Words & Video: Karston Chong
Photography: Karston Chong
Published: April 6, 2018
North America’s lasting appetite for SUVs has always astounded me. Memories of the first wave of SUV success were vivid – a 2-tonne hunk of metal tearing past your parent’s comparatively diminutive 1998 Toyota Corolla definitely leaves an impression. Modern SUVs have now come a long way. In this burgeoning and competitive segment, these jacked up brutes have become such a wide-reaching product that automakers can’t seem to coin enough sub-markets to absorb the demand. Take a look at BMW’s “utility vehicle” lineup: X1, X2, X3, X4, X5, X6, (X7 recently announced) – a lineup so strong that I bet it can form its own brand and branch off to even more sub-markets!
On the economical side of the SUV ladder lies the 2018 Nissan Pathfinder, catering to the 7-seater segment and up against the likes of the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Chevrolet Traverse, Volkswagen Atlas, and many more. Starting from a deceivingly low $32,998, the base Pathfinder is an obvious ‘I see what you did there’ marketing ploy; a comparatively barebone spec in FWD orientation, making the sole purpose of this SV trim the scapegoat for a friendly starting price.
Naturally, you browse further up the trim levels to find an AWD variant at $35,998, seems promising but for another $3,700, the SV Tech trim includes some of current day must-haves like heated seats, heated steering, rear-cross traffic alert, blind spot warning, and a slew of other tech. We on the other hand have been spoiled with the top-of-the-line Platinum version dressed in an optional Scarlet Ember paint, ringing in at an alarming total of $49,298 before taxes and PDI.
Surprisingly, the premium price tag is not rendered from an upgraded choice of drivetrain. In fact, all Pathfinders are propelled by a naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), pushing out 284 hp and 259 lb-ft of torque all at the higher altitudes of the rev range. Resultantly, power delivery is smooth though far from convincing or excitable. Similarly, the CVT works well under ordinary driving conditions but becomes disoriented when asked to search for more power. Unfortunately, the CVT transmission doesn’t output a resounding fuel efficiency rating either, placing just above average within its segment.
The price premium was devoted towards a long list of safety and convenience technology. In fear of sounding like a feature sheet (because there is a lot), the few notables are Intelligent Cruise Control, Motion Activated Lift gate, dual 8-inch headrest DVD System, and Intelligent Around View Monitor, features that further bolster the comfortable and forgiving nature of the Pathfinder. The suspension soaks up most of the road’s imperfections (even on the Platinum’s 20-inch alloys), and the seats while plain, are comfortable. The Pathfinder then, foregoes driving dynamics in favour for a more compliant ride, making it a great long-distance traveller.
The interior is also spacious from front to rear, and cargo space aplenty assuming third row seats are not necessary. Though for vehicle of this size, I expected more usable space in the form of clever storage or cubbies that prove its "utility". The design of the interior also leaves something to be desired. What I didn’t expect was how the abundance of features seemed to manifest itself in an abundance of buttons.
In short, the interior simply looks and feels a decade old. In fact, the centre stack is still derived from the Infiniti designs of the early 2000’s. The rest of the cabin is equally unexciting, with a priority for functionality at the sacrifice of taste and design. While the wood trim garnish may seem a worthy injection of design, it’s actually a blatant plastic fascia and a tacky effort.
Lastly, we conclude with the exterior appearance. Perhaps I may not be of the ripe age nor demographic to appreciate the look of the Pathfinder, but I consider its design a little conservative. In fact, its general conservative appeal and well-rounded capabilities makes me wonder what demographic this seven-seater is best suited for. After a week-long stint with the Pathfinder, I can’t help but identify this as the "safe" choice, void of the allure found in the rest of the segment.
The question is, if you’re simply in the market for a no-nonsense seven-seater with ample cargo space, latest safety and convenience tech, and decent fuel efficiency, then what’s wrong with minivans? Perhaps the four-wheel-drive capability splits the difference, but one particular minivan does offer AWD, the Toyota Sienna. And as far as I’m concerned, the minivan segment does a far better job in delivering thoughtful everyday utility and convenience.
The crossover phenomenon continues to astonish me.
型号 Model: 2018 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum
顏色 Paint Type: Scarlet Ember
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $32,998
試車售價 Price as Tested: $49,298
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,900
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,042 / 1,960 / 1,783
車重 Curb weight (kg): 2,103
引擎 Engine: 3.5-litre V6
最大馬力 Horsepower: 284 hp @ 6,400 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 259 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
波箱 Transmission: CVT
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, 4WD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 12.4 / 9.2 / 11.0