By The Car Family
Sometimes a car simply amazes you, and that is the way it was with the new Pathfinder. Nissan has made this seven passenger SUV into a well-mannered, fun and versatile vehicle capable of handling most any terrain and with enough options to satisfy any taste. Perhaps, best of all, the Pathfinder starts around $30,000. In other words, Nissan has priced this gentle giant under the cost of many mid-sized sedans.
The Pathfinder is a radical departure from older generations and provides ample evidence that Nissan knows how to produce a seven-passenger SUV that can match luxury brands in quality and performance. The unibody-constructed Pathfinder offers ample cargo space, an upscale interior and spry performance. Indeed, this Nissan is a joy to drive. It has excellent acceleration, good braking, is easy to park and offers superior value. The Pathfinder is very nimble.
Visibility in all directions is among the best ever in a large SUV, and the 260-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 gave us over 23 mpg in mixed driving and 25 on the highway. That is impressive considering its towing capacity is 5,000 pounds. The continuously variable transmission in our test vehicle was unobtrusive, quick to react and kept the engine on task. A hybrid Pathfinder is also available.
Mom’s view: What a surprise! This is a big SUV that drives like a small one. It has a turning radius that enables you to quickly maneuver into tight mall parking spaces. Safety wise, Pathfinder models come standard with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags, traction and stability control systems, and a tire pressure monitoring system. Options include a voice-activated navigation system, a 13-speaker Bose stereo and the best around view system in the business providing a clear, 360-degree overhead view of nearby obstacles. A blind-spot warning system and rear cross-traffic alert are available on SL and up models. You can also order all-wheel drive, but we found the front wheel drive enough to power through the recent snowfall without slippage.
The interior has plenty of storage spaces, but the real plus was the usefulness of the second row seats that have over five inches of travel and help make access to the third row of seats easier. I was impressed at how easy the seats folded flat enabling us to haul a six-foot table with room to spare. A great place to put those bargains. The Pathfinder is available in S, SV, SL and Limited trim levels. Even the base model is well equipped with tri-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system, and 18-inch alloy wheels and more. Nissan has created a value oriented SUV for families that has a 19.5 fuel tank making 500 miles trips possible without refueling.
Working woman’s view: I recommend the SL version with its leather interior, power lift gate, remote start, heated front and rear seats, an electric-adjustable front passenger seat, and a digital compass as well as a 120V outlet. The center armrest is equipped with jacks for just about any device. I would also add the Tech Package with its 13-speaker Bose stereo and a navigation system, eight-inch touchscreen, NavTraffic and NavWeather, and an around-view monitor that provides a 360-degree birds-eye view of the surrounding area. The interior is understated and quite functional. I believe the information center was the easiest to use of any I have tested and the large touch screen was quick to accept inputs. There is also a DVD Family Entertainment Package that shows images on seven-inch screens located in the back of the front seat headrests.
Dad’s view: This is not a performance vehicle and is tuned more for economy. The results are very good, but its real pride is in its handling and ride. If you haven’t driven a vehicle with a continuously variable transmission it might take you a short time to adjust. The braking is good for its class and the government crash test scores were all above average. The seats are very comfortable and the optional heating element works quickly. I highly recommend you look into the Pathfinder hybrid which, unlike the Toyota Highlander hybrid, can be purchased in models with a minimum of extras and thus starts around $35,000. Since Nissan also produces the best-selling all-electric car, the Leaf, that technology certainly helps when they created the Pathfinder hybrid and were able to package the batteries with a minimum loss of cargo space. Essentially, the Pathfinder is a family vehicle for drivers who don’t like minivans. I found this Nissan refreshing and it showed quality throughout. I kept it in front wheel drive for better fuel mileage, but the recent bad weather gave me the opportunity to try it on slick roads and it never faltered. It is easy enough to go grocery shopping, take a weekend trip, or commute with equal aplomb.
Family conference: This is an excellent choice for readers looking for a large, family-oriented SUV that is enjoyable to drive, has great visibility and an abundance of features. Clearly, Nissan has done its homework, and the Pathfinder gets our most improved SUV award. It certainly deserves a test drive. As always, we highly recommend you buy from a reliable dealer.
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