WHAT IS IT?
A long-overdue update to the circa-2013 fourth-generation Nissan Pathfinder, aiming to spice up its disappointing dynamics and vanilla styling, while enhancing the petrol V6’s already abundant power and performance.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT?
To investigate whether the MY17 Pathfinder’s sharpened attire, fuller equipment list, more complete safety package and enhanced driver satisfaction are enough to improve its mediocre sales position in the large SUV class. Toyota Kluger, Holden Captiva, Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, and even Ford’s now-dead Territory outsold the Pathfinder in 2016.
If we’re talking seven seaters, the COTY-winning Mazda CX-9 is Pathfinder’s chief nemesis, though the Toyota Kluger is the class sales king. And the Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe and Holden Captiva are all on the Nissan’s radar.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Proof that feedback does occasionally make it back to the people that matter, this second take at a more car-like Pathfinder studiously addresses some of the bigger complaints that circled the outgoing moDel.
It still feels a touch off the best in class, but it looks better, drives better and it’s safer than ever before. Plus, it will now keep you and your brood entertained with better in-car technology across the line up.
Our drive was too brief and too rural to make a definitive verdict on the Pathfinder’s dynamic improvements, but early signs are positive for the big Nissan.
PLUS: Strong V6 engine; better in-cabin technology; more engaging handling
MINUS: Non-hybrid thirstier than competitors; still a little off the pace dynamically; safety equipment missing on entry-level model
THE WHEELS REVIEW
While there’s no shortage of good things to have emerged from the USA (think the internet, Ken Block videos and all things “medicinal”), Nissan’s big and bloated Pathfinder wasn’t one of them.
The brand’s overhauled seven-seater arrived in Australia in 2013 promising much – having shifted from a body-on-frame to a car-like monocoque set-up – but failing to deliver. Reviewed on these very pages, our guys lamented a suspension tune so soft and American it was like its springs had been replaced with cans of Easy Cheese, an on-board entertainment system lacking Bluetooth streaming, and vague steering that was slower than your average Trump voter.
The good news, then, is that this 2017 update addresses those issues and then some, with Nissan stiffening the suspension at every wheel, modernising the in-cabin tech and safety equipment (including autonomous braking on all but the entry-level model), and painting a handsome new face on the Pathfinder’s huge front end.
Any parent who's driven further than their own letterbox with a car full of brats knows the value of distraction, and the updated Pathfinder adds some critical tech to maintain some decorum. It makes amends for any previous entertainment-system misgivings with a Bluetooth-equipped 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen paired with six speakers in the entry ST grade, or a 13-speaker Bose stereo in ST-L and Ti models. Better still, the top-spec car gets seatback screens for second-row passengers, with each able to play a different video.
We unleashed the MY17 Pathy on roads that seemed custom-made for the big Nissan – wide, smooth and sweeping tarmac surrounding the NSW snowies – and early signs are good. The new suspension set-up, including firmer spring and damper rates, and new rebound springs at the front, is firm enough to allow the occasional jolt to enter the cabin, but the trade-off is a heap more composure when tackling bends or changing direction quickly.
Even in the tighter and twistier stuff – the kind of corners that would have had the old Pathfinder listing like a post-iceberg Titanic – this new model remains relatively calm, with only the high-pitched squeals from its tyres alerting you to the fact you’re probably pushing it a touch too hard. The steering feels faster and more direct, too, and while the wheel can jiggle in your hands over rough road surfaces, it does at least feel loosely connected to the road below.
The V6, now 12kW and 15Nm more effective thanks to direct injection, is still a rolling love letter to the useable rev-range of a traditional petrol engine, but you can expect to pay for that performance at the bowser. The petrol-electric hybrid will help, both with fuel prices and insomnia, swapping the bigger petrol for a supercharged four-cylinder unit paired with a 15kW electric motor.
The Pathfinder is still big and feels it, and it's still a tad off the pace when it comes to dynamics, but after a brief open-road spell we’re confident in reporting the updates have improved the Pathy to purchase.
Model Nissan Pathfinder Ti AWD
Engine 3498cc V6 (60°), dohc, 24v
Max power 202kW @ 6400rpm
Max torque 340Nm @ 4800rpm
Transmission CVT automatic
0-100km/h 8.0sec (estimated)
Price $66,190 (4WD)
On sale Now