In addition to the engine changes, Nissan has rejigged the 2017 Pathfinder’s CVT shift programming to provide more natural-feeling simulated shifts (what Nissan calls dynamic step or D-Step logic). On the road the transmission works unobtrusively and unremarkably in the background, and perhaps the best compliment I can give the CVT is that it’s really quite difficult to even tell it’s a CVT – other than a lack of manual shift capability (all you get is a Low range selection for engine braking when descending longs hills) the CVT feels almost entirely like any other automatic transmission, except with the added ability to sometimes hold revs a little more steady during moderate acceleration.
The CVT doesn’t hold the Pathfinder back when it comes to towing capacity, either: Nissan rates the 2017 Pathfinder at a class-leading 2,722 kg (6,000 pounds) standard towing capacity, about 454 kg (1,000 lb) ahead of its competition. As Nissan chief marketing manager Andrew Harkness points out, this extra capacity means the Pathfinder can keep up with family towing requirements even as the family moves up from a small starter camper or a boat with a single-axle trailer, to a larger camper or a boat with a double-axle trailer.
The base Pathfinder S models come with front-wheel drive, while higher trim levels get Nissan’s intuitive four-wheel-drive system. This system features a console-mounted controller that allows you to select between two-wheel-drive mode (for maximum highway economy), on-demand Auto mode (sends power to the rear wheels as needed) and four-wheel-drive lock mode (splits the power between the front and rear wheels). There’s also a button to engage hill descent control, which is the lone item of off-road equipment.
A criticism that’s been aimed at the Pathfinder in the past is that it lacks any real driving engagement, and to address this Nissan has slightly stiffened the spring rates for 2017, retuned the shock absorbers, quickened the steering ratio and changed the tires. Nissan says the changes provide a better steering feel and 10 percent less body roll in the corners without any increase in ride harshness. On the road I found the 2017 Pathfinder to be well-sorted, with a nice blend of comfort and composure. Where it really shines is on the highway (it has great on-centre steering feel and glides along serenely), but it’s not afraid of twisting canyon roads either.