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2018 Nissan Pathfinder: New Car Review

If you’re looking for information on a newer Nissan Pathfinder, we’ve published an updated review: 2019 Nissan Pathfinder Review

If you grew up admiring the rugged, old Pathfinders of the 1980s and 90s, the 2018 Nissan Pathfinder is going to come as quite a shock. Gone are the boxy lines and rugged body-on-frame design, replaced by a more modern approach to midsize SUV architecture, one consistent with rivals like the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander. The newest Pathfinder won’t be tearing up many off-road trails, but what it can do is transport up to seven people in comfort and safety while towing up to 6,000 pounds.

Stylistically, the 2018 Pathfinder leans to the more progressive side, with lots of curving lines and a dynamic front end somewhat reminiscent of the Maxima and Altima. Inside, the Pathfinder’s comfortable seats and tastefully reserved dashboard should offend few, while new features like Rear Door Alert help remind drivers to check the rear seat before walking away from the vehicle.

What’s New for 2018?

This year, Automatic Emergency Braking is made standard on every 2018 Nissan Pathfinder. A new Midnight Edition is added, and an innovative new Rear Door Alert system helps reminds drivers to check the rear seat for pets, children or valuables before walking away from the vehicle. See the 2018 Nissan Pathfinder models for sale near you

What We Like

Strong horsepower and torque; adept handling; available full suite of safety and driver-assist technologies; all-wheel drive can be added to any trim

What We Don’t

Most available safety and driver-assist systems that are standard on competitors are still optional on the Pathfinder; unremarkable interior; lacks Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility

How Much?


Fuel Economy

The 2018 Pathfinder is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that generates 284 hp and 259 lb-ft of torque. Towing capacity is an impressive 6,000 pounds, which is substantial in this segment.

Divvying up engine output to either the front or all four wheels falls to Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Fuel economy numbers are 20 miles per gallon city and 27 mpg on the highway in front-wheel-drive versions, and 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive.

Standard Features and Options

The Pathfinder follows Nissan’s grade structure with S, SV, SL and Platinum trim levels.

The S ($31,765) comes standard with 18-inch painted wheels, hill assist, power outboard mirrors with integrated turn signals, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, automatic emergency braking, cloth seats, a 60/40-split reclining second-row seat, Rear Door Alert, a 50/50 reclining fold-flat third-row seat, cruise control, power door locks with keyless remote, power windows, tri-zone automatic climate control, two 12-volt power outlets, a USB port, push-button ignition, Advanced Drive-Assist with a 4-in color display, Bluetooth connectivity and a 6-speaker audio system with an 8-in color display. Oddly, the only factory option is heated outboard mirrors.

The SV ($34,455) comes with the S trim’s equipment and options and also includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto on/off headlights, an 8-way power driver’s seat, an auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, a programmable key fob, four 12-volt power outlets, rear sonar parking assist and remote engine start. Options include a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert.

The SL ($38,475) includes all of the SV’s standard and listed optional equipment and adds a motion-activated power lift gate with position memory, hill-descent control, first- and second-row leather seating, additional driver’s-seat power adjustments, a 4-way power-adjustable front-passenger seat, a 120-volt power outlet and a 360-degree around-view monitor with motion detection. Among the options are a dual-pane panoramic power moon roof, a navigation system and a 12-speaker Bose-infused audio system with an 8-in color touchscreen.

The Platinum ($43,295) builds on the SL’s standard and optional equipment with a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel, wood grain interior accents, a tow hitch with wire harness, 20-in aluminum alloy wheels, LED headlights, heated and cooled front seats, intelligent cruise control and forward emergency braking. The only option is the rear-seat Family Entertainment Package with a DVD player, dual headrest-mounted 8-in monitors and headphones.


After crash tests, the National Highway Safety Administration awarded the 2018 Pathfinder five stars (its highest rating) overall. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has yet to crash-test the 2018 Pathfinder but gave the 2017 version its best rating of Good across the board and Superior in the crash avoidance and mitigation tests. IIHS also ranks the 2017 Pathfinder as a Top Safety Pick.

Every Pathfinder comes with six airbags, automatic emergency braking, Rear Door Alert, an energy-absorbing steering column and front and rear crumple zones. A blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert and Intelligent Cruise Control are available on the SV and standard on the SL and Platinum.

Behind the Wheel

Perched in the comfy driver’s seat, I was struck by Pathfinder’s level of quiet — this is sedanlike noise suppression. There’s nothing terrible about the interior, but it didn’t wow me. Where the new Armada and even the Titan punch up in their segments in terms of the passenger experience, the Pathfinder seems content to run with the pack.

Nissan quickened the steering response and firmed up the suspension. Although I’m sure that translates into better and more responsive handling, it’s too nuanced to easily detect. The extra power mostly arrives at higher rpm numbers and would no doubt be more apparent with a traditional transmission. The ride is family-friendly.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Mazda CX-9 — The CX-9 combines hot styling with excellent fuel economy and a high-end passenger experience. Mazdas have a reputation for sporty handling, and the CX-9 is no exception.

2018 Honda Pilot — With a more refined interior than many of its competitors, the Pilot is not only comfortable but also excels in creative storage spaces. Honda Sensing is a full suite of safety and driver-assist features available on all but the base model.

2018 Toyota Highlander — Always included in any discussion of top-tier 3-row crossovers, the Highlander checks all the boxes for a stylish, refined family-hauler. For those who put fuel economy above performance, it offers a 4-cylinder in addition to the more competitive V6. Forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams are standard on every trim level.

Used Mercedes-Benz GL — A 2014-2016 Mercedes-Benz GL will give you all the room and comfort of a midsize SUV, but with more options, such as a diesel engine and power-folding third-row seat.

Autotrader’s Advice

At just under $34,500, the 2018 Nissan Pathfinder SV provides most of the popular standard gear along with some optional advanced safety systems. Unless you simply must have leather seats or the around-view monitor, the SV grade is a pretty good buy.

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