The Nissan Pathfinder, a compact sport-utility vehicle manufactured by the once-independent Nissan Motor Co., beginning in 1985, has changed.
Nissan is now part of a European automotive conglomerate that includes Renault. Its primary purpose is to sell cars instead of pleasing — at high production expense but low corporate profit — the hard-driving, small market-segment of off-roaders.
The trim name for the 2017 Pathfinder driven for this column, Platinum, is indicative.
You don't drive platinum through mud. Nor do you deliberately bang it against rocks or drive it downhill, exposing it to the ravages of sticks, sharp stones and deep ditches hiding destructive surprises.
None of this means the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder is displeasing on long road trips. Quite the contrary. It is perfect for lengthy interstate drives. It behaves well in moderate rain and wind.
I drove the Pathfinder Platinum in midsummer, almost entirely on paved highways. I had no trouble in rain or wind, and I suspect I would have had perfect Pathfinder drives in moderate snow or other wintry conditions.
Moderate? Why do I cling to that word in automotive reviews? Simple.
The longer I live, the more I realize that "moderation" is an intimate friend of "common sense." For example, in inclement weather — heavy rains, winds or snow — it makes sense to choose moderation in travel. Find a safe spot and park or shelter in place.
It matters little what type of vehicle you are driving. Overriding common sense can lead to disaster. Most of us realize that, which is why most of us avoid risky drives.
Frankly, I believe that is why the formerly rough-and-tumble Nissan Pathfinder has changed to a family comfort wagon.
It is now a get-me-there vehicle, one that insists on comfortable, safe and reasonably efficient transport. Power? It is equipped with a gasoline 3.5-liter V-6 (284 horsepower, 259 pound-feet of torque). That is more than enough oomph to safely enter and change lanes on highways. With this one, you also can tow a trailer weighing 6,000 pounds.
That is enough for most of us. We're not really hankering for cars and trucks that can break the speed limit. We just want to get there and do so safely, comfortably, in style. Look around. Most of the things now called "sport-utility vehicles" have changed to satisfy those real customer needs and wants.
Of course, there are those who enjoy the risks and thrills of a high-mountain, two-week camp-and-drive trip along the U.S. Continental Divide. I was one of them. I was 33. I am now nearly 70. Neither my doctors, my family nor my bones would allow me to make that off-road trip again — not in a Nissan Pathfinder, a Jeep of any sort, or a Land Rover.
Most of my driving now is on paved roads, where I am a fellow motorist with the vast majority of you who want to get where you want to go — safely, comfortably, efficiently, in style.
That is why sport-utility vehicles have changed. That is why the Nissan Pathfinder no longer is the rough-and-tumble vehicle it was in 1985. That is why it still sells.
Nuts & Bolts
2017 Nissan Pathfinder
Bottom line: The Nissan Pathfinder — available in S, SV, SL and Platinum trim levels — is perfect for long family road trips. But don't succumb to off-road fantasies with this one, especially when carrying more than four people.
If you are serious about off-roading, make sure that the Pathfinder you choose is specifically outfitted for off-road driving. Choose passengers with some off-road experience — no more than four people. You might need the extra passenger space for off-road emergency equipment and camping gear.
Ride, acceleration and handling: It gets good marks for ride and acceleration. Decent marks for handling. "Decent" means caution, especially in and around curves.
Head-turning quotient: Gone is the intimidating, rough-and-tumble sport-utility look. This one is in line with the family wagon.
Body style/layout: The original Pathfinder was based on a family sedan that morphed into something like a rugged war wagon that morphed into what now is a pleasant family wagon. It is available in front-wheel or all-wheel-drive in all trim levels.
Capacities: It can seat up to seven people. Cargo capacity with all seats in place is 16 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 19.5 gallons of gasoline. Regular unleaded is okay.
Mileage: I averaged 25 miles per gallon on the highway with one passenger and light cargo.
Safety: Standard equipment includes front and rear ventilated disc brakes; four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; traction and stability control; blind-side monitoring; rear cross-traffic alert; and side and head air bags.
Pricing: The 2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum with all-wheel-drive starts at $43,560. There is a $250 charge for mostly cosmetic options and a $900 cost for shipping it to the dealer. The final price as tested is $44,685. But this one is surrounded by competition. You can bargain.