2017 Nissan Pathfinder: Stiffer, stronger, sexier

Editors' note: This article has been updated to include driving impressions for the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder.

Some midcycle refreshes are minimal -- a nip here, a tuck there. Others, like this 2017 Nissan Pathfinder, throw everything but the kitchen sink at a given vehicle. Whether it's the tow rating, the engine or just the cloth seats, Nissan's given its Pathfinder a wealth of upgrades.

The exterior remains conservative, with Nissan choosing to not include the angular headlights from the Murano, Maxima et. al. Nevertheless, dermal alterations have been applied to the grille, hood and both front and rear fasciae. LED headlights are available on the top-trim Platinum, as well. The whole shebang features a lower coefficient of drag than before (0.326 versus 0.34), which should help fuel economy.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder

The new Pathfinder gains a new engine, and a styling update, but retains its platform from the previous model year.

Nissan

Under that new hood lies an also-new engine. The 3.5-liter V-6 puts out 284 horsepower and 259 pound-feet of torque, gains of 24 and 19, respectively. It also features direct gas injection and a higher compression ratio than before. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) remains the only gearbox, mated to either a front- or all-wheel drivetrain. Despite the bumps in power, fuel economy should stay the same. Towing capacity is up to 6,000 pounds, to boot.

That engine gives the Pathfinder ample, but not breathtaking, passing power. As before, the CVT creates smooth acceleration, with no gear changes to cause power drops. Under acceleration, the engine sounds a little rough, partially due to the new direct-injection system and also the Pathfinder's lack of serious sound deadening. The CVT offers a low range, but there are no programmed shift points, so you will have to let it work on its own.

To support that extra hustle and capability, Nissan's stiffened the Pathfinder in several ways. The steering is 11 percent quicker, the front shocks are 11 percent stiffer and the rear shocks are 7 percent firmer.

Despite stiffening, the Pathfinder doesn't feel appreciably different on the road. It remains a comfortable cruiser, showing typical body motion in the turns. However, the hydraulic-electric power steering feels responsive and direct.

2017 Nissan Pathfinder

The Pathfinder may not be a strong off-roader, but it is more capable than the typical crossover.

Wayne Cunningham/Roadshow

Bowing to heritage, the Pathfinder has a locking all-wheel-drive system. To prove its capabilities, Nissan put it on a short off-road course during a drive event in Monterey, California. The Pathfinder crawled up reasonably steep dirt tracks, and over a section of low, alternating moguls, the all-wheel-drive system put power to the wheels in contact with the ground, helping traction.

Under descent control, the Pathfinder automatically applied braking to individual wheels, keeping slip to a minimum. Unlike other descent control systems, which often exhibit torturous grinding noises, the Pathfinder's braking was relatively quiet.

Inside, the changes are fewer and further between. It has a redesigned center console, some new trim finishers, an additional front USB port and a new cloth seat material. The most prominent variations lie in the infotainment system. The standard offering is now an 8-inch touchscreen unit, with optional navigation and SiriusXM-powered connected services.

On the safety front, Nissan once again offers its Around View Monitor, which gives a top-down look at the area around the vehicle. Other safety systems on offer include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.

The 2017 Nissan Pathfinder goes on sale in early September, with a base price below $30,000.

Discuss 2017 Nissan Pathfinder