By Derek Price
Then again, maybe Pathfinder is the perfect name for a vehicle that’s blazing a new trail for itself.
Whatever you call it, the current generation Pathfinder has morphed into something quite different for the Nissan brand. It doesn’t rely on avant-garde styling like its smaller cousin, the Murano, nor does it try to be sporty and thrilling like the Altima and Maxima sedans.
It simply does its job as a family hauler, which is unusually straightforward for this Japanese brand.
The Pathfinder is certainly spacious, offering NBA-caliber knee room in all three rows of seating, and exudes a sense of higher quality than many of its competitors. Honda and Toyota in particular ought to be jealous that Nissan has managed to cram acres of soft-touch materials and tightly assembled parts into the Pathfinder’s logical, practical cabin.
That used to be their turf.
It also drives as nicely as any big crossover on the market — assuming you’re not expecting something sporty. A soft, compliant suspension and highly effective sound insulation make it a great highway cruiser.
If I want to get picky, there are two things I’d like to see changed on it.
One is adding Bluetooth to the base model. Believe it or not, Nissan provides the wireless hands-free phone connection on the $11,990 base Versa Sedan but not on the $29,630 base Pathfinder. That’s crazy.
The other is adding a little more cargo space behind the third-row seat. You can fold down the back seat to have tons of room for hauling your stuff, but with the seat up it seems rather limited. Nissan favors legroom over cargo volume in this cabin configuration, which is great for carrying people but not so great when you need to load up their luggage.
My tester rang up at $39,160, or about $10 grand more than the base version, and it reminded me of the higher priced luxury crossovers sitting on Infiniti lots. The Infiniti QX60 starts at $42,400, and that’s before you add any options, making the Nissan seem like a steal when you look at the polish and features you get for the money.
Another plus is how easy all those features are to use. Connecting your smartphone and running the navigation system are super simple, so you shouldn’t have to constantly refer to the owner’s manual to figure it out.
I also like how the Pathfinder doesn’t force you to use the touchscreen all the time. It’s got enough physical knobs and buttons to let you quickly change the radio station or zoom in on the map, for example, without sending you to the Land of Digital Confusion — a popular destination for too many of today’s cars.
It’s a three-row crossover that does its job without any gimmicks, a rare and wonderful thing in 2015.
At a Glance
What was tested?
2015 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4×2 ($36,060). Options: Carpeted floor mats ($210), SL Tech Package ($2,030). Price as tested (including $880 destination charge): $39,160
Wheelbase: 114.2 in.
Length: 197.2 in.
Width: 77.2 in.
Height: 70.2 in.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6 (260 horsepower, 240 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Xtronic CVT with D-Step Logic Control
Estimated Mileage: 20 city, 27 highway
2015 Nissan Pathfinder
Why buy it?
It’s a comfortable, practical family hauler with a quality feel. It has ample knee space a smooth, luxurious ride on the highway.