2016 Nissan Pathfinder | CarGurus Test Drive Review

Hi, I’m Chris Wardlaw for CarGurus, and this is the 2016 Nissan Pathfinder. Remember when the Pathfinder was cool? When you could identify it with no more than a glance, and you instantly knew that it could go just about anyplace and do just about anything? And because it was a Nissan and not a Jeep, you trusted that it wouldn’t break down miles from civilization? Now look at it. Take those Nissan badges off and the Pathfinder could be any other 7-passenger crossover SUV. Today, instead of finding pathways to adventure, it’s best used for finding pathways to the local mall. Don’t blame Nissan for this turn of events. Insatiable demand for exactly this sort of vehicle has transformed the Pathfinder into a path-traveler. Now, as 3-row crossover SUVs go, the Nissan Pathfinder is a sensible, if not a particularly compelling, choice. Let’s go for a drive, and I’ll explain. My test vehicle today is the Pathfinder Platinum, which is the top-of-the-line trim level. It starts at $42,510, and then when you add 4-wheel drive, the Family Entertainment package, and floor mats, the price rises to $46,110. If you happen to like this color combination, know that it’s Cayenne Red with a Platinum Almond interior, and keep in mind that the Platinum trim level is the only one on which Nissan offers standard 20-inch aluminum wheels. While the styling may qualify as nondescript, the Pathfinder isn’t ugly. Yet. No doubt, Nissan is fixing to install boomerang-shaped this and V-motion shaped that, so if you’re interested in this SUV, but you’re not happy with how modern Nissans always look wide-eyed and surprised all the time, then you’d better act fast. Nissan offers a single engine for the Pathfinder, and it’s a good one. It’s dependable, it’s powerful, and it supplies 260 horsepower as well as 240 pound-feet of torque. Now with this 3.5-liter V6 engine, the EPA says that you should get 21 miles per gallon in combined driving when you have the optional 4-wheel-drive system I got 20.2 miles per gallon on my test loop, which, in my opinion, is good enough to call it even. A continuously variable transmission, or CVT, is standard equipment, and it feeds the power to the front wheels. I know, pretty lame, right? That’s why Nissan offers an optional 4-wheel-drive system that includes an automatic mode as well as a lock mode that provides full-time 4-wheel drive when that’s desirable. All Pathfinders have hill-start assist, and with 4-wheel drive, you get a hill-descent control system that gives the Pathfinder additional capabilities should you happen to venture off the
pavement. Now if you do happen to go 4-wheeling, just keep in mind that the Pathfinder offers no more than 7 inches of ground clearance, and with its fairly shallow approach, breakover, and departure angles, you’d better not be planning on tackling any serious terrain. Now these 4-wheel-drive features, plus the Pathfinder’s 5,000-pound towing capacity, do help to restore some of the capability that this vehicle lost when Nissan switched the Pathfinder from the Frontier pickup platform to its midsize crossover SUV platform. Now apparently, Nissan is also choosing to tune the steering and the suspension to provide the stiff and somewhat brittle ride, as well as the slow and rather heavy steering, of a traditional SUV. So, even though this is a crossover SUV, it doesn’t always drive like one. Ultimately, the Pathfinder does deliver a better ride quality and superior handling capability compared to its more rugged forebears, but it still feels heavier and clunkier than its direct competition. Now these driving characteristics might help Nissan retain Pathfinder loyalists, but it probably doesn’t help the company to convince crossover buyers that this is the best choice in the segment. While the Pathfinder’s infotainment system lacks modern technologies, Nissan does see fit to offer a reversing camera with rear cross-traffic alert, a blind-spot warning system, and a 360-degree top-down monitoring system that really helps to make the SUV easier to maneuver. Plus, because maintaining proper tire pressures is so important to vehicle safety, Nissan’s Easy-Fill Tire Alert system makes it really easy to do just that. However, the Pathfinder is not available with things like a drowsy-driver detection technology, or a lane-departure warning system, or a lane-keeping assist system. And I’ve got to tell you, I could have used all three of those things on one kind of sleepy drive home this past week. Worse, the Pathfinder can’t be equipped with a forward-collision warning system or an automatic emergency braking system, which means that this year it loses its Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. At least you’ll know that if you do get into a wreck, the Pathfinder does a decent job of protecting you. That’s because the federal government gives it a 5-star overall crash test rating, and the IIHS gives it top marks in all of its actual crash-test assessments. Now if you like the way the Pathfinder looks and you like the way the Pathfinder drives, nothing about the interior design or the seating configurations is going to prove to be a deal-breaker. Naturally, you’re going to want to be sitting in one of these front seats or the sliding second-row seat. In the Platinum model, the front seats are heated and ventilated, and Nissan provides a heated steering wheel. Also, the upper door-panel trim here and the armrests on each side are padded and very kind to your elbows. Now if you’re a fan of buttons and knobs the way that I am, then you’re going to love the Pathfinder’s old-school control layout. Now aside from their displays, which are located up here, the radio