the seats.
A Pathfinder strength is switchgear that’s mostly premium quality with nice tight spacing, good damping and an overall substantive feel, while the general layout of the center stack is quite attractive albeit a bit dated due to a button-intensive infotainment interface positioned just below the touchscreen noted earlier, the former featuring a handy rotating dial controller at center albeit no simple home or menu button to get you back to any sort of starting point. For this reason it’s not the simplest to operate, while it doesn’t yet feature Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and its screen resolution isn’t the sharpest in the class. Also a bit behind the times, the audio and HVAC controls are purely analog, only showing adjustments on the touchscreen briefly when being used, while unlike some competitors there aren’t any touch-sensitive controls.
The three-way heatable and cooled front seats were plenty nice though, as was the woodgrain surrounding the center stack and lower console, while the driver’s seat was extremely comfortable even after long stints behind the wheel. A powered glass sunroof sits over the front passengers and a larger panoramic glass roof hovers over both rear rows, making the entire cabin feel open and airy.
Another way the Pathfinder shines is in fuel economy as noted previously, the big SUV managing to eke out an EPA estimated 20 mpg in the city, 27 on the highway and 23 combined in FWD or 19 city, 26 highway and 22 combined for lower trims equipped with AWD, whereas my fully loaded and therefore heavier Platinum was still good for 19 mpg city, 26 highway and 21 combined.
According to both Consumer Reports and J.D. Power it’s not the most reliable, however, with a rating of minus-126 from the former and a below average score in the latter third-party analytical firm’s latest Vehicle Dependability Study. On a more positive note the NHTSA gave the Pathfinder five stars overall for crash worthiness whereas it earned best possible “Good” scores from IIHS in all categories, but a lack of active sensing safety technologies such as forward-collision warning or automatic emergency braking means that it didn’t earn either Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick Plus status.
That should hardly matter to most Pathfinder buyers who aren’t paying top dollar for all the goodies anyway,, which incidentally is how most competitive models are equipped if they qualify for the best possible IIHS safety rating. Other than fewer active safety features than most fully loaded rivals this top-line Nissan is nicely upgraded over its more proletarian trims, but the aforementioned lesser models might be better bets considering their more approachable price points.
Either way, after a week spent with this Pathfinder Platinum it was easy for me to appreciate why the model remains a popular choice. It comes down to that comfortable, roomy and accommodating interior, which when joined up with its overall relaxed driving experience makes it incredibly easy to live with. Aren’t these the attributes most of us want in a family hauler? It’s entirely possible the Pathfinder will suit your needs ideally, so make sure to test it out when it comes time to upgrade.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press.