2019 Nissan Pathfinder

By January 4, 2019

The 2019 Nissan Pathfinder is a mid-size crossover SUV with a versatile second row, and optional third row that’s well suited for smaller passengers.

With the Pathfinder, Nissan has made gradual changes since it was last redesigned for 2014. It was freshened for 2017 with a tweaked nose and tail, new engine, firmer suspension and better infotainment; model year 2018 saw automatic emergency braking. For 2019, rear parking sensors are standard on all models, with adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts standard on SV models and up. No active lane control is available, something found on many of the Pathfinder’s competitors.

Now in its sixth year after many generations, the Pathfinder soldiers on with a great engine, excellent handling and good ride, as well as a comfortable interior that resembles its rich cousin, the Infiniti QX60.

The Pathfinder drives more like a car than a truck, but with available all-wheel drive it can easily manage snow and rugged terrain. Thanks to a beefy tow hitch, it’s rated to tow up to 6,000 pounds, an impressive load for a mid-size crossover.

The strong 3.5-liter V-6 engine has direct injection and variable valve timing, making 284 horsepower and 259 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a continuously variable transmission.

Front-wheel-drive Pathfinders come in at 20/27/23 mpg on the EPA’s test, and 1 mpg less with all-wheel drive. The 20-inch wheels on the Platinum model drop those numbers another mile per gallon, because of their higher rolling resistance. That mileage falls between the Toyota Highlander and Chevy Traverse.

The IIHS gives the Pathfinder its top “Good” results in most crash tests, with an “Acceptable” score for the passenger side small-overlap frontal crash test, which simulates impact with an object like a tree or telephone pole. On the driver’s side, it got a Good.

Additionally, the IIHS said that the Pathfinder’s standard halogen headlights provide “Poor” coverage, while even the optional LED headlights on SL and Platinum trims are just “Acceptable.”   

The NHTSA rated the 2019 Pathfinder at five stars overall, but only gave it four stars for side impact and four in the calculated rollover test.

Standard safety equipment includes six airbags, with the side-curtain airbags having a rollover sensor and covering all three rows. A rearview camera and rear sonar parking sensors are also standard. Then there’s the Easy Fill Tire Alert that honks the horn when you’ve inflated a tire to the correct amount; and another honk called Rear Door Alert, to check the back seats for forgotten pets or children, after you get out of the car.

Model Lineup

For about $32,200, the base 2019 Nissan Pathfinder S undercuts many of its rivals while providing most of the features families seek in a crossover SUV with a possible and functional third row. The S includes power features, parking sensors, automatic emergency braking, an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, a slew of USB Type A and Type C ports, and three-zone automatic climate control.

All-wheel drive costs about $1,700 on all Pathfinder trim levels.

For about $3,000 more, the SV adds adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, a power driver’s seat, keyless ignition, an integrated garage door opener, and a handful of smaller features. Heated seats and a heated steering wheel are optional for $400.

The Pathfinder SL adds leather upholstery, heated seats and steering wheel, navigation, and a surround-view camera system, at about $39,000.

The range-topping Pathfinder Platinum adds Bose speakers, 20-inch wheels, cooled front seats, two sunroofs for about $43,500. Rear-seat entertainment is optional only on the Pathfinder Platinum, for $1,700.

Exterior

Nissan wants the Pathfinder to look more like its rugged rivals, meaning more like a truck than a crossover, and it does. The nose and tail are both blocky, and there is an aggressive chrome grille like many trucks have. The similar-sized Murano is the Nissan crossover that looks like a crossover.

The overall lines go back to crossing over, with a long hood, raked windshield, flowing side creases with chrome touches, and upswept third window. The shapes, angles, and directions somehow make the Pathfinder look smaller than it is. You have to stand up against it to appreciate its true size, mid-size or not.

Interior

In Charcoal or Almond, the Pathfinder’s cabin looks a bit like its elegant cousin, the Infiniti QX60. Most Pathfinders have shiny black interior trim, but the matte-finish faux wood on higher trims has a dressy look, and there’s soft matte material on the door panels.

The dashboard is a mix between curvy shapes and blocky, vertical controls. An 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment sits high on the dash flanked by climate control vents with nearly 20 buttons and a big chrome knob below. The buttons can overwhelm at first, but they offer better access to myriad audio and optional navigation controls than some menu-intensive infotainment systems.

As big as the Pathfinder’s 8.0-inch touchscreen is, its software can be a chore to sort through, with its pinch-and-swipe control on tile icons, part of the NissanConnect infotainment system and its connectivity. It lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, found in most competitors.

The Pathfinder isolates vibrations and road noise better than some others in the class. And it does a good job of balancing comfort, access, space and storage. There is a lot of elbow room, cupholders in the door pockets and center console along with two big trays, map pockets on the front seatbacks, no less than three bottle holders in each rear door, and cupholders on each side of the third row.

The comfortable front seats have good back support but little side bolstering, while the driver has a lot of adjustment. Our seat time included a long trip on the highway, and we have no complaints. The lack of bolstering doesn’t do a thing for cornering, but the Pathfinder isn’t a vehicle to be tossed around anyhow.

The bench seat in the second row slides back and forth 5.5 inches for legroom. It folds to gain access to the third row, with a feature called Latch and Glide that allows child seats to stay in place even while the seat partially folds, although not if a child is in it. The little ones will have to climb out, for the bigger kids to get in the third row.

The second row is comfortable, but has a leaned-back, legs-splayed seating position. That’s the compromise for its folding capability, to improve third-row access.

The optional third row is roomier than most, with short, flat cushions that sit quite low, providing headroom enough for early teens but not fully grown people.

With all the seats up, the Pathfinder has only 16 cubic feet behind the third row. With both rows folded, there is a solid 80 cubic feet of cargo space, still nothing like the massive 116 cubic feet in Chevrolet Traverse, but that’s a full-size SUV.

Driving Impressions

The 3.5-liter V-6, new with the latest technology last year, is quite quick for a mid-size crossover, with a 0 to 60 mph time of less than seven seconds. This engine in various states of tune is and has been used in many Nissan applications, including the Z sports car. It’s proven and it’s smooth.

The continuously variable transmission (CVT) uses Nissan’s D-Step shift logic, to mimic the distinct shifts of an automatic transmission; it works, to remove most of the high revving of a CVT, but it still drones a bit. And sometimes it’s slow to respond.

The suspension is fairly firm, stiffened by quite a bit in 2017. The ride is still comfortable; you can feel the bumps, but it’s not harsh.

The handling is controlled, with hydraulic-electric power steering that’s fairly quick, well-weighted, and has decent on-center feel. The Pathfinder feels lighter than it should, given its size and appearance. You can pitch it back and forth on choppy roads, and it won’t freak out like its heavier rivals. However some models have tires with a low rolling resistance, both 18-inch and 20-inch, which don’t have the grip that the chassis can handle.

There’s some torque steer in front-wheel-drive models, but not in the all-wheel-drive versions, which send most of the power to the front wheels until it’s needed in back for traction or stability. The driver can select front-wheel drive only, maximizing fuel efficiency, or a locked all-wheel-drive mode to distribute power equally front and rear.

The Pathfinder has less ground clearance than a Subaru Outback (which has an excellent CVT), but it handles ruts with stability, while the locking center differential provides more traction off-road than most rivals.

Final Word

The 2019 Pathfinder has a great engine, good ride and handling, grippy all-wheel drive, and average fuel mileage. The optional third row has more room than other mid-size crossovers, and it has plenty of bins and cupholders. It’s quite safe, almost ideal for a family that wants their crossover SUV to look like a truck.