Every generation of the Nissan Pathfinder has been significantly different than the last. At its debut, it was one of the earliest SUVs that ignited America's SUV craze. Then it morphed into one of the earliest crossovers for its second generation and later switched back to become one of the last truck-based SUVs on the market. In its most recent fourth generation that arrived for 2013, the Pathfinder went back to being a cushy, three-row family crossover with more in common with a station wagon than its trucky forebears. Can a vehicle have a multiple personality disorder? Regardless, the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder still belongs to this latest iteration, and numerous substantive updates for this year make it more appealing and help it keep up the tradition of evolving for the changing times.
Chief among these changes is an increase in muscularity. Sure, the styling details are a smidge more macho (though paradoxically more aerodynamic), but its revised V6 engine that produces 24 more horsepower and 19 more pound-feet of torque makes the real difference. Acceleration is noticeably improved, and the Pathfinder's towing capacity is now a healthy 6,000 pounds. Nissan also refined the suspension and steering to grant the Pathfinder a sharper, more controlled driving experience.
Inside, there are few changes beyond Nissan's latest touchscreen interface that's standard on all variations. This is a good thing in terms of design and quality, but the Pathfinder continues to fall short in terms of overall utility. Cargo and small item storage space aren't as generous or versatile as what you'd find in top competitors, while the third row is essentially kids-only territory.
As such, there are competitors that might serve your needs better. The well-rounded Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander in particular are bigger and more versatile while being just as responsive to drive. The Dodge Durango stands out with its muscular styling and V8 engine while the Mazda CX-9 and GMC Acadia hold plenty of appeal through their new designs. Nevertheless, the not-so-new but definitely improved 2017 Nissan Pathfinder deserves a look. It does a lot of things well and might hit a just-right spot for many in terms of size, price, fuel economy and driving experience.
The 2017 Pathfinder comes standard with traction and stability control, antilock brakes, front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a rearview camera. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are optional on the SV and standard on the SL and Platinum. A forward collision warning system with automatic emergency braking is standard on the Platinum but not available on any other trim level. The NissanConnect services, which include automatic collision notification, emergency calling, stolen vehicle locator and alarm notification, are standard on the Platinum and optional on the SV and SL.
The 2017 Pathfinder received five stars (out of a possible five) for overall crash protection in government tests, with four stars for front-impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. In testing of last year's Pathfinder, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Pathfinder the highest possible rating of Good in the small- and moderate-overlap front-impact tests as well as a Good score for the side-impact, roof strength and head restraint (whiplash protection) tests.
trim levels & features
The 2017 Nissan Pathfinder is a large, seven-passenger crossover SUV available in S, SV, SL and Platinum trim levels. Each comes standard with front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is optional.
Standard equipment on the S includes 18-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, rear privacy glass, roof rails, tri-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, keyless ignition and entry, a height-adjustable driver seat, cloth upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split reclining, sliding and folding second-row seat, Bluetooth connectivity, an 8-inch touchscreen interface, and a six-speaker sound system with HD and satellite radio, a CD player and a USB media player interface.
The SV adds automatic headlights, foglights, rear parking sensors, an eight-way power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The SV Cold package adds heating for the front seats, steering wheel and mirrors. The SV Tech package adds blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, a navigation system and NissanConnect emergency services (see Safety section).
Going with the SL gets you the Cold package items plus the blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems, hill-descent control, a power liftgate with hands-free operation, a 360-degree parking camera system (with moving object detection/warning), leather upholstery (first and second rows, vinyl in the third row), upgraded seats (two-way power lumbar and memory settings for the driver seat, a four-way power passenger seat and heated outboard second-row seats) and upgraded interior trim. The SL Tech pack adds the navigation system and NissanConnect services plus a towing package and a 13-speaker Bose audio system. The SL Premium package includes those items plus a panoramic sunroof.
The Pathfinder Platinum includes the SL Premium package content plus 20-inch wheels, the towing package, LED headlights, extra chrome exterior trim, adaptive cruise control, a forward collision warning and emergency braking system, heated and ventilated front seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel, and wood interior trim. Only the Platinum can be equipped with the Family Entertainment package that adds two 8-inch, headrest-mounted displays, USB and HDMI ports, and a DVD player.
Every 2017 Nissan Pathfinder comes standard with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 284 horsepower and 259 pound-feet of torque. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and front-wheel drive are standard, but an all-wheel-drive system that includes a four-wheel lock function and hill-descent control is optional.
Nissan estimates that the 2017 Pathfinder will return 23 mpg combined (20 city/27 highway) with front-wheel drive or 22 combined (19 city/26 highway) with all-wheel drive. Note that the EPA changed its method for calculating fuel economy for 2017, so although the Pathfinder's fuel economy figures appear unchanged from 2016, various improvements have actually resulted in improved real-world fuel economy.
Maximum towing capacity when properly equipped is 6,000 pounds, a higher-than-average figure for a three-row crossover SUV.
The Nissan Pathfinder is a better SUV to drive for 2017, with sharper steering and a suspension that keeps the Pathfinder more in control and settled when you're going around turns. Should you encounter a rolling bit of road or a big undulation in the pavement, the Pathfinder is now less likely to bob about. This is a good thing, but we also found that the ride quality suffers a bit as a result. If you're driving the Pathfinder Platinum, in particular, you're going to feel those sharp impacts when driving over rough pavement.
There's nothing but great news under the hood. Even with a load of people and/or gear aboard, the Pathfinder's revitalized V6 can accelerate you to highway speeds with relative ease. There's a newfound gutsiness to this engine, complete with a bit of a muscular growl. We also like that Nissan enhanced the CVT's simulated shift points to make it seem more like a regular automatic transmission — last year's monotonous droning noises have mostly been exorcised.
Not much has changed for the 2017 Nissan on the inside. It still offers competitive materials quality, an appealing overall design look and easy-to-use controls. One of the few interior improvements this year is a new touchscreen interface that is not only bigger but features better graphics and responses. It's one of the more user-friendly tech interfaces.
The front seats are a bit firm, and some drivers might desire more range of adjustment. The Pathfinder also isn't especially high off the ground, so we wonder if some drivers will find that it lacks the desired commanding view of the road. The second row offers a competitive amount of space and comfort, though, and we appreciate that it slides much farther forward for third-row access than most competitors can manage. You can even slide it forward with a child seat still in place. Once in the third row, though, space and comfort are merely acceptable. Teenagers and adults will be happier in a Honda Pilot or Dodge Durango.
The Pathfinder also continues to trail some of its competitors for overall utility. Up front, its center console lacks the multitude of useful storage compartments found in some rival crossovers, and its overall cargo capacity is only average, checking in at 47.8 cubic feet behind the second row and 79.8 cubic feet with both the second- and third-row seats folded.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.