2018 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4x4
Still one of the more accommodating family haulers available
Nissan gave its mid-size seven-passenger Pathfinder a mid-cycle update last year, giving it more of a traditional SUV design, increasing power and sharpening up its driving dynamics to good effect. Strangely, the result hasn’t been positive, with 0.8 percent fewer Americans choosing it over a competitor in calendar year 2017 than during 2016 resulting in three consecutive years of market shrinkage.
It was rare for any SUV to lose ground last year, with only Nissan’s own Murano, the Kia Sorento, Dodge Journey, and Ford Flex down year-over-year, plus of course discontinued models like Volkswagen’s Touareg. The Murano was worst hit overall, with a market share loss of 11.7 percent from 2016 to 2017, but at least both years showed significant growth over 2015 and the years before.
Nevertheless, the Pathfinder checks off a lot of mid-size SUV boxes for today’s active family. For starters it’s big on safety, especially this 2018 model that adds standard forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking to a bevy of active and passive safety features that were already part of the basic package, whereas blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is standard in the second of five trims. Also standard across the line, a new rear seat alert reminds of any forgotten valuables in back when leaving the vehicle, this especially important for children and pets.
Other 2018 Pathfinder news includes a new Midnight Edition package that builds on third-rung SL trim and therefore sits just below the Platinum model being covered in this review. Other than commenting on its mostly black trim including the side mirror caps, window surrounds and rear rooftop spoiler, plus its glossy black 20-inch alloys and reasonable $1,395 upgrade cost that’s all I’ll be saying here, although now that I’ve touched on trim levels I should cover available 2018 trims, which continue forward with the $31,040 base S, the $33,730 SV, the aforementioned $37,750 SL and $39,145 Midnight Edition, and top-tier $42,570 Platinum.
Same as last year, all 2018 Pathfinders come standard with Nissan’s well-proven 3.5-liter V6, which was bumped from 260 to 284 horsepower and 240 to 259 lb-ft of torque for the 2017 model year, yet nevertheless manages the best fuel economy among six-cylinder competitors at 20 mpg city, 27 highway and 23 combined in standard front-wheel drive trim, 19 city, 26 highway and 22 combined with AWD, plus 19 city, 26 highway and 21 combined in as-tested Platinum AWD guise. This stingy efficiency may have something to do with its standard continuously variable transmission (CVT), an extremely efficient design that provides ultra-smooth operation and reasonably realistic stepped “gear” ratios for a more natural automatic feel.
The Pathfinder doesn’t include paddle shifters or even a manual mode, which is fine by me as this is the type of transmission that’s best left to its own devices, an “L” for low gear selection the only alternative next to the usual “PRND” selections, although take note that a rotating selector branded “i-4x4” to denote Nissan’s Intelligent 4WD system lets you choose between 2WD, AUTO, and LOCK, the latter for getting out of deep snow, mud, sand, or other types of slippery situations. This said the current Pathfinder is no longer a true off-road capable SUV, the model having left its rugged 4x4 persona in the past for model year 2013 when the current generation took on a more refined, roomier, more family- and fuel-friendly unibody car-based crossover SUV design.
This means today’s Pathfinder is more capable of comfortable city and highway cruising, not to mention more stable in fast-paced corners, especially since its update last year, its fully independent suspension now slightly firmer, albeit still plenty compliant for a smooth, quiet ride. And this despite its sizable 20-inch alloys wrapped in 235/55 Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sport rubber, these standard with Platinum trim. All other trims get 18-inch alloys encircled by 235/65 all-seasons, which as tested previously do their job nicely, but the 20s provide better stickum in the corners for very little tradeoff in ride quality, although be prepared to pay a bit more for replacements when the time comes.
Additional 2018 Pathfinder Platinum features not available on lesser trims include LED low-beam projector headlights, chrome body-side moldings, a power-adjustable tilt and telescopic steering column with memory, climate-controlled front seats, open-pore style faux wood-tone trim, perforated leather seat and door upholstery, and more.
