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2016 Nissan Pathfinder: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader January 2016

Unlike its rugged, off-road-loving forefathers, the 2016 Nissan Pathfinder is now a comfortable 7-passenger SUV brimming with the latest in Nissan technology and safety advancements. The 2016 Pathfinder features standard 3-row seating and plenty of fun features, as well as excellent driving dynamics and good gas mileage. Nissan throws in a smooth ride and a high-quality interior, too. With a 5,000-lb tow rating, the Pathfinder can still perform some duties expected of a vehicle dubbed an SUV, but its 6.5 inches of ground clearance and car-based platform (not to mention the lack of a proper high/low transfer case) distance it from the rock-crawling, trailblazing reputation of Pathfinders past.

What's New for 2016?

For 2016, the Pathfinder SV offers a Cold Weather package (heated cloth front seats, steering wheel and outside mirrors), while the SL adds a standard heated steering wheel. The Almond interior option has been revised with new contrasting black and beige materials.

What We Like

Flexible 3-row layout; high-quality interior; smooth transmission; carlike underpinnings; improved ride and handling

What We Don't

Modest maximum cargo capacity; engine labors with a full load; no longer an off-road champ

How Much?

$30,680-$46,000

Fuel Economy

All Pathfinders are powered by Nissan's venerable 3.5-liter V6, which is rated at 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. A gearless continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is mandatory. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional on every model.

Fuel economy is average-plus at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive. All-wheel-drive models drop to 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 3-row 2016 Nissan Pathfinder is offered with either front- or all-wheel drive in four trim levels: S, SV, SL and Platinum.

The S ($30,680) starts with 18-inch alloy wheels, tri-zone automatic climate control, electroluminescent gauges, push-button ignition, cruise control, two 12-volt outlets, a tilt-telescopic steering column, a 4-in color driver information screen, manual front seats with adjustable driver lumbar support, cloth upholstery, and a 6-speaker audio system with a 6-CD changer, an auxiliary input jack and steering-wheel-mounted controls.

Note that neither iPod/Bluetooth integration nor towing preparation is offered on the Pathfinder S, the only trim deprived of these features.

The SV ($34,000) adds automatic headlights, roof rails, keyless entry, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a central 7-in information display, a rearview camera with rear parking sensors, fog lights, heated side mirrors, two more 12-volt outlets, a power driver's seat, leather steering wheel and shift knob trim, and a single-CD audio system with a USB/iPod jack and auxiliary video inputs.

The SL ($37,260) tacks on a power lift gate, chrome exterior accents, leather upholstery and door trim, wood-tone inserts, a power passenger seat, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, remote starting, a universal garage-door opener, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and welcome lighting.

The Platinum ($42,460) tops the range with exclusive 20-in alloy wheels, a heated steering wheel, a hard-drive-based navigation system with an 8-in touchscreen, the Around View 360-degree parking camera system, a panoramic sunroof, cooled front seats, a 120-volt outlet, a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel, driver memory functions, a 13-speaker Bose audio system, Bluetooth streaming audio and DVD playback capability.

All-wheel drive adds about $1,600 to the bottom line.

Some higher-end standard features are available as options on cheaper trims. Notable extras, depending on the model and package, include a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, Bose 9-speaker audio, Nissan navigation, towing preparation and an entertainment system with twin 7-in screens in the front headrests.

Cargo space measures a handy 16 cu ft. behind the third row, 42-48 cu ft. behind the second row (depending on equipment level) and 79.8 cu ft. with both back rows folded down. Given that the similar Highlander offers over 95 cubes of maximum space, we're not blown away by the Pathfinder's practicality, but 80 cubes is still a lot of stuff.

Safety

The Pathfinder comes with 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and six airbags, including side airbags for the front passenger and full-length side-curtain airbags. Electronic traction and stability control are also standard, as is Hill Start Assist.

The Pathfinder earned a 4-star overall crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, with five stars for the side-impact test and four stars for front impact and roof strength. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Pathfinder ratings of Good in the moderate front-overlap and side-impact tests but only a Marginal rating for roof strength.

Behind the Wheel

Unless rock-crawling ability is a must, you'll probably find the 2016 Pathfinder a very likable crossover SUV. The Pathfinder pairs a supple ride with good cabin insulation, making for comfortable highway cruising and urban commuting alike. The smooth CVT does its best to keep the V6 in its sweet spot, and it usually succeeds. If you're like us, you'll only wish for more grunt with a full load aboard. A tighter turning radius than the Honda Pilot or GMC Acadia helps make parking and maneuvering the Pathfinder a bit easier.

Not surprisingly, the handling is tuned more for safety than for smiles, but the new Pathfinder puts forth a reassuringly carlike stability at speed. Off-road performance is, of course, limited by the Pathfinder's clear preference for pavement, but at least the 4-wheel-drive LOCK mode helpfully fixes front-rear power distribution at 50-50 for escaping unusually sticky spots.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Hyundai Santa Fe -- The stylish Santa Fe is available with either two or three seating rows in multiple drivetrain configurations. Its base trims also include Bluetooth as standard equipment.

2016 Toyota Highlander -- Toyota's bread-and-butter crossover has clear advantages under the hood, with either the all-world 3.5-liter V6 or the expensive but rewarding hybrid power system.

2016 Honda Pilot -- The Pilot is not as stylish as the Pathfinder, but it does offer seating for eight passengers and more hp. However, the Pilot can only tow 3,500 pounds versus the Pathfinder's 5,000.

Used Audi Q7 -- A 2010-2014 Audi Q7 offers more features, enhanced luxury and the option of a diesel engine. Get a certified pre-owned model for the extended warranty.

Autotrader's Advice

The Pathfinder SV has the best mix, in our opinion. Unless navigation is a must-have, consider saving a bundle and going with this well-equipped, reasonably priced trim level.

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2016 Nissan Pathfinder: New Car Review - Autotrader