Our review score: 7.8 / 10
In short – no. While the 2015 Nissan Pathfinder is certainly not a rugged off-roader, it is a superb family hauler with a spacious cabin and tons of neat features. So, if that’s what you’re after, then that’s what you’ll get.
If you were ever confused as to how a crossover (or CUV) differs from an SUV, look no further than the Nissan Pathfinder for an illustration. It’s a crossover in the truest sense of the word, sporting the “heft” of an SUV, while functioning like a minivan. In other words, the Pathfinder is nowhere near as off-road-ready as its somewhat SUV-ish appearance would suggest. But that doesn’t stop it from being a phenomenal family vehicle that delivers a spacious, comfortable cabin and lots of passenger-friendly features. Here’s why it’s worth a shot:
Family-Friendly Design Rules the Day
There used to be a time when the Nissan Pathfinder was a squared-off utility vehicle akin to the Jeep Grand Cherokee, but today’s iteration is all about smooth curves and rounded edges. It has a relatively long hood and a sharply-slanted windshield, both of which are complemented by the vehicle’s contour lines that run around the fenders in the front, slope below the side windows and flow up again over the rear wheel arches.
Its ground clearance is only 6.5 inches, which is nowhere near enough for hardcore off-road adventures. In fact, this is where the Pathfinder fails as a truly rugged SUV, since good ground clearance is irreplaceable when it comes to traversing rugged terrains effectively.
There’s still a sense of truck-like toughness that comes through the vehicle’s upward sloping grille, chrome bars, large headlights and aggressive creases on the hood, but it isn’t as readily apparent as before. Now, is that a bad thing? Not at all! Nissan knows that, at its core, the Pathfinder is a family vehicle, and that’s exactly what it looks like.
Lots of Space for Kids
One of the most important aspects of a good family vehicle is its cabin. Luckily, the Pathfinder delivers a comfortable and roomy experience – at least, in the first two seating rows.
The front seats offer good back support, with the driver in particular getting a solid adjustment range. There isn’t much in the way of side bolstering, but the seats are still comfortable – even on long drives. The second-row seats are a little less accommodating since they can’t always fit full-grown adults properly, especially as far as legroom is concerned. The good news is that the seats slide 5.5 inches back and forth, adding a certain level of adjustability. So, if you have no one occupying the third seating row, then you can get comfortable. Speaking of the third row – this one is strictly for kids! In fact, you’re better off sacrificing it in favour of more cargo space instead of using it for people.
The cargo area provides only 16 cubic feet, which isn’t all that much for a crossover SUV, but if you fold down both the second and third rows, you will get 79.8 cubic feet – and that’s not bad at all.
Don’t be deterred by the lack of space in the third row – it’s a midsize SUV after all. Instead think of the rearmost seats as a backup option, in case a time comes for you to fit in lots of people.
Cool Entertainment Options (and No Pesky Touch Controls!)
The Pathfinder’s arguably biggest perk is the abundance of passenger-oriented features. For instance, one of the options is an entertainment system that allows you to display DVDs, video games and photos on the vehicle’s two seven-inch rear screens. That’s, of course, the fanciest option you can get, but even the base model offers neat features like a rear privacy glass, tri-zone automatic climate control and a six-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer.
The infotainment system is very accommodating too, avoiding the finicky all-touch approach found in many of its peers. There are dials for everything here – radio, volume, temperature, fan speed and everything in-between. In other words, if you hate touchscreens, then this infotainment system is perfect for you.
The Pathfinder comes with a 3.5-litre V6 engine that can produce 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. It’s enough power to get the vehicle where it needs to go without any problems, especially since this SUV is lighter than most full-size crossovers from other car makers. This overall lightness also allows the vehicle to handle and perform cornering more like a sedan than a full-fledged SUV. Add to this the comfort of hydraulic-electric steering and you get a perfectly-tuned driving experience that not many vehicles in this segment can match. No, it’s not a “true” SUV, but thanks to all-wheel drive, hill-descent control and a switch that lets the driver to lock power distribution, it can get pretty close.
The Nissan Pathfinder is a family-friendly vehicle that doesn’t try to be anything else. If you’re okay with that, then you will enjoy your time with it. If you like ruggedness, then check out the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Xterra or Toyota 4Runner.