1. home
  2. news
  3. One Week With: 2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD

One Week With: 2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD

Gives up the Paris-Dakar to be good at almost everything else

Arthur St. Antoinewriter, photographerThe Manufacturerphotographer

I remember test-driving the original Nissan Pathfinder way back in 1986. Back then, the rig was a bona-fide sport-ute, based on Nissan's Hardbody pickup, with just two doors but a healthy helping of off-road cred. Square-jawed and no-frills, that first iteration was anything but a sweetheart to drive — but it proved itself a gutsy, capable machine (versions of it won the Paris-Dakar rally multiple times) eager to get dirty.

Fast-forward three decades, and without the "Pathfinder" name on its tail you'd never recognize the 2017 edition as a member of the same family. For one, it's no longer a truck, having jumped three years ago to a front-drive, passenger-car platform (though all-wheel drive is optional). For another, the crossover Pathfinder has traded the original's off-road competence for comfort-biased cruising. While updates for the 2017 model year have enhanced some of the Pathfinder's capabilities, this remains a big, cushy, easy-driving rig that would much rather host a tailgate party than venture deep into the Sahara.

Mind you, that's actually not a criticism. Most vehicles that started as hard-core SUVs have, over time, slowly morphed into roomy, features-laden cruisers — high-riding station wagons. The buying public has spoken. The Pathfinder has simply followed the trend — and as a high-riding wagon, it performs exceptionally well.

For 2017, Nissan has thoroughly reworked the exterior, from revised taillights and rear bumper to a new hood and front end, all with the aim of making the Pathfinder appear more aggressive and "adventurous." Honestly, though, I can't see a big change from last year's model; maybe there's a little more edginess and muscle, but it's subtle. More conspicuous changes appear under the hood. The 3.5-liter V-6 gets direct injection, new pistons, variable intake timing, and other refinements — boosting horsepower from 260 to 284 and upping torque from 240 pound-feet to 259. Properly configured, maximum towing is now 6000 pounds, which Nissan claims is best-in-class. New-for-2017 features include a motion-activated liftgate (just swipe your foot under the rear bumper to raise the door) and, in the cockpit, updated driver-information and infotainment displays.

The V-6 and standard continuously variable transmission make for what's essentially the same powertrain that I sampled recently in the 2017 Maxima SR sedan. But while I found the CVT an obstacle to the Maxima's sports-sedan ambitions, in the Pathfinder it's right on target, delivering a seamless, pleasing flow of torque — no manual intervention necessary. The CVT also contributes to an EPA highway rating of 26 mpg (in AWD models), right up there with the best in the class.

The Pathfinder seats up to seven in three rows, and the two chairs in back are actually usable for adults; at six feet I fit back there just fine (for long trips, though, you'd want to send the kids to row three). But the driver's seat is the place to be. And here is where I want to break out the applause for Nissan. This is one of the most sensible, most user-friendly cockpits around. The Platinum edition comes with everyone you could want as standard — from premium Bose audio to Nissan's spectacular Around View "overhead" parking camera — yet everything is smartly laid out and intuitive to use. The climate controls in the center stack are rotary knobs well set off from the audio system interface just above — you won't accidentally change the cabin temperature when you're trying to adjust the stereo's volume. The tach and speedometer are big, simple dials in plain view behind the four-spoke leather wheel. And the color 8-inch touchscreen, which displays everything from nav directions to the current music track, is as quick and responsive as it is straightforward. In an era where "feature glut" often results in dashboards that are confusing, counter-intuitive, and distracting, the Pathfinder's stands out for its ease and simplicity despite the bounty of conveniences and technologies on board. Well done.

At under $45K all-in (the only option on my tester was $225 worth of floor mats), the Pathfinder Platinum 4WD delivers impressive value. It's smooth, quiet, refined, and roomy. It's loaded with niceties: heated and ventilated front seats (the second row is heated, too), heated leather steering wheel, pushbutton start, three-zone climate control, rear sonar display, voice-activated navigation, and much more. And it wins you over simply by doing its job so efficiently and winningly. Everyone who joined me as a passenger had good things to say about riding aboard. Need to stow your coffee? There's a big cupholder right there where it should be. Want to change SiriusXM channels? Takes just a couple clicks on the big color display. Concerned about the new teen driver in the family? The standard safety systems include blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alerts, and forward emergency braking. The Pathfinder Platinum is a thoroughly well-rounded rig that's up to almost any task a luxury-crossover shopper could ask of it.

As for saying goodbye to the Pathfinder's hard-core truck past … hey, what's to complain about a good tailgate party?

2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD Specifications

On Sale: Now
Price: $44,400/$44,685 (base/as-tested)
Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-valve V-6/284 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 259 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable automatic
Layout: 4-door, 7-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV
EPA Mileage: 19/26 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H: 198.5 x 77.2 x 69.6 in
Wheelbase: 114.2 in
Weight: 4,700 lb
0-60 MPH: 7.3 sec (est. )
Top Speed: 125 mph