The 2018 Pathfinder is Eliza Doolittle to Nissan's Professor Henry Higgins - an automotive version of "My Fair Lady" that's taken Pathfinder uptown.
Back in the mid-'80s, you may recall, Pathfinder started life as a roughneck SUV that, in reality, was little more than a Nissan Hardbody pickup with a roofed back seat - not fit for polite society, but tougher than a two-dollar steak.
Like Henry with Eliza, however, Nissan has taken Pathfinder to finishing school. Today - no longer riding a truck platform but, rather, sharing its foundation since 2012 with the Altima sedan - this crossover is elegant and refined.
Blimey, it's respectable!
Offered in S, SV, SL and Platinum trims, each available with front- or all-wheel drive, Pathfinder, which was significantly updated in 2017, continues its cultural enlightenment in 2018 with small upgrades: now-standard Intelligent Cruise control and Automatic Emergency Braking, for example, along with a new Rear Door Alert system that can remind drivers of something left in the back seat. (The system notes if a rear door is opened prior to the car being started and wrings its hands with concern if a rear door is not opened again at the end of the trip.)
Every Pathfinder, including our tony Platinum 4WD - really all-wheel drive - is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 with direct injection and variable-valve timing. That engine produces 284 hp and 259 lb.-ft. of torque, all managed by a CVT automatic.
We've never been a big fan of CVTs, but nobody makes them better than Nissan, as the slush box in Pathfinder proves. Although no one would call this three-row, seven-passenger crossover a performance ride, the CVT is adept at locating the proper gearing ratio at any given moment.
That said, Pathfinder isn't great entertainment to drive. Just a competent family wagon that drives and rides like the big vehicle it is. Even equipped with what Nissan calls 4WD, Pathfinder offers no low-range gearing, although there is a torque-lock button and hill-descent control for mild off-pavement duty.
Despite its SUV dressing, this is really a seven-seat minivan surrogate - a task at which it's quite competent.
That's evident in its cabin, which, in our Platinum, was beautifully appointed with leather and trim that mimicked satin metal and wood. Meanwhile, the front seat is roomy, the middle row spacious and even the third row can accommodate two adults. Access to Row 3 is as handy as can be expected thanks to a middle row whose seat scoots forward, cushion flips up and back tilts, resulting in a compressed chair that makes for a wide third-row-access portal.
Fold the rear rows and the resulting cargo space is flat in a bay that can be accessed via a power liftgate that opens with a kick under the bumper. Oh, folded seats also enhance the driver's rear view, which is pinched when all seven head restraints are up.
Pathfinder's infotainment controls are intuitive, with a touch screen and redundant hard buttons and knobs, and our tony Platinum boasted a humongous sun roof, along with twin rear video screens provided by an optional Mobile Entertainment System.
For SUV buyers who want, essentially, a minivan that looks tougher - blimey! - Pathfinder is a finishing school graduate.
Dan Wiese is a freelance automotive writer. He is a regular contributor to the Post-Dispatch and to AAA Midwest Traveler magazine's online Web Bonus. You can e-mail him at [email protected]
© Copyright © 2017 Grand Rapids Herald-Review, APG Media of Minnesota LLC. All rights reserved., source Newspapers