Full 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder lineup grows with the addition of the new Pathfinder Hybrid model.
Over the past few years, automakers have been transforming their old-school truck-based SUVs into kinder, gentler, car-based crossovers. Last year the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder became the latest example of this trend and, by almost all measures, it has emerged the better for it.
Although this seven-passenger Pathfinder lost some of its predecessors' off-road and towing capabilities in the transition, the majority of buyers will find Nissan (/nissan/)'s largest crossover SUV infinitely more useful as a result. This latest Pathfinder gained a spacious new interior with adult-size seating in both the second and third rows, along with superior ride and handling qualities that are better suited for carpool duty and shopping trips to Target.
For power, the current Nissan Pathfinder also uses a 3.5-liter V6 and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that drives either the front wheels or, on all-wheel-drive models, all four. The CVT helps the 2014 Pathfinder achieve EPA fuel economy estimates of 22 mpg combined for front-wheel-drive models and 21 combined with all-wheel drive. While those numbers might not sound spectacular on their own, in context they make this Pathfinder among the most fuel-efficient seven-seat crossovers on the road.
If those mpg numbers just aren't good enough for you, this year marks the introduction of the new Pathfinder Hybrid model. With a supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and 15-kilowatt electric motor under the hood and a compact lithium-ion battery pack packaged underneath the third-row seat, the hybrid Pathfinder offers a significant improvement in fuel economy with no loss of passenger and cargo room. There aren't many hybrid seven-passenger SUVs on the market, so the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid gives you an alternative to the slightly more fuel-efficient 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which is really the only other option in this price range.
Even with the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder's strong points, there are a few other midsize-to-large three-row crossovers worth considering. Among the dozen or so entries in this category, we'd recommend looking at the 2014 GMC Acadia if maximum interior room is a priority, while the 2014 Mazda CX-9 also offers a bit more room than the Nissan, along with the best ride and handling dynamics of any large crossover SUV. The Dodge Durango and 2014 Ford Flex, meanwhile, are better picks if you're after superior engine performance and, in the case of the Flex, truly distinctive exterior style. Any of these utility vehicles will work if you need three rows of seating, but with the Pathfinder's strengths in interior design, fuel economy and general ease of use, it's a solid pick for families.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder is a midsize seven-passenger crossover SUV offered in four trim levels: S, SV, SL and Platinum. The Pathfinder Hybrid is offered in SV, SL and Platinum trim levels with the same features as the gasoline-powered models.
Standard equipment on the entry-level S includes 18-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, keyless entry, tri-zone automatic climate control, a height-adjustable driver seat (with two-way lumbar adjustment), 60/40-split-folding second-row seats (with slide and recline), a 50/50-split third-row seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control and a six-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer.
The SV model adds automatic headlights, a roof rack, keyless ignition and entry, rear parking sensors, an eight-way power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a 7-inch color multi-information display, a rearview camera and an upgraded audio system with a single-CD player, satellite radio and a USB/iPod interface.
Stepping up to the SL trim level gets you foglights, heated mirrors, a power liftgate, leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, driver memory settings, a four-way power passenger seat and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Opting for the SL Tech package further gets you a 120-volt household-style power outlet, a larger 8-inch touchscreen display, a navigation system and a 13-speaker Bose audio system with Bluetooth audio connectivity. The SL Premium package gets you the Bose audio system, the 8-inch touchscreen (without navigation), the 120-volt power outlet, a large dual panoramic sunroof and towing preparation.
The top-of-the-line Platinum model comes standard with the above features and further adds 20-inch alloy wheels, a towing package (optional on SV and SL), a 360-degree parking camera, a power-adjustable heated steering wheel and ventilated front seats. The optional Platinum Premium package includes the dual panoramic sunroof and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with dual displays. A different dual-screen entertainment system is available as an accessory on all Pathfinders; it differs from the factory system in that each display has its own DVD player and A/V hookups.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder is powered by two different drivetrains, one for the standard gasoline-only version and one for the Hybrid. The conventional gasoline Pathfinder uses a 3.5-liter V6 that puts out 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. The Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid uses a supercharged 2.5-liter gasoline engine along with a 15kW electric motor (fed by a lithium-ion battery pack) that put out a combined 250 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque.
