The first-generation Nissan Pathfinder dates back to 1986, more than 30 years ago.
While the Pathfinder remains one of the most iconic Nissan vehicles, it has undergone many changes since that time to reflect a changing market. While the last major overhaul for this generation of Pathfinder was in 2013, this rugged SUV received a number of updates throughout the last several years.
There is no change, in any case, for the 2020 model year. While Nissan may not want to mess with a good thing, will the Pathfinder continue to be relevant and cutting-edge enough to stay competitive in an oversaturated market? The answer lies on personal taste and what you are looking for in today’s modern SUV.
The exterior of the Pathfinder is nothing to boast about, and not much has changed in terms of the styling in recent years. While the vehicle is still a handsome and attractive midsize crossover, it is not as funky, edgy or sleek as other competitors. But even though many of the modern SUVs have moved toward the “edgy” design lately – noteworthy is the two-tone “floating roof” designs – the Pathfinder remains traditional in design both inside and out. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since there are still plenty of buyers that prefer that rugged, tough look found in such vehicles as the 4Runner and the Jeep models.
The Pathfinder remains a reliable and family-focused vehicle through and through. The interior is dated no doubt, but it’s roomy and practical even in the very back of the vehicle.
With seven passenger seats and four doors, the Nissan Pathfinder is a vehicle for the whole family. Nissan offers an EZ Flex Seating System that features Latch and Glide technology. It is the second row “tilt and glide” seat that allows easy third row access even with a child safety seat still attached. This feature makes it a little easier to get into the otherwise tight third row of seats. One other added feature is the ability to recline the third row seats for additional comfort.
The infotainment system is easy enough to use but appears dated and still lacks either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto capabilities, a glaring omission for a modern vehicle.
Every Pathfinder comes standard with automatic emergency braking, a feature that was rigorously tested and applauded by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. If the LED headlights are purchased as well, the 2020 Nissan Pathfinder is an IIHS Top Safety Pick. Other safety features require opting for higher trim levels and include technology such as blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and rear cross-traffic alerts.
Under the hood is the same powertrain as last year: A 3.5-litre direct injection gasoline V-6 engine with 284 horsepower and 259 foot-pounds of torque.
Every Pathfinder comes with an intelligent 4x4 system with 2WD for normal driving, Auto for variable conditions and 4WD Lock Mode for challenging driving situations. The Pathfinder drives very similarly to the Toyota 4Runner even though the 4Runner is a full body-on-frame design (versus unitized body for the Pathfinder). Whether it’s intentional or not, the 4Runner is still one of the most popular “old design” SUVs around and so Nissan may have copied its rugged feel. Both the Pathfinder and the 4Runner have that solid feel that is often lacking in today’s lighter body SUVs such as the Honda Pilot or Toyota Highlander.
Fuel economy for all trims except Platinum is at 12.1/8.9 litres/100 kilometres for city and highway driving, respectively. For the Platinum trim, fuel economy is 12.4/9.2 l/100 km for city and highway driving.
There are four trim levels available for the Pathfinder: S, SV Tech, SL Premium, and Platinum. In addition to this, there is a Rock Creek edition available for the SV and SL trims. With S being the base trim, the SV Tech trim adds NissanConnect navigation and GPS, remote engine start and intelligent key, as well as heated front seats and leather steering wheel.
The SL trim adds a giant moonroof spanning all three rows, motion-activated tailgate, a Bose sound system, leather seats, a trailer hitch and heated second-row seats.
Finally, the Platinum trim adds all the previous features as well as the 20-inch wheels, a power steering column with memory, and a DVD entertainment system in the headrests. While novel, the actual utility of an in-vehicle DVD player these days is questionable – I can’t imagine who would still watch movies in a DVD player.
The Rock Creek is a styling and trailer hitch package that offers an available dark pine green exterior colour, better looking wheels, blacked out wheel arches, special badging and leatherette seats to give a more rugged and off-road appeal. However, this edition is mainly stylistic and does not provide any off-roading performance changes. Pathfinder does offer best-in-class towing capacity at a total of 6,000 pounds.
As changes are next to nothing for the 2020 model year, it might be a good choice to buy the outgoing 2019 model on sale. If you would prefer the newest model, you can purchase the Pathfinder S starting from $36,498. The SV starts from $40,298, the SL will set you back $45,898, and the top-tier Platinum trim starts from $49,498.
With many competitors like the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, and Mazda CX-9 all offering more modern touches, the unchanged Nissan Pathfinder may not please everyone – especially if they yearn for Apple Carplay or a high-tech infotainment system.
But the 2020 Nissan Pathfinder is a vehicle with a long history of reliability, practicality, ruggedness, and Japanese craftsmanship. We will have to wait and see if this is enough to support the Pathfinder into 2021 and beyond.