Family sized SUV with all the extras.
With the kids both off to college, we’re in downsizing mode. We no longer need the 11-year-old SUV to haul kids, their friends, and all their gear. But if we still needed to do those things, the Nissan Pathfinder SL 4X4 would be just the sort of car we would consider.
Unlike a sedan, it has that handy third row of seats so it’s easy to safely carry seven passengers. Even with the third row seats up, there is plenty of storage space in the back for the soccer balls, grocery bags, and other stuff that comes with kids. With the seats down, you could carry enough baggage for a week at the campground.
Safety doesn’t take a back seat
While I’m not generally a fan of big vehicles, I am a fan of safety. For me, it’s that the Smyrna, Tennessee-assembled Pathfinder sits high enough to offer a clear view of the road, although the rear view was limited when the third row seat head rests were in the up position. (Putting them down is easy and made a huge difference in rear visibility.)
My favorite safety feature of the Pathfinder is the back-up system. The SUV has a back-up camera that offers a clear view of what’s behind the car. That’s not new. But the thing I really loved was the side mirrors that automatically adjust downward to give the driver a clear view of what’s on the ground alongside the car. As I backed in and out of a driveway in a busy neighborhood filled with kids and dogs, I was happy to have both.
Comfort rules in the Nissan Pathfinder
Safety is one thing in a family car. Comfort is quite another. That’s another place where the Pathfinder excels.
Among my favorite comfort features:
- Heated seats. Since I drove this car in southern Florida, this was not as important a feature as it would have been had I been driving it at home in Chicago in February. Still, I used it on one extra chilly morning and was glad to have the option. Equally important for family harmony, the rear seats are heated as well.
- Heating and air conditioning zoned three ways. No need to overheat the people in the front seats to ensure those in the third row don’t freeze.
- Lots of cup holders. No more back seat fights over the only two cup holders available. With a central cup holder and more in the doors, there’s an option for everyone. It cuts down on fighting and, one hopes, spilling.
- Power seats and mirrors that remember where they were supposed to be set. The minute the car is turned off, the seat begins moving back to make for an easier exit. With a husband who stands 6 feet, 3 inches tall and a daughter who likes to pull the seat up to its closest position, this is just the kind of feature that would save a lot of bruised knees.
- Heated outside mirrors. With Chicago’s polar vortex winters and record-breaking blizzards, it can be really tough to keep the mirrors clean and frost-free. There have been many a road trip through icy Midwest winters when someone was rolling down the window to wipe the frost off of the rear view mirrors while we tooled down the highway at 60 mph.
- Five and a half inches of extra room when the second row seats are pulled forward make for easy access to the third row. I still wouldn’t put my aging in-laws there, but just about anyone under 60 would be able climb in and out without too much trouble.
- Information read-out. Right on the panel behind the steering wheel, it told me that the tires were under-inflated and needed air. I appreciated that so much more than some imprecise “check engine” light.
What We Loved
- Backup camera and side mirrors that automatically adjust downward to give the driver a clear view of what’s on the ground alongside the car
- Tire Pressure Monitoring System with Easy Fill Tire Alert that tells you when it’s time to pump a few quarters into the air pump at the gas station
- 7 passenger seating with plenty of legroom in the second and third rows
- Tri-zone temperature controls that ensure everyone stays as warm or cool as they like
- Auto dimming rear view mirror so you’re never blinded by the lights of the guy coming up behind you
What You Need to Know
- The price: base, about $30,000. The fully loaded model I drove retails for about $40,000
- Takes regular fuel
- SL model gets about 21 miles to the gallon—19 in the city and 25 on the highway--which is not great, but not bad for a big SUV
- Four- or five-star safety rating for frontal crash, five-star for side crash and four-star in a rollover