There’s no doubt that three-row SUVs are among the most popular vehicles in Australia, but one that doesn’t get quite as great a share of the love is the Nissan Pathfinder. With the old model having been around for almost a decade and a slew of newer, more refined rivals to compete with, it was high time Nissan developed a newer, more viable entrant for the segment.
Cue the 2023 Pathfinder we’re looking at here. It might not be all-new, but it’s as close to it as you’ll get. It may carry over the same V6 petrol engine from the old model, but new looks, a new interior, a new transmission and all-wheel drive system, and a slew of new technology have brought it forward a great deal. However, these changes come at quite the cost, with five-digit price increases relative the its predecessor.
There’s no option to get a proper base model, either, as while the range launched late last year with four trim levels, the bottom two have been culled in favour of more popular and profitable top-spec variants amid supply chain dramas. That means this Ti model is now the cheapest variant on offer at the princely sum of $71,490 before on-road costs, while the Ti-L will set you back $81,490. All-wheel drive is also made standard, with the front-wheel drive Ti variant also scrapped.
I must say I’m actually quite a fan of the Pathfinder’s new look, as it definitely classes the model up quite a bit. It’s undeniably American, though, with its butch and boxy proportions being a clear sign of its key market, while I do think this Ti model’s 18-inch wheels look nowhere near as attractive as the larger 20-inchers on the Ti-L, nor as modern given the fat tyre sidewalls. Nissan’s redesigned emblem being sported boldly on its nose also adds to the more modern looks.
The interior unquestionably matches the exterior, with the dashboard design also looking blocky, bold, and expansive. The overall quality of the cabin has also taken a big leap forwards, with an array of soft faux leather throughout and plastics that feel less like they were lifted from lowly hatchback. It might be an expensive vehicle, but it at least feels like it’s worth it.
Standard equipment is fairly impressive with a 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (the same unit you’ll find in a Mitsubishi Outlander), a 7.0-inch digital driver’s display flanked by a mechanical speedometer and tachometer, a 10.8-inch colour head-up display, an impressive 13-speaker Bose audio system, wireless phone charging, tri-zone climate control, heated front and second-row outboard seats, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and sunshades built into the rear doors.
Mind you, a few items such as a sunroof, ambient interior lighting, a powered front passenger seat and ventilated front seats, and even automatic wipers are limited to the Ti-L. Given the Ti’s big price tag, I’d certainly have expected to see at least the majority of those included here.
Thanks to the addition of electric power steering, the Pathfinder does now comes with Level 2 semi-autonomous driving capability with lane tracing ability and adaptive cruise control. Autonomous emergency braking, low-speed rear emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and traffic sign recognition are also included as standard.
The Ti variant comes as standard with an eight-seat layout, while the Ti-L has a seven-seat layout with plush second-row captain’s chairs. More ornate quilted leather upholstery is also added, although this Ti still comes lined in plain black leather.
Cargo capacity ranges from 205 litres with the second and third rows in place to 554 litres with the third-row folded down and 782 litres with both folded flat. Given how small these numbers look for the class, I’m going to guess these measurements only go up to the window sills.
One number that’s certainly impressive, though, is the Pathfinder’s towing capacity. At 2700kg braked with a 270kg towball download, it can tow 500kg more than the Hyundai Palisade and isn’t far off the mark of smaller body-on-frame SUVs such as the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. If you’ve got a small boat or caravan but still want a more refined unibody tow car, this could be the ideal option.
Powering both Pathfinder variants is the aforementioned carry-over 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 petrol engine, which still produces 202kW at 6400rpm and 340Nm at 4800rpm. However, in place of the old CVT is a new 9-speed automatic transmission, while it’s backed by a new all-wheel drive system featuring a new centre clutch pack.
This engine might be old, but it is a decent mill that feels smooth and predictable, with the bulk of the power hiding at the top-end of the rev range but decent enough mid-range pull due to its displacement. It also makes a pretty burly noise through the mid-range as well.
While there’s no denying that the new torque converter auto is better than the whiny old CVT, I do wish the gearing was a little bit better spaced. The ratios are all quite tall which does prevent this engine from feeling as peppy as it perhaps could, while the extra overdrive ratio can reduce responsiveness when you want to quickly downshift for a burst of acceleration such as when overtaking. However, in traffic it shifts smoothly and predictably so you’ll never notice its presence there.
The new Pathfinder’s suspension has been noticeably stiffened up compared to its predecessor, which in conjunction with the new all-wheel drive system pays dividends when you throw it at a winding road where it feels far more confident. The drawback comes on city roads, though, where even with some fairly fat tyre sidewalls on these 18-inch alloys, there’s a particular rigidness to it over bumps and potholes rather than the pillowy ride you might expect. It’s in this regard where rivals such as the Palisade, slightly smaller Santa Fe, or the ageing Mazda CX-9 better it with a blend of comfort and impressive handling.
Unfortunately, the Pathfinder’s fuel economy lets it down as well with the big V6 using 10.6L/100km over the course of my 403km of testing. That run included a fair amount of freeway and country road driving as well; when sticking to city streets, that number hovered closer to 13L/100km.
In addition to fuel costs, servicing isn’t the cheapest either. Although Nissan offers six years of capped price servicing on top of a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, the cost per visit averages out at $701 for all-wheel drive models, with a sky-high $1625 year-six service to be particularly aware of. Servicing is required every 12 months/15,000km.
Although there’s a lot to like about the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder, especially given how much of a leap forward it is compared to the old model, its drawbacks put it in an awkward position given its unquestionably expensive price tag and running costs.
Where it will win fans is with its very impressive towing capacity, burly V6 engine, and eight-seat layout. Whether you can live with its terse ride, fire hose fuel consumption, and pricey servicing puts a big question mark next to it.
Make no mistake – the Pathfinder is a good car, but at this price point and in a segment full of great rivals, good sometimes isn’t quite enough.
2023 Nissan Pathfinder Ti 4WD (8 Seat) List Price: $71,490 | As Tested: $72,683
- Performance - 8/108/10
- Ride & Handling - 7.5/107.5/10
- Tech & Features - 8/108/10
- Practicality - 8/108/10
- Value for Money - 7.5/107.5/10
Pros: Burly V6 engine, impressive 270okg towing capacity, eight-seat layout provides flexibility, interior quality feels impressive
Cons: Terse ride on potholed city streets, no automatic wipers or sunroof at this price point, V6 likes a drink, expensive servicing costs
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Nissan Australia for a week with a full tank of fuel.