I owned a Second Generation Nissan Pathfinder (last face-lifted model of 2005) and have had it for several years. It was a very good car without a doubt, even cops around here used them. It was good off road, had decent performance on and off road (with manual off road gearbox range selection) while being comfortable, practical and with a decent ride height and driving position. The third generation changed nearly entirely, it had a little less off-road abilities, gained weight and got more practical. I heard there was a new Pathfinder and the moment I saw one I was utterly surprised! I just had to get one for review, so I got in touch with Nissan in Dubai, and they were happy to lend me one for a few days.
Nissan Pathfinder Introduction
To start things off this car is all new. It moves a step further from their body-on-frame design used in Nissan’s trucks, SUVs and opted for a unibody structure found on the Maxima, Murano, Altima and Infiniti JX, infact this is the identical Nissan version of the Infiniti JX. The car rides lower than before with lower a front fascia, and has a lot of interior space unlike ever before on a Pathfinder, we’re talking full on 3 row seats here.
Under the hood sits a 3.5 litre V6 engine powering through a CVT transmission. The engine is stated at 255 HP and 240 Pounds feet of torque. This is another thing that surprises me because this is nearly a 2 ton vehicle! There are four essential models of the Pathfinder starting with a “S” which can come in either 2 wheel drive or 4 wheel drive, an SV and an SL (Top of the range) both in 4 wheel drive only.
The car provided to me for review is the Top of the range SL which was surprisingly well equipt, especially for a pathfinder with a 12 speaker Bose sound system, an 8 inch touch based DVD Navigation display with a 9GB hard drive, Remote engine start, Rear seat entertainment screens, power everything, sunroof and large rear moon roof, LED DRL, 20 inch alloys and much more! The only thing I felt was lacking in this car in terms of off-the-top-of-the-spec-sheet, was Bi-Xenon headlights, which hasn’t found its way to the Pathfinder.
I keep emphasising that looks is a matter of taste, because it is, but from the feedback I have received from people who have seen or been in the car with me, it is either they like the styling or are indifferent. I haven’t come across anyone who hated the design, which is a good thing.
By all means this is a large car and Nissan is aware of the size and they didn’t forget that such a large car gets hard to maneuver so they gave the car surround cameras to help out with getting close to things and of course, for parking.
They really knew how to utilize these cameras well, and Nissan now offers their popular (especially from the Patrol) 360 bird eye view, where the cameras manage to bend physics by bending the images to show the driver, from a presumingly bird eye view what the area around the car looks like. I promise you, this makes parking near effortless! Another view is the right side camera. I believe this is useful when having to maneuver obstacles on the passenger side, and all are with guidelines.
The only thing I felt seemed weird was that the front had no sensors, just the camera, so in very tight spots it was hard to perfectly judge the distance, but I mean its certainly better than not having any assistance systems.
Up front the car looks sleek, following Nissan’s new large grill and headlights signature look, and the car does pull it off quite well. The car does not have Bi-Xenons which I thought would have been rather useful on this car. True off-roaders prefer halogen but the new Pathfinder is more focused on being a in city car, I think Bi-Xenons would make it look a bit nicer too, especially in darker colors.
Below the huge grill, and enormous Nissan logo sits some LED Daylight Running Lights. I can see what is happening here, Nissan wanted to enter the LED game, but didn’t want to design them into their headlights just yet so they added LED’s to all their line ups in the form of an added part on to their bumpers, fair enough, and it does look decent on the Pathfinder. Below that sit the fog lights. I had wished the front bumper didn’t have to go as low as it did, it barely managed to be above most pavements without touching, a problem I never faced on any previous generation Pathfinder.
The wheels on the new Pathfinder are a looker. They have quite a bit of sportiness to them and are 20 whole inches, with disc brakes on all four corners. Braking on the Pathfinder is decent but keeping in mind that (will discuss in detail later) the car isn’t going anywhere that fast in the first place.