and the climate controls are completely divorced from the infotainment system. And look! The Pathfinder even has old-school radio- station preset buttons, and it’s got a CD player. Now, while I find this to be a refreshing return to simplicity, at the same time I recognize that the Pathfinder’s infotainment system simply is not up to modern standards. For example, it doesn’t offer natural voice recognition. It doesn’t offer smartphone projection technology like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. It doesn’t even have NissanConnect with mobile apps, let alone the company’s new NissanConnect subscription services system. So what does this mean? Well, the Pathfinder does not support text messaging. It doesn’t supply a WiFi internet connection. It doesn’t offer automatic collision notification or easy access to emergency or roadside assistance services It doesn’t include any features that are designed to encourage teenagers to be better drivers. In other words, it’s not competitive in terms of its connected technologies. Alright, let’s check out the backseat. When the Pathfinder’s second-row seat is moved all the way back in its track, it affords an exceptionally good amount of legroom, but footroom is really tight underneath the front seats. These front seatbacks are nicely padded though, so that if you do need to move the seat forward to make more room for third-row passengers, it’s not terribly uncomfortable. You may have noticed, though, thigh support is a little bit lacking here. My test vehicle is the Platinum trim level, so it’s got a three-zone automatic climate control system, and it’s also equipped with the optional Family Entertainment package, which means it’s got dual-screen entertainment screens here on the front headrests, it’s got this 3-prong 120-volt power outlet, it’s got video-game hookups, and it’s also got heated outboard rear seats. Now if you have kids and they need to sit in a forward-facing child safety seat, one of the cool things about the Pathfinder is that to get into the third- row seat, you don’t have to worry if that seat, that child-safety seat, is mounted here. Just lift that lever up, the seat collapses forward, and then it makes for easy entry into the third-row seat. Of course, you’re not going to want to do that when your child is in the seat, obviously. Now once an adult gets back here, and as long as the second-row passengers are willing to slide forward to provide additional legroom, you can actually fit back here for a shorter trip. And there are these little areas underneath the second-row seat that provide space for your feet. Now I wouldn’t want to ride back here all day, obviously, but for a short cross-town trip, it’d be okay. I don’t think I’d be happy about it, but it’d be okay. Now you’ll notice these huge, rear head restraints back here. These help protect you in case somebody hits the back of the Pathfinder. And also, unlike in a lot of crossover SUVs that have three rows of seats, this third-row seat is actually mounted a fair distance away from the tailgate and the rear window, which is another important consideration, considering the event that somebody may crash into the back of the vehicle. When you’re ready to load cargo, you can either use a touchpad located right here, or this button on the fob, and the Platinum’s tailgate will power right up. Now what that does is it reveals 16 cubic feet of cargo space behind this third-row seat, that includes the storage bin here. You can see that when you’ve got the optional premium Bose sound system, the Acoustic Wave system, the subwoofer kind of takes up a lot of space in there. Obviously, when you don’t have passengers for the third-row seat, you’re probably going to want to fold it down. So you collapse the headrests, plop those down, and you’ve expanded cargo space to over 42 cubic feet. You can get a little bit more cargo room if you need it by sliding the second-row seat forward, and if you fold the second-row seat down, you’ve got almost 80 cubic feet of cargo space here. Now to give you a sense of what that looks like, here’s the full-size suitcase that I always use for my shoots. You can probably put three or four of those across the back like that, and that leaves plenty of room here for duffel bags or a compact folding stroller, or what have you. When you finish loading, just push that button, and you’re off to the races. Do you know what the word nonplussed means? It’s an adjective that describes a person who is so surprised and confused by something that they’re not sure how to react. I’m nonplussed by the Pathfinder, and here’s what that looks like. On the one hand, the Pathfinder supplies lots of interior room, favorable crash- test ratings, decent fuel economy, and a small amount of extra 4-wheel-drive and towing capability compared to other 7-passenger crossovers. On the other hand, it has virtually no personality, it isn’t particularly rewarding to drive, it is technologically inferior to the competition, and it is no longer capable of finding new paths to the great outdoors. And have you seen the reliability rating on this thing? Yikes. I guess my only recommendation here would be that if you view vehicle ownership as a necessity and nothing more, and your local Nissan dealership is convenient and offering a killer lease deal on one of these, then sure. Drive one for a few years and solve your immediate transportation problem. Otherwise, I think you’re going to be happier with something else. Be sure to check out my full review of the Pathfinder on CarGurus.com, and if you found this review helpful, please share this video and subscribe to our YouTube channel. For all of us here at CarGurus, thank you for watching.