Its great sounding 13-speaker premium audio with Bose Acoustic Waveguide technology can be purchased in lesser SL trim, as can its powered dual-pane panoramic sunroof, while its standard tow hitch receiver with its seven-pin wiring harness is available on SV trim as well.
The Platinum also includes most SL features such as welcome lighting, front stainless steel treadplates, heat, reverse tilt-down and memory for the side mirrors, a heatable steering wheel rim, a split-screen display 360-degree Around View parking monitor with moving object detection next to the regular backup camera with dynamic guidelines, navigation, voice recognition, NavTraffic, blindspot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, a 120-volt household-style AC power outlet, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar and memory, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, heatable front and second-row outboard seats, a motion gesture-activated powered liftgate with position memory, and more.
Other notable features pulled up from SV trim include fog lamps, remote engine start, proximity keyless access, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, rear parking sensors, individual displays for the standard tire pressure monitoring system, etcetera.
Lastly, not yet mentioned base S features that get pulled up to Platinum trim include roof rails, power-adjustable side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, pushbutton ignition, an Advanced Drive-Assist Display within the primary gauge cluster, an 8.0-inch NissanConnect infotainment touchscreen, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, Bluetooth with audio streaming, satellite and HD radio, aux and USB ports, micro-filtered tri-zone auto climate control, an overhead sunglasses holder, Nissan’s EZ Flex seating system that lets you slide second-row seats forward while a front-facing child seat (w/o child) is fastened within, rear door alert, hill start assist, hill descent control (4x4 only), eight cup holders and six bottle holders, eight cargo area tie-down hooks, all the usual active and passive safety features, plus more.
My tester was upgraded with AWD, a $1,690 option across the entire line, plus it was also finished in beautiful $395 Scarlet Ember paint. Lastly, it included a $1,700 Mobile Entertainment System Package featuring tri-zone rear DVD entertainment with dual 7.0-inch monitors integrated into the backside of the front headrests, a remote, two wireless headphones, and rear auxiliary audio/video input jacks, pushing the final total up to $46,355 before freight and fees.
While this certainly enters lower end premium territory, with an equivalent luxury-branded model, such as Infiniti’s own QX60, priced well into the high $50k arena, plus similarly equipped European models tens of thousands higher, it’s by no means inexpensive. Of course, for the extra coin you’d be getting a much more refined interior with higher grade materials including greater use of soft-touch synthetics, real woods and metals, fabric-wrapped roof pillars, and more features, especially advanced driver assistance systems that are missing from this Pathfinder, such as auto high beams, lane departure alert and mitigation, semi-autonomous self-parking, etcetera. The Pathfinder doesn’t even measure up to many of its mainstream market peers when it comes to these features, not even offering front parking sensors, while its materials quality, especially with respect to switchgear, is a bit below par.
It’s large and accommodating, though, and as noted the EZ Flex second-row seats make it one of the easiest to get kids in and out of. What’s more, second-row roominess and comfort is impressive, while I was even able to sit in the very back without feeling claustrophobic. I slid the second-row as far rearward as possible and was still able to squeeze in without issue, which is pretty good considering my five-foot-eight height and small-to-medium build, but pull the middle row farther forward and there’s plenty of space left over for someone larger to move around easily.
As for cargo capacity, the Pathfinder offers up more rear load space than many of its rivals at 16.0 cubic feet, while if you drop the rearmost 50/50-split seatbacks down you’ll have 42.4 cubic feet available along with a relatively flat load floor. Better yet, lowering the 60/40-split second-row results in 79.8 cubic feet of maximum gear-toting capability, making the Pathfinder ideal for the most active of lifestyles.
In the end, the 2018 Pathfinder remains one of the better mid-size three-row family haulers on the market, with attractive styling, great all-round functionality, good straight-line performance, decent handling, impressive fuel economy, and more top-tier features than most will need. Still, for those wanting a premium experience from a volume brand this Platinum model falls a bit short when it comes to features and finishing, which might be why its sales weren’t as strong as others in the class last year.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press