Although it bears a name once associated with a rugged, body-on-frame SUV, that’s the only thing the 2020 Nissan Pathfinder shares in common with its beloved ancestor. Today’s Pathfinder is a modern SUV. It’s built more like a car than a truck, which is fine by most people. The design changes make the Pathfinder a safer, lighter and more comfortable SUV, one adept at handling the needs of busy families. Now set to do battle with the likes of the Chevrolet Traverse, the Ford Explorer and the Toyota Highlander, the 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 2020 Pathfinder leans to the more progressive, if not a bit sterile, with lots of curving lines and a dynamic front end that’s somewhat reminiscent of sedans such as the Nissan Maxima and the Nissan Altima. Inside, the Pathfinder’s comfortable seats and tastefully reserved dashboard should offend few, while clever features, such as the rear door alert, help remind drivers to check the rear seat before walking away from the vehicle.
What’s New for 2020?
The Pathfinder picked up a rear sonar system, two more USB-C ports, radar cruise control, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and LED headlights on higher trims as part of a 2019 update. It carries over unchanged for the 2020 model year. See the 2020 Nissan Pathfinder models for sale near you
What We Like
- Strong horsepower and torque
- Adept handling
- A full suite of safety and driver-assist technologies
- USB-C ports
- 6,000-lb tow rating
What We Don’t
- Outdated design
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
- Some safety and driver-assist systems that are standard on competitors are still optional on the Pathfinder
- Unremarkable interior
The Pathfinder’s lone engine option is a 3.5-liter V6 that generates 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque. Nissan‘s Xtronic continuously variable automatic transmission divvies up engine output either to all four wheels or just the front two. Towing capacity is an impressive 6,000 pounds, which is substantial in this segment.
Standard Features and Options
The Pathfinder follows Nissan’s traditional grade structure and comes in four trim levels.
The S trim ($32,727 FWD, $34,415, AWD) comes standard with 18-in painted wheels, hill assist, power outboard mirrors with integrated turn signals, a tilt-and-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, a rear sonar system, power door locks with keyless remote, power windows, tri-zone automatic climate control, two 12-volt power outlets, six USB ports, push-button ignition, a 4-in color Advanced Drive Assist 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 ($35,515 FWD, $37,205 AWD) trim comes with the S trim’s equipment and options and adds to them a leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic headlights, an 8-way power driver’s seat, an auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, a programmable key fob, two more 12-volt power outlets, rear sonar parking assistance and remote engine start. Standard driver assists include adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. The SV All Weather package adds a heated steering wheel, heated front seats and heated mirrors. The SV Tech package adds navigation with upgraded NissanConnect and SiriusXM services, a trailer hitch and a wiring harness.
The SL ($39,135 FWD, $40,825 AWD) includes the SV’s standard and listed optional equipment and adds a motion-activated power liftgate with position memory, hill-descent control, first- and second-row leather seating, LED headlights, additional driver’s seat power adjustments, a 4-way power-adjustable front-passenger seat, a 120-volt power outlet and a 360-degree monitor with motion detection. Upgrades include a dual-pane panoramic power moonroof, a navigation system and a 12-speaker Bose audio system with an 8-in color touchscreen.
The value-oriented Rock Creek package is available on SV and SL trims and boasts an outdoorsy aesthetic despite offering no real functional off-road benefits. It comes standard with a trailer hitch and trailer connection points, black plastic fender flares, a fake front skid plate and unique badging and interior trim. Unique packages offered for the Pathfinder Rock Creek include the SV Rock Creek Technology package — which bundles heated seats, a heated steering wheel and heated mirrors for $980 — and the SL Rock Creek Premium package, which adds a Bose audio system and a panoramic sunroof for $2,110.
The Platinum trim ($43,965 FWD, $45,655 AWD) builds on the SL’s standard and optional equipment with a power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, wood grain interior accents, a tow hitch with a wire harness, 20-in aluminum alloy wheels and heated and cooled front seats. The only upgrade is the rear-seat Family Entertainment package, which adds a DVD player, dual headrest-mounted 8-in monitors and headphones.
The National Highway Safety Administration gave the Pathfinder a 5-Star overall rating for its crash test performance. In testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the current-generation Pathfinder earned ratings of Good in every category except for the small overlap front passenger test, in which it scored as Acceptable. In crash avoidance and mitigation tests, the Pathfinder graded out as Superior.
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 adaptive cruise control are standard on the SV trim and higher.
Behind the Wheel
When perched in the comfy driver’s seat, drivers are likely to be struck by the Pathfinder’s level of quiet — this is sedanlike noise suppression. There’s nothing terrible about the interior, but it won’t wow anyone. Where the 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. The Pathfinder is nearing the end of its life cycle and is due for a redesign if it’s to compete in the 3-row midsize SUV segment,
Nissan recently quickened the Pathfinder’s steering response and firmed up the suspension. Although that should theoretically translate to better and more responsive handling, it’s too nuanced to detect. The extra power mostly arrives at higher rpm and would no doubt be more apparent with a traditional transmission. The ride is family-friendly, yet can still tow up to 6,000 pounds.
One clever feature worth noting is Nissan’s Intelligent Cruise Control, which adjusts vehicle speed in relation to vehicles ahead of it and monitors the road using the car’s navigation system. If the system detects a sharp curve approaching, it will slow the vehicle to a safe speed.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Toyota Highlander — The Highlander is all-new for 2020 and is certain to build on what was already a strong offering. Expect loads of active safety tech to come standard. There’s also a new hybrid version that’ll almost certainly offer segment-leading fuel economy.
2020 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’s full suite of active safety and driver-assist features comes standard on every trim.
At just under $36,000, the 2020 Nissan Pathfinder SV provides most of the popular standard gear and some advanced safety systems. Toss in the All Weather and Tech packages, and you’re still out the door for under $38,000 — though AWD will run you another $1,700. Unless you must have leather seats or the around-view monitor, the SV trim is a pretty good buy. If you’re still looking for more features, such as heated seats and a tow hitch, consider the value-oriented packaging of the SV Rock Creek Edition. Find a Nissan Pathfinder for sale