The Pedal feel is good, and fairly accurate to know where the brakes are in terms of braking pressure. The car is quite big so some bounce is observed when coming to a stop.
The ride is comfortable on the new Pathfinder, being this is targeting families, it certainly is a daily driver and the suspension does a good job keeping things stable, not too bumpy but not soaking up everything either. Suspension settings are not adjustable nor is there any ride height control, so this began to worry me a little when thinking about off-roading with the new Pathfinder.
Driving safety systems are plenty on the car, starting off with their VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) which is essentially Nissan’s stability control making sure the car does not swerve while moving around and about, TCS (Traction Control System) which monitors traction across all 4 tires, and reduces power and applies brakes when a wheel looses its traction, ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) which handles the braking for the driver by applying the right amount of pressure on the brakes to maximise braking and ability to steer while braking without locking the tires, EBD (Electronic Brake Force Distribution) which manages braking force around the car, so when there is extra load in the car, the pressures change to adapt, Tire Pressure Monitoring System where the tires are constantly monitored and would notify the driver if pressures are low in the driver’s instrument panel (more on that below)
A really interesting and stress reducing feature on the Pathfinder, which I think a lot of people will appreciate is, while inflating the tires, the car will give out a horn when the right tire pressure has reached. That is a simple thing but makes things so much more easier for some reason.
The new Pathfinder has nice big doors for easy entry and exit, especially for the back passengers, being that’s the way to entire the third row seat. One element from the Pathfinder DNA that I really miss is the rear door handle being on the C-Pillar rather than on the door itself. Surely makes no difference in experience, but it was a piece of the Pathfinder heritage. Over the top sits the roof rails and antenna in the back. There is no side step (another thing lost from the Pathfinder history) but the car is lower now, and entry/exit is already easier. Being that this was the SL model, there was plenty of Chromed accents to go around as well, which did look nice I think.
The rear is where the Pathfinder shows it’s new found nice-ness. It has a simplistic design, nice little spoiler on the top of a rather medium sized rear window (Don’t expect to see much with all 4 rear headrests up). What is a nice touch, if you use that sort of thing, is the new power out beside the tow attachment, for caravans and other power requirements. Certainly around here one may not necessarily use such things, but It is an option and for anyone that does require them, this is a big plus point on the Pathfinder. The tailgate is power operated to a certain height and can be increased by manually lifting it higher.
Overall, Nissan has done a good job with the exterior of the new Pathfinder, it has its own personality, its own look. They kept it simple, and it does serve its new purpose, a urban driving family SUV.
This must be the place that really wow’d me on the new Pathfinder. Coming from the second and third generation, which were admittedly quite simple, and slightly boring, the new Pathfinder has a beautiful interior!
The interior is such a nice place to be! It is almost entirely derived from its bigger brother, the Nissan Patrol, and is very welcoming.
The cabin is very roomy, with plenty of head, shoulder and leg room in the cabin. The driver seat is an 8 way power adjustable with very good variable range in all modes, with two driver memory seats.
Starting off from the left of the dashboard sits a couple of controls.
I do not know why they didn’t decide to just use on row of 4 buttons, but here the driver can control the traction control, open the tailgate, turn on/off the rear power door and enable tow mode.
The cabin has a lot of space, which I think is the key factor in the Pathfinder’s practicality ratings, and this is no joke, the car has 14 cup and bottle holders! Fourteen!
The steering wheel has several features to control the driver information system, bluetooth phone controls, volume and cruise control on the right. I have used several cruise control systems but I always find the basic simplistic buttons on the steering wheel to be the most effective. The steering is power tilt and telescoping and to the right of the steering wheel sits the engine starter button.
Speaking of starting the car up, the Pathfinder now has remote start!
The essential idea was for the remote start to work, one must press the lock key and then press the remote start button. The distance the remote works is fairly decent,
I did manage to start the car during the day, and by the time I reached the car it wasn’t scorching hot in there. That coupled with air conditioned seats, and you’re set to go.
