The big Nissan Pathfinder has been around since 2013, and with a crop of newer, younger rivals for it to compete against these days, Nissan saw fit for the Pathfinder to receive a big of an update to help carry it through to the end of its life-cycle.
While the headline act for the 2019 lineup is the addition of an all-new feature-packed ST+ variant that builds on the entry-level model’s list of standard kit, the whole range has had a bit of a minor zhoosh-up, although prices have jumped as a result, most notably at the lower end of the range
When it comes to the top-of-the-range Ti variant on test here, which sees a $200 increase, a couple of minor additions in the way of heated second-row seats, a Rear Door Alert function that reminds you to check the rear seats for any kids or pets that are back there, and a USB-C charging port on the rear of the centre console.
These join a strong list of standard equipment for the Ti that already boasted satellite navigation, a Bose stereo, radar cruise control and all the other active safety tech you’d expect, a 360-degree camera, heated and ventilated front seats, two sunroofs, and a rear seat entertainment system with screens in he back of the front seat headrests with DVD and HDMI inputs as standard.
While all these features are rather neat, the inclusion of gimmicks like these do come at the expense of some features you’d more reasonably expect to find in here. A digital speedometer, rain-sensing wipers, smartphone mirroring tech, and even digital radio are all absent, while things like front parking sensors are still optional, so given its range-topping price point – and the fact that many rivals offer these features in entry-level models – these are all disappointing omissions to see.
A lot of this owes to the cars age, as does the dated feeling you get from the dashboard. It’s a total button-fest with 49 buttons on the centre stack alone. The infotainment system feels ancient in comparison to what you’d get from most of its key rivals, too, with no sign of this greater than the rather low-res sat nav system.
Not all’s bad on the inside though, as the seating all around is fairly comfortable and supportive and the key contact points are all leather-wrapped, although look further and you’ll find that things like the hectare-sized dashboard feels a bit cheap and plasticky.
Most impressive, however, is the size of the interior – perhaps the main thing that owes most to the Pathfinder’s undeniably Americanised, Big Mac-sized feeling – which has heaps of legroom and headroom all around. The boot is rather cavernous as well, stretching from 473 litres all the way to 2260 with all the rear seats folded away.
It’s just as big on the outside as well. I must admit it’s not quite as spectacular to look at as something like the Mazda CX-9 which has long been my favourite in the segment since the current model launched in 2017, but it’s far from the worst-looking seven-seater out there.
Under the bonnet, you’ll find one of the Pathfinder’s best features which is its lovely engine. A 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 that produces 202kW and 340Nm, it feels creamy and smooth, pulling strongly throughout the rev range and making a surprisingly good noise while it does it. It might feel a bit old-school in comparison to the smaller turbocharged engines many manufacturers are favouring these days, but there’s no denying that it has enough grunt to move this heavy beast around easily.
It’s main downside is that it has a colossal thirst for dino-juice – Nissan claims that it’ll use 10.1L/100km on the combined cycle, but I saw a return of 12.3L/100km at the end of my week with it, most of which consisted of freeway driving. That figure, for sure, will hurt your hip pocket at the pumps. Worth noting though is that there is a hybrid drivetrain available on all grades bar the new ST+, which should cut down on that figure significantly.
The other downside is the transmission that’s backing it up. It’s a CVT automatic that has no manual mode you can engage – only a Low mode that builds the revs to increase engine breaking – and as a result, it’s forever operating in that annoying rubber band-like manner that’s typical of these types of transmissions.
While the brawny higher-displacement engine does help in masking it a bit, as does the odd faux-shift under prolonged heavy throttle, it’s far from feeling as predictable as a normal torque converter transmission which it could sorely do with – not least because of reported long-term reliability issues with this particular unit.
Although front-wheel drive-only models are available, my tester was fitted with selectable part-time all-wheel drive which makes a huge difference. As is common in other front-drive V6 SUVs – the otherwise brilliant Kia Sorento is another example – it’s nearly impossible to get it off the line without a screeching, wheelspinning start with the power all being sent to the front.
It will come as no surprise that in the handling department, the Pathfinder is far from the sharpest tool in the shed. With soft suspension designed to iron out bumps and light, easy steering designed for tight carparks, it can feel a bit vague through the bends. The body roll isn’t quite as excessive as expected, it’s worth noting, but the lateral transfer of its hefty weight can easily be felt.
It’s brilliantly comfortable on the open road, however, with its well-damped ride and fairly supportive and comfortable seating making it a good long-distance cruiser. It’s nice and quiet inside the cabin, too, which is also a big plus there. Clearly, it’s tuned for American straight-line tastes in this regard, more so than for places like the tight and twisty Adelaide Hills where I live.
What isn’t such a positive is its immense price. Although the range might start from a fairly reasonable $43,490, the the V6-powered Ti 4WD you see here starts at a whopping $66,390 before on-roads, while opting for the more fuel-efficient hybrid model – the final step up from this one – isn’t such a money-saver at just shy of $70k.
Given the lack of staples like a digital speedo and auto wipers in what’ll cost you over $70,000 all said and done, it’s fairly clear then that the Pathfinder is a dish best served medium-rare, as this Ti’s price tag makes it a bit tough to swallow as it’s far too well-done – which, as a side note, is a rather ironic way of saying you’d like your steak to be ruined.
Personally, I think I’d be looking at the new ST+ variant – it’s a shame I didn’t have one on test here as I’d likely have reached a different conclusion about the Pathfinder – as that seems to be the real sweet spot in the range when it comes to how it ranks on the value-for-money index, and I have a feeling that new variant will have the best chance of luring buyers away from the class’ best sellers.
The Pathfinder Ti, unfortunately, while not a bad car, relies on gimmicks to try and sell at its steeply marked-up price. Unless you’re absolutely convinced you need the DVD players for the kids and an air conditioned seat for summer and you can bargain your dealer down a lot and take advantage of Nissan’s common one percent finance deals, I’d simply suggest shopping lower in the range where the real value is.
2019 Nissan Pathfinder Ti 4WD List Price: $66,390 | As Tested: $67,556
Pros: V6 engine sounds and feels great, massive interior, comfortable ride and seating makes it good for covering long-distances
Cons: Seriously dated in the tech department, impractically large around town and in carparks, engine might feel nice but has an unquenchable thirst
In a nutshell: The Pathfinder feels like its built to suit American tastes more than ours in my eyes, but for large Aussie families, its mammoth size will likely see it continue to occupy a place on the shortlist.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Nissan Australia for a week with a full tank of petrol. All additional fuel expenses were covered by the author.