2015 Pathfinder New Car Test Drive
A fixture in Nissan's product lineup for more than 25 years, the fourth-generation Pathfinder has evolved from the cheeky adolescent Hardbody of 1986 to the mature parental unit of 2013-14. It's a maturation process that entailed several zigs and zags. Like so many vehicles that came along in the mid-'80s SUV boom, that first generation was a body-on-frame design based on Nissan's compact pickup truck. The next iteration (1996) was a unibody (frame rails integrated with the body shell), but Nissan reverted to body-on-frame for generation three (2005).
As a result, the transition to the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, redesigned as generation four, was a major course change for this persistently popular SUV. The third generation was conceived for the possibility, however remote, of serious off-road use; hence, lots of ground clearance and body-on-frame construction.
Generation four represents an about-face. Concluding that the large-SUV segment is increasingly composed of buyers whose priorities don't include off-road adventure, Nissan retuned the Pathfinder around family values: roominess, comfort and, paramount among today's vehicle attributes, fuel economy. The result is a Nissan Pathfinder that's bigger than the gen-three model, with more room, sharply reduced curb weights, and dramatically improved fuel economy ratings.
Beneath the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder hood sits a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque, driving an Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Biggest news for 2014, though, is the introduction of a Pathfinder Hybrid model, offered with either two-wheel or all-wheel drive. In the Hybrid, a supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine mates with a 15-kW electric motor and a compact lithium-ion battery. The battery fits under the third-row seat, which means no compromise in passenger seating or cargo space.
The new 2014 Pathfinder Hybrid uses a Nissan Intelligent Dual Clutch System. With combined output of 250 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque, performance is claimed to be equivalent to the non-hybrid Pathfinder's 3.5-liter V6. The Hybrid comes in SV, SL or Platinum trim, whereas regular Pathfinders are offered in four trim levels.
For regular 2014 Pathfinders, a new SL Tech Package includes a Bose 13-speaker premium audio system, navigation with voice recognition and XM NavTraffic/Weather, Bluetooth streaming audio, and an 8-inch touchscreen.
How did the current-generation Pathfinder increase dimensions while reducing weight? That, plus much higher chassis rigidity, is a benefit of unibody construction. At 114.2 inches, the current Pathfinder's wheelbase is 2.0 inches longer than the 2012 model. Overall length stretched 4.6 inches, and width expanded from 72.8 to 77.2. The only dimension that shrunk was height, partly because ride height and ground clearance (6.5 inches) are similar to sedan figures.
This isn't surprising, since the latest Pathfinder's architecture, based on front-wheel drive, is shared with the Nissan Altima sedan. What does surprise is how much mass was pared from the Pathfinder in the transition from generation three to generation four: 300 to 500 pounds, depending on model.
Although Nissan created no fancy name for it, the design and engineering approach to the weight reduction is similar to Mazda's Skyactiv Technology. Everything in the new Pathfinder went on a diet.
The sum of the foregoing, plus improved aerodynamics (0.34 coefficient of drag, very good by SUV standards), is EPA fuel-economy estimates of 20 mpg City, 26 Highway for front-wheel drive models; or 19/25 mpg with all-wheel drive. Nissan has claimed best-in-class status for the front-drive Highway rating. In contrast, the prior Pathfinder rated only15/22 mpg with rear drive, 13/18 with four-wheel drive.
The net result is a seven-passenger crossover SUV that's stylish, roomy, quiet, and economical by midsize-SUV standards. That group includes the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, and Toyota Highlander.
Reaching past the regular Pathfinder's credentials, the new 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid delivers an even more satisfying midsize-SUV experience, while earning a truly thrifty EPA estimate: 25 mpg City/28 mpg Highway (27 mpg Highway with all-wheel drive).
The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder comes in four trim levels: S ($28,850), SV ($32,110), SL ($35,050), and Platinum ($39,750). All 2014 Pathfinder models come with the same 3.5-liter V6 and continuously variable transmission. Pathfinder comes standard with front-wheel drive; all trim levels offer the option of Intuitive 4WD all-wheel drive ($1,600 additional).
The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid comes in three trim levels: Hybrid SV ($35,110); Hybrid SL ($38,050); Hybrid Platinum ($42,750). Each is available with Intuitive 4WD all-wheel drive ($1,600).
Pathfinder S includes a tilt/telescopic steering column,18-inch alloy wheels, 235/65R18 tires, power mirrors, privacy glass, cruise control, 6-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, remote keyless entry, 6-way manual driver's seat, 4-way passenger seat, and tri-zone automatic climate control. Pathfinder SL adds a rear sonar system, roof rack rails, 8-way power driver's seat, 7-inch color display, rearview monitor, speed-sensitive wipers, SiriusXM satellite radio, USB port, Bluetooth hand-free phone connectivity, and direct-sensor tire-pressure monitor.
Pathfinder SL includes leather-appointed seating, heated front seats, a power passenger seat, power rear liftgate, and heated mirrors with memory. Pathfinder Platinum adds power tilt/telescopic steering, 20-inch alloy wheels with 235/55R20tires, heated/cooled front seats, Bose 13-speaker premium audio with 8-inch touchscreen, DVD navigation with NavTraffic/Weather, Bluetooth streaming audio, and Nissan's Around View monitor.
A Tech Package for SL models ($1,570) includes a Bose 13-speaker premium audio system, navigation with voice recognition and XM NavTraffic and Weather, Bluetooth streaming audio, and an 8-inch touchscreen. An SL Premium Package ($2,650) includes Bose 13-speaker audio, a 120-volt power outlet, dual panorama moonroof, sunshade, rear roof glass with power sunshade, tow hitch receiver, and trailer harness. SV and SL models can have a tow package ($400).
For the Platinum edition, the Premium Package ($2,300) includes DVD entertainment with dual 7-inch screens, as well as the dual Panorama moonroof, sunshade, and rear roof glass with power sunshade.
The new Pathfinder Hybrid SV includes cloth upholstery, power mirrors, cruise control, 18-inch alloy wheels with 235/65R18 tires, roof rack rails, an 8-way power driver's seat, 6-speaker stereo with 7-inch display and a USB port.
Pathfinder Hybrid SL adds leather-appointed seats, heated front seats, a 4-way power passenger seat, heated mirrors with memory, and power rear liftgate with closure assist. Pathfinder Hybrid Platinum adds Bose 13-speaker premium audio, DVD navigation, Bluetooth streaming audio, and 235/55R20 tires on 20-inch alloy wheels.
Safety features for all Pathfinders are industry basic: rearview camera, front and front seat-mounted side airbags, curtain airbags covering all three rows, antilock braking, and traction control. Also standard are Vehicle Dynamic Control, LATCH child seating anchors/tethers, a tire-pressure monitor with Easy Fill Tire Alert, and brake override technology.