The interior has plenty of beautiful leather everywhere you touch, and even the plastics has a nice softer feel to them which does give the car a lot of additional luxurious appeal to it.
The Bose sound system on board the car is phenomenal. I have been in some cars with exceptional sound systems, brands and all sorts of gimmicks, but in the end of the day, the real world experience is what matters and the Pathfinder blew me away with its 12 speaker system. It plays really loud, really clear with beautiful levels of bass. It was impressive, especially for a full on family SUV.
Starting from the top, sits a 8 inch touch based DVD Navigation screen between the two air conditioning vents.
The screen is touch based, but touch isn’t necessary as there are plenty of buttoned controls to handle all the options. There are quick buttons for the Camera (which is very useful and easy to just click when coming near a curb or something), zoom in/out and brightness.
below that sits the CD slot and controls for the Radio, in manual, classic style, which does give a sense of familiarity, and finally below that sits the air conditioning controls which are quad-zoned.
Under that part of the dash is a little storage compartment with a Cigarette lighter and a power outlet, which, considering the size of this car, is thinking ahead.
In the lower center console is the gear leaver, seat air conditioning controls, two large cup holders, and the drive mode selector.
The Pathfinder comes in 2 wheel drive and 4 wheel drive mdoels, on the 4 wheel drive models, the driver can control 3 main modes; Full time front wheel drive for best fuel economy, automatic 4 wheel drive (where the power is sent across the wheels according to driving style and surface conditions, and lock mode where it focuses on distributing power efficiently for off-roading. The central arm rest has plenty of storage and Auxiliary inputs.
The doors open nice and wide allowing very good access to the cabin. In the above pictures, the front seats are all the way back and the rear seats (which can be pulled forwards and backwards) are all the way back as well. Surely, this leaves nearly no space for the 3rd row passengers, but the passengers could move over a little bit and still have enough space.
Speaking of the third row seat, this is what the entry looks like..
I did a test where I filled the car up with my friends, and I managed to get all 7 of us in the car with all of us being fairly comfortable. Moving the second row seats is really well engineered and can be done with very little effort, certainly good for moms who carry a lot of things at a time.
Moving along to the back of the car, the Pathfinder proves its practicality and shows why it has grown over the years.
The trunk space is quite reasonable even with the 3rd row seat up. Below the rear trunk is a small compartment that has the subwoofer, which has decent storage for small items that may move around the trunk.
Moving back into the interior, there was an element which I thought took the Nissan Pathfinder to a more luxurious atmosphere.
The front sunroof opens up like an ordinary sunroof, although its a bit smaller than I would have liked, but the really nice thing is in the back.
Rear seat passengers get their own moonroof. This really brings a lot of light and space into the cabin, plus, if you haul kids around, they will love it too.
The Drive & Performance on/off road.
From what I can tell driving the new Pathfinder for a few days is that, the target audience that Nissan is trying to capture has changed over the years. Now, I may not be the expert in identifying who they’re customers are but it is a common thought that most people buy off-road focused cars and drive them around town. If that is the actual case, Nissan has tuned a car to their needs.
I have driven the previous generation Pathfinders and there is a difference without a doubt, and this one is unique.
I wouldn’t want to call Nissan’s latest release a soft family car because it isn’t but the above picture represents where most of them shall be, in parking lots rather than in the middle of the desert.
The car drives really well on the road. It is smooth, quiet and drives in comfort. The steering is ordinary, neither soft or hard, gives decent feedback, brakes are decent as well, and the overall ride is comfortable. I have driven over some bumps and it does a decent job of soaking as much of it as possible.
It’s cruising abilities are without a doubt great, but you aren’t just cruising, so lets talk about performance. First of all, this is a 2 ton vehicle with 255 HP. Older Pathfinders weren’t any more powerful but felt a lot lighter even if they weren’t, the bulk does affect the drive. With a few 0-100 tests the best I managed was a 7.9 second run to 100. Decent? Indeed but it feels heavy still. Accelerating over 50-70 KMs was subtle enough for daily use.
