The Nissan Pathfinder has had a curious past. Originally based on the Nissan Hardbody pick up, the first Pathy was a proper body-on-frame truck. As a competitor to other truck-utes of the day it faced off most squarely against Toyota’s 4Runner, where it remained a formidable foe for decades, going through a transition in its second generation to a unibody structure, then back to body-on-frame truck-ness for the third generation.

In 2013, the fourth generation Pathfinder – the one you see here – was released, and once again appeared in a more car-like, crossover unibody format, abandoning its battle with the 4Runner, and setting its sights on the better-selling Toyota Highlander. The transition makes sense, as Nissan was clearly giving consumers what they asked for: a more efficient, more comfortable, more manageable family-hauling machine, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t lament the loss of the more rugged previous-gen Pathfinder. It’s kind of like watching The Terminator become the Kindergarten Cop.

Nissan was on a quest (excuse the automotive pun) to give crossover consumers a class-leading vehicle in practical and spacious interior design. And we’re happy to report that even three years into the model’s life cycle, Nissan’s big family wagon remains an excellent choice in the class.

When launched, one of the features Nissan’s marketing folks most proudly boasted about was the ability to slide and fold the second-row seating to allow access to the third row, but without the need to remove a secured child seat in that second row. For anyone with a sizeable brood of children requiring both rear rows of seats, this is a very big deal. Even without a child seat affixed to the second row perch, the ease with which the seat moves out of the way – and the size of the opening it provides to the third row — is worth noting.

Regardless of which seat passengers choose in the Pathfinder, they’re well taken care of. Even the third row occupants are provided separate climate control (Tri-zone automatic climate control is standard all Pathfinder trim levels), plus the seatbacks recline a bit, aiding comfort. The view out isn’t half bad either, with decent-sized windows for the back of the bus.

Life gets even better for the second row passengers who enjoy more comfortable – and roomy (and heated) – seating, and in our top-level Platinum trim, their own sunroof and twin monitors mounted into the backs of the front seat headrests. A household-style plug point ensures nearly any sort of entertainment system can help keep kids occupied and ignoring the scenery on family trips.

MPVs and MVPs: Three-Row Crossover Comparison

The driver and front seat passenger are also provided agreeable quarters with comfortable bucket seats swathed in soft black leather and can be heated or cooled. The dashboard and door panels are made of premium, low-sheen, soft-touch plastics, and even the faux wood and plastic ‘chrome’ trim pieces on the central dash and console are pretty convincing. In Platinum trim, this family vehicle does a pretty convincing impression of a luxury car.

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