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2016 vs. 2017 Nissan Pathfinder: What’s the Difference?

Editor’s note: You may want to read more of Autotrader’s model vs. model comparison car reviews as well as the 2016 Nissan Pathfinder review and the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder review.

 

There’s no mistaking when Nissan Pathfinders undergo a complete redesign. With every generation, there are massive, unmissable changes to the styling, body structure and even its general purpose. The changes made between the 2016 and 2017 Nissan Pathfinder don’t represent one of those dramatic transformations, but nevertheless, significant updates were made to Nissan’s 3-row family crossover. Let’s take a look at the changes.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder    2017 Nissan Pathfinder

Exterior

You’ll be forgiven if you have a tough time telling between the 2016 Nissan Pathfinder and its 2017 replacement, but when you start carefully looking at them side by side, you may notice the differences. For instance, the grille has been reshaped and is now separated from the redesigned headlights that feature a signature LED running light strip. The taillights are also a bit different, while the front and rear bumpers have been reshaped. Besides looking different (Nissan says it was going for a more masculine look), the new styling reaps an improvement in aerodynamics for better fuel economy.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder interior   2017 Nissan Pathfinder interior

Interior

Changes to the cabin were less substantial but could prove more significant on a daily basis. The front cupholders have been redesigned to include a channel between them, allowing for a greater variety of containers to fit within. More importantly, the Pathfinder gains the latest Nissan touchscreen, which is bigger than before and offers improved responses. The 2016’s was one of the easier touchscreens to use, and the 2017 version only builds upon the ease of use.

Other changes include new metal and wood finishes, as well as new cloth upholstery. Otherwise, the Pathfinder’s seating and overall packaging remain unchanged. Seating for seven is standard, although the third row isn’t quite as accommodating as those of some competitors.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder   2017 Nissan Pathfinder

Mechanicals

This is where the big changes show up for the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder that may ultimately lead you to choose the newer version. There’s a new V6 engine that produces 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque, a far more competitive figure than the old V6, which managed only 260 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque. The result is a noticeably more muscular SUV that can better handle the rigors of lugging about a full family load. Plus, towing capacity has raised from 5,000 to 6,000 pounds, bringing the Pathfinder from average to better than all competitors not named Dodge Durango.

The new engine even produces a nice growl that doesn’t get drowned out by the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). For the 2016, the transmission causes prolonged droning noises when under heavy throttle. For the 2017, Nissan introduced more pronounced artificial shift points (a CVT does not have traditional gears to work through) that eliminate much of this droning and create a normal driving experience.

Fuel economy is a bit of a complicated story. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) changed the way it measured fuel economy for 2017, which resulted in a lowering of most cars’ mile-per-gallon figures. Therefore, the 2016 Pathfinder’s fuel economy estimates of 20 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg combined (with front-wheel drive) would’ve gone down had Nissan not changed the engine. Since the engine did change and is more efficient, the figures are actually the same. More simply, the 2017 Pathfinder receives better fuel economy, even though the EPA figures don’t indicate it.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder   20176 Nissan Pathfinder

Features & Technology

Besides the new touchscreen interface, there are additional safety features available for 2017. Specifically, forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking were noticeably absent for 2016, but for the first time, they appear packaged with an adaptive cruise control system.

Unfortunately, these technologies are only available on the priciest Platinum trim level, whereas they’re optional on the lower, less expensive trim levels of competitors. A more widely available new technology is NissanConnect, optional on the SV and SL and standard on the Platinum, which includes automatic crash notification, emergency assist calling and a stolen-vehicle location function.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder   2017 Nissan Pathfinder

Driving Experience

Besides the noteworthy changes to the engine, Nissan also improved the steering and suspension to make the Pathfinder less ponderous to drive. The steering is quicker, resulting in a feeling of improved agility. The suspension is also stiffer, reducing body motions around corners and eliminating the 2016’s somewhat mushy ride that tends toward excessive rebound over big bumps. We’d think twice about the Platinum trim level and its 20-inch wheels, though, which introduce some impact harshness over sharp bumps, ruining what should be a balanced ride. That goes for both the 2016 and the 2017.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder   2017 Nissan Pathfinder

Safety

Although there are new technologies available for 2017, they’re really only available on the priciest trim level that few buyers will realistically opt for. As such, most 2016 and 2017 Pathfinders offer identical safety credentials. Both received five stars for overall crash protection from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as four stars for frontal protection and five for side protection.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has yet to test the 2017 version, but it’s hard to imagine the results being anything other than the best-possible Good ratings received for 2016. For what it’s worth, the IIHS gave the Pathfinder Platinum’s frontal crash-prevention system a rating of Superior when found in other Nissan models.

Conclusions

The 2017 Pathfinder’s improved power and fuel economy are the primary reasons to consider it over the 2016 version. Its new engine makes this family crossover a more capable, competitive and compelling choice in a segment filled with appealing choices. Otherwise, if you’re drawn to the Pathfinder in general and find a great deal on the 2016, we don’t think you’ll kick yourself every time you see a 2017 out on the road (that is, if you can even tell it’s a 2017).

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