Mountain Wheels: Updated Nissan Pathfinder strikes a perfect pose in SUV size (review) | SummitDaily.com

Mountain Wheels: Updated Nissan Pathfinder strikes a perfect pose in SUV size (review)

Andy Stonehouse
Mountain Wheels

When you've been a significant part of the SUV game since 1987, a few updates are always welcome. And in the case of the long-running Nissan Pathfinder, the 2017 rendition of the mid-size SUV helps turn it into one terrific vehicle — taking the grace and style of the related, upscale Infiniti family and presenting it in a more user-friendly (and affordable, at least on paper) package.

Even without being stretched or squashed (the car retains its basic architecture), Nissan has managed to vastly transform the Pathfinder experience, considerably redesigning the entire exterior, reconfiguring the front end, hood and bumper, as well as the rear bumper and taillight design.

One of the most pleasant changes is a new, direct-injection 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 engine that's rated at 284 horsepower (up from the previous 260 HP), and can still produce 26 or more highway MPG, in a full-blown, three-row AWD configuration.

If there had ever been any historic complaining about the disconnect felt with an automatic continuously variable transmission, that is now completely gone in Nissan's new Xtronic CVT system.

Mix the engine boost with the transmission efficiency and … man, is this Pathfinder a fast and furious machine, with uphill and passing power that reminds me of a V-8, never lagging for a moment.

Pathfinder's still a just-right-sized vehicle, as well. The cabin length, now accentuated by a series of graceful curves along the doors and looks that improve the car's overall stance, makes it all seem like a more down-to-earth version of the very closely related Infiniti QX60 crossover. Even though you still get 20-inch wheels, a pleasant amount of chrome and much of the same experience.

Recommended Stories For You

I never felt small or outclassed (or underpowered) on a long, long day trip from prairie to A-Basin and back, and even with moderate all-season tires, I also got accomplished snow capability and sure-footedness on the icy bits up top.

Pathfinder's Intuitive 4WD system allows you to go full-2WD for fuel savings on dry roads, have it automatically feel the roads for you, or you can also lock in 4WD for bad roads. Hill start assist and hill descent control aid during any off-roading you want to do in the summer. And towing capacity has been increased to 6,000 pounds, thanks to overall vehicle improvements.

Pathfinder's handling makes the car feel poised and direct in its steering and braking; there's none of the body roll or wobbliness you'll find in SUVs higher up the size food chain. Headed downhill above Georgetown, about the only issue you'll find is that the CVT's low-range gear is indeed way too low for use in slowing the car at highway speeds.

Interior comfort and design are top notch, mostly as the Infiniti-light simplicity and smoothness of the package keeps it all honest and straightforward, not overloaded with electronic switchgear. Wood veneer inserts on the doors and center console are about the only real flash; even the console is wonderfully simple with just seat heater controls, a shift knob and chrome-outlined cupholders.

Oval air vents and a soft, smooth dash, situated low and flat and providing great visibility, also add to the subtle charm of the updated design. Pillowy leather seating and door detail are found throughout the cabin.

Nissan touts its larger-than-average 8-inch touchscreen monitor as a big plus and across-the-board standard for the new Pathfinder, plus an improved video drive assist display in the instrument cluster; navigation is easy to use and a powerful 13-speaker Bose premium audio system came standard in the Platinum model I drove.

Cargo and passenger setups are adaptable, with full-sized, sliding 60/40 second-row seating (the passenger-side ducks and squats forward for third row access) and the Latch and Glide system allowing car seats to remain buckled while you access the third row.

The third row isn't even impossibly undersized; huge side windows and even large glass in the third row make it seem quite airy, and second-row passengers get full digital HVAC controls, heated seats and even a real 120-volt electrical outlet.

An available double sunroof setup — a small, opening roof above the front row and a larger panorama moonroof in the back two-thirds of the car — also brightens things up.

I mostly appreciated Pathfinder's ride height — unlike bigger SUVs, there's no climbing and no running boards to navigate.

The 2017 Pathfinder's pricing in its most basic model starts at $30,290 though the well-equipped Platinum version I drove came in at $44,685. That is, however, the price with all of the options included already, a situation you won't find in luxury land.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum AWD

MSRP: $43,560; As tested, $44,685

Powertrain: 284-HP 3.5-liter V6 engine; CVT automatic transmission

EPA figures: 21 combined (19 city, 26 highway)