The original Nissan Pathfinder, first introduced in mid-1986, was a compact Sport Utility Vehicle made for family adventures. Now in its twenty-eighth year of production, the Pathfinder has increased substantially in size, comfort, performance and seating capacity. To better match expectations, Nissan changed Pathfinder's personality last year, transforming it from a rugged body-on-frame SUV into a more car-like unibody crossover SUV.
No longer the boxy, truck-based utility vehicle it used to be, the 2014 Pathfinder is all sweeping curves and rounded edges that project a friendly image. An available dual-panel moonroof works well at opening the cabin, even for 3rd-row passengers. The change to unibody construction meant giving up some of its predecessors' off-road and towing capacities in exchange for a gain in ride and handling qualities. With just 6.5 inches of ground clearance, today's Pathfinder isn't meant for hard-core off-roading, and looks right at home in its new role.
The Pathfinder is available in six trims (S/SV/SL/SL Premium/Platinum/Platinum Premium), with each getting its own roster of standard features. Spend the least on a base S model, and you can still feel good with features such as 3-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, in-dash 6-disc AM/FM audio, and 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.
Pathfinder's interior offers a range of amenities, including available leather-appointed seating, heated steering wheel, Nissan Intelligent Key with twist start, Nissan Navigation System with 9.3GB Music Box Hard Drive, Bluetooth Hands-Free Phone System, XM Satellite Radio and Rear View Monitor.
A long wheelbase of 112.2 inches allows for three rows of seating while providing ride comfort and stability. Pathfinder's 192.5-inch overall length and short front and rear overhangs make parking and maneuvering in tight spaces less of a chore.
Seating selections include an available 8-way power driver's seat, 4-way power front passenger's seat, fold-down front passenger seat, driver's seat auto entry/exit system with two-driver memory and heated front seats, a flat-folding 3rd row seat, 40/20/40 split separate-folding 2nd row seats with easy one-touch release lever for 3rd row access come standard on all models.
Storage areas are plentiful, including eight cupholders and an overhead console with sunglass storage, front seatback pockets, plentiful passenger assist grips and available rear reading lamps and outside temperature gauge.
Standard on all Pathfinder models is an engine-speed-sensitive power-assisted rack-and -pinion steering system and 4-wheel disc brakes with 4-wheel, 4-channel, 4-sensor Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with G-sensor and Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD).
Pathfinder's long list of standard safely features and equipment includes Nissan Advanced Air Bag System, featuring dual-stage front supplemental air bags with seat belt sensors and a front occupant classification sensor; supplemental front seat-mounted side-impact air bags; and roof-mounted supplemental curtain air bags for improved side impact and rollover head protection for outboard occupants in all three rows.
The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. A CVT takes the place of a conventional automatic transmission. Both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions are available. The AWD system includes a switch that allows you to lock power distribution 50/50 front-to-rear. The 3.4-liter V6 delivers respectable acceleration in most situations. The efficiency-oriented CVT can be slow to respond during quickly changing driving needs.
Nissan says the CVT helps the Pathfinder achieve EPA fuel economy estimated at 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined for front-wheel-drive models and 21 combined with all-wheel drive. During our performance testing, an AWD Pathfinder accelerated from zero to 60 in 7.9 seconds, not bad for a vehicle this size and configuration. Properly equipped, the Pathfinder can tow 5,000 pounds.
The brakes feel good and steering is light and precise. On pavement, the Pathfinder's suspension does a good job of creating a smooth, stable ride. However, the Platinum model with its 20-inch wheels produces a ride that is noticeably stiffer over uneven pavement
This latest-generation Pathfinder is more refined than past models. The previous model was a capable off-roader but not the best for highway cruising. The new Pathfinder provides a pleasant driving experience.
Pathfinder prices start at $28,950.