Road Trip: Nissan Pathfinder Review

This is our second winter road test of the Nissan Pathfinder and we are fans. Our first trip was the nearly 500-mile, four-day round trip to Crested Butte navigating over snowy roads. Most recently, we headed up to the Arkansas Valley (~300-mile r/t) for a winter cabin experience with a stop in Breckenridge to get some skiing in. The Pathfinder, which was first introduced in 1987, is now in its fifth generation with subtle interior and exterior updates as well as a host of features.

Our family of four (with kids of 5 and 2 years old) fit very nicely into the 2020 Pathfinder SV 4WD with car seats and all a roof box for all the gear (including skis) we needed for these trips. As driven it priced out at $40,280.

Handling

The Pathfinder is smooth. This proved true for errands around town to get ready for our trip as well as on the open road. The suspension provided an excellent balance between being able to ride smoothly going fast on the freeway and minimizing body sway when taking sharp corners on the standard 18 x 7.5-inch machined aluminum-alloy wheels with 235/65R18 all-Season tires. The steering is tight without being twitchy. It’s very easy to drive either around town, along windy mountain roads, or on long interstate stretches. Unfortunately, we only had a very short stint of compacted snow dirt road to get the last stretch to our cabin and abit of compact snow on a few sections of road. No sharp or jarring jolts as we rode over the few bumps along the way. It only has seven inches of ground clearance, which is fine for dealing with snowy roads and moderate dirt roads.

Outward visibility is fine for today’s vehicles. The rear facing reverse camera and moving object detection really helps with backing out of tight spaces.

Hauling

The 3.5-liter DI V6 engine and continuously variable transmission touts a 6,000 pound towing capacity. That’s pretty darn good for this class of vehicle. We didn’t need to haul a trailer for our trip to the Ark Valley since we had 47.4 cubic feet (slightly smaller than the 47.8 cubic feet in the 2017 model—but we didn’t miss it) of cargo space with the third row of seats folded down. In 2017 that proved to be plenty of room for all of our luggage and winter gear for four days in Crested Butte (we didn’t ski on that trip). On our latest trip the only reason we needed the cargo box was to fit the skis. But, we could also fit a few bags in the roof box as well and that made it a bit more spacious in the cabin area.

With all three rows of seats up, the cargo space is reduced down to 16 cubic feet, which isn’t horrible, but the versatility offered to switch back and forth can be very valuable for bringing our kids’ friends along (when they’re older and we are out of car-seat land)—a worthy note to a young family considering a new vehicle. If we owned this Pathfinder, the third row would mostly stay folded down until we needed to haul more people. But the third row is a tight place for adults to sit for any period of time, much less be able to get back there.

Third row leg room.
All rows up leaves 16 cubic feet of cargo space. Good for a medium volume grocery run.

To go kidless on an adventure, we could put all of the seats down for nearly 79.5 cubic feet of cargo space.   

A stop in Breckenridge for some spring skiing conditions before going over Hoosier Pass to the Arkansas Valley. Cargo box for the skis (all four pairs not showing).

Efficiency

The EPA gives this vehicle a combined rating of 22 mpg: 20 mpg for city driving and 27 mpg on the highway. This day and age, any midsize or larger SUV’s that best 20 mpg is doing pretty well. Considering the size of the Nissan Pathfinder, the versatility of cargo and human hauling plus a solid towing capacity, I’d say it has pretty good efficiency.

Amenities

One of the down sides of our experience was not being able to get the app and remote start and related features to work. It’s through the NissanConnect App through the Sirius XM system. It may have been because it was a loaner and not representative of what a new owner would experience. It just wasn’t as intuitive as the Chevy or GMC apps we’ve used in the past.

Cars these days need lots of charging ports and the Pathfinder did well here. We were particularly impressed with the USB-C ports.

Charging ports and catch basin in front of the shifter in the center console.

Comfort

The interior has a nice shape and doesn’t feel cramped in any way. With that, all the sightlines looking out from the vehicle were clean and unobtrusive which avoided any inclination of carsickness from any of our passengers. On the other hand, while it’s not overly roomy it’s a vehicle we could be very comfortable in for trips longer than ours to CB or the Ark Valley. With that came the well balanced suspension as covered in the Handling section above. Over all, a very comfortable ride.

Comfortable front seats and nicely placed cup holders.
Rear climate control and USB-C charging.

Family Friendly

With three rows of seating as standard, and a unique second-row bench that can tilt and slide with a full-size child’s seat attached, the Pathfinder remains one of the segment’s most family-friendly models. The only thing really missing in this category was a rearview mirror that provided the full rear seat view and the retractable sunshades for the back seat windows (though it does have tinted privacy glass).

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