Another thing, thats more of a personal impression, is the fact that Nissan used a CVT (Which is supposed to be fuel efficient, more on that in a bit) which means, hard acceleration is painfully loud and the rev whine is continuous till the driver eases off the pedal. CVT’s aren’t loved by us car lovers, even if they have good return.
Now, time to discuss a bit of that return. With the car filled up, the vehicle displayed a range of 340 KMs (around 210 Miles). It has a 19.5 gallon fuel tank, so to kick things off that meant an estimated rating of 10.75 MPG. Nissan estimates the can can do over 20! I assumed that the reading is incorrect or it under-estimates it. By the end of my tests, I had managed 400 KMs where the tank was empty. That is just shy of 12.8MPG.
In the Pathfinder’s defence, I had done a lot of accelerating, some off roading and rough driving and always in 4 wheel drive mode. On a good normal cycle, I assume it can handle 15-17 MPG, but I doubt it can reach estimated 20MPG in typical Dubai driving.
You heard that right, I took it off-roading, well.. lightly. There was a sandy area where I used to often go with my second generation Pathfinder. So I deflated the tires, and went in. It wasn’t so great off-road. It did move along but it was heavy and struggled while moving along. It seemed like the 4 wheel drive system wasn’t built for this. It did get stuck a couple of times and over all, it did one thing which it shouldn’t have, it took away my confidence in it off road.
The Infotainment System
The system on the new Pathfinder is derived from the Patrol as well, it is very simple to use and does not have too many options. Some might find it lacking in many features found in other cars, while I believe it has every basic option that is really needed in a family SUV.
This is the main screen that is active while driving (can be set to this or a map) It shows the current media status, fuel economy levels while driving and the average fuel consumption. On the bottom it displays the distance before the fuel runs out.
Alternatively, the map can be selected which is a birds eye view of the car’s location, and has temperature and media information on the bottom.
There is a variety of input options for the Navigation such as direct address input, points of interest, previous destinations and more.
Under information, One can see plenty of features and status of the car, including its current location, fuel economy statistics, maintenance schedules, and even Qiblah direction.
The radio interface, as with all the other interfaces, is pretty simple and straight forward.
Under the main settings of the system, one can adjust Audio, Navigation, Phone, Bluetooth and a couple of more settings.
As for the drive information system, it is the new version of Nissan’s driver information system that has a nice 3D looking effect.
The main screen is of the Car itself, and it has alerts for warnings and open doors. On the top it displays remaining fuel range, drivetrain mode, and outside temperature.
There are several screens in this system, covering the basic car status information that the driver needs.
This one displays the average statistics of fuel consumption, average speed, driving range and time.
The second screen displays tire pressure status.
The next screen displays power delivery while driving, it displays how many percentage of the power is being sent to the front wheels and rear wheels, when 4 wheel drive is activated. When 2 wheel drive is activated only the front wheels get any power readings.
This screen displays, actively, the fuel economy while the driver is driving. It changes in real time while displaying the average as well.
Here is where all the car’s warnings are to be displayed. Warnings such as low tire pressure, low fuel, late maintenance, etc are all shown in one section in the display.
The little display has plenty of settings for the driver; Driver assistance systems, main menu selection options, body color (for the mini display), maintenance settings, alarms, vehicle settings, units (for display), welcome effect upon entry settings, and a factory reset option.
The new Pathfinder was a real surprise to me. I came from a background of Pathfinders and a list of expectations. Did it meet them? No it did not meet all of them, but the Pathfinder was still an impressive vehicle because it has learnt to do so many things Pathfinders never knew how to do and did them extremely well. I can feel that Nissan had a re-think to what the Pathfinder should be, and focused a lot on their target customers, and their expectations out of the Pathfinder badge.
I really liked the Pathfinder, and it did turn into a car I loved driving on a daily basis and it still had the “Lets go, you can trust me” feel that every Pathfinder has had in the past. It has become more practical, luxurious and comfortable than ever before, and it looks good too. Can I have one in Black please?