28 thoughts on “2016 Nissan Pathfinder | CarGurus Test Drive Review

  1. Anemic is the only word i can use to describe my impressions of this overweight SUV. I looked at this before buying the Murano and it needs a serious character refresh.

  2. Which 7 passenger crossover SUV would you recommend? One that handles well in wet, wintry, and bumpy dirt roads. A vehicle that can tow, too. It needs to handle well and of course be reliable.

  3. This is one of the reasons that the 2016 Honda Pilots are selling above MSRP. Damn it Nissan. Ditch the CVT and put some work into building a genuine SUV that is worthy of the Pathfinder name!

  4. It has a CD player and not compatiable with my iPhone plus the driving experience sucks. What’s the point? Thanks for the review, your great.

  5. Nissan reliability is ranked 16th after the shitty land rover, that's how bad it is right now.

  6. if you are looking for "Driving experience" why are you even considering a cross over SUV? Buy a Ferrari or a Aston Martin. I bought mine because it is spacious and comfortable.

  7. I bought mine after test driving the Forerunner and Pilot. I love my 2016 Pathfinder and it is really fun to drive. Gas mileage is unbelievably great and I drive it to every day. It was 9k cheaper than the Forerunner and I am glad I bought it. I also bought a Sienna for my wife and it always has an engine alert for the dumbest things but drives nicely too. My last Nissan 2004 Murano) drove for 289k miles before I sold it with a rebuilt transmission. Hope my Pathfinder lasts for a long time.

  8. It was always the 4Runner and the Pathfinder, the Pathfinder my opinion was the coolest aggressive looking of the two.
    This God awful minivan suv looking garbage.
    I'm sure it's very capable as a four-wheel drive minivan. I'm going to go for the 4Runner, it's the only thing that's distinctive in a true SUV nowadays

  9. He makes the damn thing sound disgusting. Best way to find out is to test drive it. Don't just be taking a sucker's word for it!!

  10. Recently purchased a preowned 2008 V8 LE. My brother in law has a 2011 Armada. The driving dynamics are totally different. The Pathy V8 is faster, shorter turning radius, and gets better gas mpg, because it weighs about 650lbs less. It was wholesaled out to me, because of a few maintenance issues. Couldn't be happier. It's a blast to drive and other drivers back off once they see the V8 emblem and hear the exhaust note, lol. One thing I find strange is that the Tow-Haul button synchronizing the transmission during towing was not available on the V8? Such an option was on both the Armada and Titan. Can anyone answer this?

  11. thanks for the honest review picking mine up today to solve the "i need a car now" necessity problem. since my fun truck broke and i have no mode of transport now…. onto the adulting

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