Any carmaker wanting to hold its own among the stiff competition in this class must continually up their game and Nissan has brought a convincing cavalcade of tech and packaging to the fray.

Sporting refreshed and updated looks, and the three rows of seats that are requisite to compete against the other midsize SUVs in the segment, Nissan’s Pathfinder heads into 2017 with a host of tweaks and improvements to its fourth generation.

The vehicle didn’t get the major overhaul that its big sibling Armada did, but the new hood and bumper distinguish it from last year’s Pathfinder (along with the grille, the so-named ‘V Motion’ design that we are seeing on all the company’s new products).

Naturally, any carmaker wanting to hold its own among the stiff competition in this class must continually up their game (no small challenge when you’re up against Highlander, Santa Fe and Pilot), and Nissan has brought a convincing cavalcade of tech and packaging to the fray.

The company is pretty proud of the Pathfinder’s improved towing capacity, for example, having upped the maximum to 6,000 lbs (from 5,000 previously), and the power boost (284 horses, 259 lb.-ft. of torque) from the latest 3.5 litre V6 under the new hood.

The 2017 Nissan Pathfinder engine’s new Direct Injection Gasoline™ (DIG) system, which is also utilized on the all-new flagship Nissan Armada full-size SUV, provides better wide-open throttle performance and improved fuel economy and emissions performance (versus a non-direct-injection system). The system injects fuel directly into the combustion chamber rather than into the intake port. The designated shape of the piston head controls the injected fuel flow to the spark plug. This introduces concentrated fuel around the spark plug, reducing the time needed to burn the fuel. This also helps eliminate residual fuel buildup, resulting in cleaner exhaust.

We’re driving a couple of models (a top-line Platinum trim and the one-notch down SL) around the California hill country where Nissan has headquartered for the launch of the vehicle, getting a feel for the ride and a small taste of the Pathfinder’s off-road abilities.

Incidentally, there is a major fire going on not far away from here, over the hills east of Carmel the air is full of smoke and the highways full of trucks transporting firefighters inland.
The interior of these upper-trim models is stately, upholstered in leather and comfortable – particularly in the fully adjustable driver’s seat, but the second row isn’t bad in terms of roominess and the company claims access to the third row has been improved – with an interface and control layout that is easy to get used to and navigate.

The info display atop the center stack is new for 2017, with a touchscreen that responds to pinching and zooming in the manner of a tablet or smartphone (a feature we first saw on the redesigned Murano last year).

It excels as a highway traveller, the acceleration quick and smooth (which is as much a credit to the latest CVT transmission employed in the Pathfinder), its road manners helped by a stiffened suspension that keeps body roll from intruding into the experience.

The steering has been improved with quicker response and tightened-up feel, and while it feels good I must say I never found the steering in the ‘old’ Pathfinder objectionable.

As you might imagine, available high-tech driving aids abound; from intelligent cruise control to forward emergency braking that will actively intervene if the onboard sensors decide that the situation demands it.

The Pathfinder has some off-road chops as well. It may not be the prime consideration of people shopping this type of vehicle, but the 4WD models can take it off the pavement and mount some formidable hills and trails if the situation demands.

Don’t get me wrong here, it isn’t the scrambler that, say, the latest Titan is; but the on-demand four-wheel drive (with ‘lock’ and ‘auto’ modes, and hill-descent control) lend confidence to the experience.

The fact is, there isn’t much to dislike about our first look at the 2017 Pathfinder. Nissan is holding the mantra that a vehicle like this (or, for that matter, vehicles in any segment) have to deliver a fully-rounded package, inside and out, to compete in a brave new world.

We’ve reached a point where even entry-level autos can be bought with fripperies that were once the province of luxury brands, so the availability of things like a motion-activated tailgate or any of the latest driver-assistance technology and nanny systems are now things that simply must be offered.

The automatic liftgate, for example (it operates by kicking your foot underneath the rear bumper, a feature we first saw on Ford’s Escape) will be standard equipment on all Pathfinders sold with the power liftgate option.

It should be just the thing for most any situation that a family-oriented utility vehicle could be asked to endure. Basically it will break down into four trims (S, SV, SL and Platinum), all of which will have the 3.5L six-cylinder engine, CVT transmission and a choice of 2WD or four-wheel drive.

Prices have just been announced:
Pathfinder S 2WD    $32,498
Pathfinder S 4WD    $35,398
Pathfinder SV 4WD    $38,098
Pathfinder SL 4WD    $41,098
Pathfinder SL Premium Tech 4WD    $44,598
Pathfinder Platinum 4WD    $48,398

wade [dot] ozeroff [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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