Both engines use a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and can be paired with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (which Nissan calls four-wheel drive). The AWD system includes a switch that allows the driver to lock power distribution in a 50/50 front-to-rear ratio, which is useful on dirt roads and in the snow.
In Edmunds performance testing, a gasoline-powered AWD Pathfinder went from zero to 60 mph in 8.0 seconds, which is a little better than average. EPA fuel economy estimates are 22 mpg combined (20 city/26 highway) with front-wheel drive and 21 mpg combined (19/25) with all-wheel drive. Properly equipped, the Pathfinder can tow 5,000 pounds.
The 2014 Pathfinder Hybrid returns an EPA estimated 26 mpg combined (25 city/28 highway) with front-wheel drive. The AWD version is rated the same aside from a 1-mpg drop in highway mileage. These are great fuel economy ratings for a three-row crossover, but the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is rated slightly higher at 28 mpg combined. Towing capacity drops to 3,500 pounds on the 2014 Pathfinder Hybrid.
Standard safety features on the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags that cover all three rows of seats. Rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are standard on all Pathfinders except the base S, which can't get these items even as an option. The Platinum comes with a more deluxe surround-view camera system.
In Edmunds brake testing, the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder came to a stop from 60 mph in 124 feet, a little better than average for this segment. In government crash tests, the Pathfinder earned an overall score of five stars (out of a possible five) for crash safety, with four stars for total frontal-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. In crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Pathfinder earned a top rating of "Good" in both the moderate-overlap frontal-offset and side-impact categories.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder offers an attractive cabin with high-quality materials that give it a decidedly premium look, especially in the top Platinum trim level. Even with its long list of features, gauges and controls are easy to see and operate. We're especially fond of the touchscreen electronics interface. There's nothing particularly flashy about it, but it's very easy to use and offers helpful redundant controls.
Both front- and second-row occupants will find their seats comfortable and supportive. The second-row seat excels here by virtue of its ability to slide fore and aft and recline for greater comfort or to create more room for those in the back. Those seats also slide forward even with a child's car seat in place, eliminating the need to uninstall these seats every time you need to get people into the third row. And unlike the third-row seats in some competitors, the Nissan Pathfinder's rearmost seat has enough headroom to accommodate adults up to 6 feet tall. Legroom's a bit tight, though, so only kids will be happy back here on longer trips.
Both the standard Nissan Pathfinder and the Pathfinder Hybrid have 19 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third row of seats, which can be expanded to 79.8 cubic feet with the second- and third-row seats folded flat. It's a useful amount, but other models like the Acadia or CX-9 are roomier still.
The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder feels right at home in its role as suburban runabout. The 3.5-liter V6 and CVT deliver respectable acceleration in most situations. The V6 can feel a little sluggish during passing maneuvers, and the efficiency-oriented CVT can be slow to respond if you get aggressive with the gas pedal. In time, you get used to both of these traits, but we've never really made peace with the engine's noisy soundtrack: This V6 simply doesn't sound as good as competitors' six-cylinders. We have yet to test the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid but will update this review once we have.
On pavement, the Pathfinder's suspension does a good job soaking up bumps and road irregularities to create a smooth, stable ride. However, if you choose a Platinum model, which has 20-inch wheels, the ride is noticeably stiffer over bumps and ruts. Although the Pathfinder's steering is light and precise, handling is not a strong suit and it feels large from behind the wheel. Consumers looking for sportier handling will likely prefer the Mazda CX-9 or Ford Flex, although we suspect most Pathfinder buyers won't find this to be a significant weakness.