The Nissan Pathfinder came to the U.S. market in 1985 and the first generation was basically a Nissan pickup truck that was made into an SUV. That first-generation Pathfinder was a rugged and simple vehicle that found a lot of buyers. Since then, the Pathfinder has been reinvented many times, with the latest fifth-generation Pathfinder of today as the latest version.

The Pathfinder story is unique because the first generation was a rugged body-on-frame SUV. The second generation switched to a unibody chassis that critics did not approve of, claiming that the Pathfinder had gone soft. The third generation went back to a body-on-frame design that was bigger, heavier and had a bigger engine. In 2012, the fourth generation went back to a unibody design, and once again the Pathfinder moved toward being a mainstream SUV rather than a hardcore truck-based SUV. The current fifth generation was unveiled in 2021 and this time it has stayed with the unibody design.

We were worried that the new Pathfinder would be boring and not capable enough. It is longer, wider and taller than the previous version, despite using essentially the same platform as before. You would never know it because we discovered that the Pathfinder has moved up market. The exterior design of the Pathfinder is what really sets things apart. It looks rugged and aggressive, but our SL model’s styling cues remind one of a Range Rover costing twice as much. The Pathfinder looks big and it looks expensive.

Inside you will find a ton of luxury features and will start to get the idea that it is not just a rugged SUV anymore. A new available 12.3-inch digital dashboard is in front of the driver with an available 9-inch second display in the middle. The center display controls feature large and responsive buttons with easy to figure out menus.

Our Pathfinder came with two captain’s chairs in the second row, with a removable center console. We had a third row that allowed three more people to get inside the Pathfinder although space gets tight especially with three people back there unless the trip is short.

Fold all the seats down and you are greeted with 80 cubic feet of cargo space, which should be enough for most people. The floor is also wide enough to load in a 4-foot wide piece of wood, which makes the Pathfinder very practical.

Under the hood of the Pathfinder, Nissan has stayed with a 3.5-liter V6 that puts out 284 horsepower. The previous Pathfinder had a CVT as its transmission, which is never a pleasant drive. Thankfully Nissan has chosen a 9-speed traditional automatic for the new version, which provides a smooth, strong, direct response. The all-new transmission consistently delivers the right gear at the right time, helping improve fuel economy and driving comfort. There are different modes such as Eco, Normal, Sport as well as off-road modes, which affect the way the transmission behaves. In Eco and Normal modes, the programming is toward fuel economy and the response is a bit slow. Put it in Sport mode and it is much quicker to respond.

The front suspension features an updated mounting system, helping increase roll stiffness by 28 percent, and the rear suspension features a multi-link design with updated shock absorbers and dampers, helping increase rear roll stiffness by 14 percent. These updates, coupled with a 50 percent increase in the use of high-strength steel, lead to a high-quality, confident driving experience. The changes also result in a 6,000-pound towing capacity.

Fuel economy was a big goal with the new model and our 4WD version was rated at 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. We easily were able to match that 27 mpg number on the freeway, which is very good for such a big and capable vehicle.

Pathfinder pricing is easy to swallow. The standard S 2WD model starts out at $33,880. Our SL 4WD model came in at $42,040, which is a great deal considering the level of standard equipment. There are a few options, but you can get a very well equipped Pathfinder for right around $40,000. The new Pathfinder is a capable and well equipped vehicle that can be your perfect family vehicle. It can take the kids to school and gets great fuel economy and on weekends, it can haul lumber or tow your boat or racecar. And it does it all while looking good.


Engine: VQ35DD
Horsepower: 284 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 259 @ 4,800 rpm
Front Suspension: McPherson strut independent
Rear Suspension: Multilink independent
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Axle Ratio: 4.334:1
Curb Weight: 4,317 – 4,625 lbs.
Base MSRP: $33,880


Image courtesy of Nissan USA

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