Nissan is in the midst of a portfolio makeover. The Japanese auto maker has redesigned five of its core models in the past 18 months – including the Altima, Pathfinder, Sentra, Versa Note, and Rogue.
And it doesn’t stop there. Officials are banking greener technology will be the key to its on-going success. While the Pathfinder was redone for 2013, it evolves even further for 2014 with the addition of a new family member – Nissan’s Pathfinder Hybrid, which is designed to improve fuel economy and reduce CO2 emissions.
The 2014 Pathfinder Hybrid comes in two trims – SV and Platinum Premium, available only in all-wheel-drive configurations. The base SV 4WD hybrid starts at $39,428 – it’s a $4,000 premium over the price of an equivalent gas-powered Pathfinder SV 4WD model. The top Platinum Premium 4WD hybrid is the most expensive Pathfinder money can buy – it costs $49,198.
Sure, my platinum premium tester comes loaded-to-the-nines with beefy 20-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, leather seats, heated and cooled front seats, heated second row seats, a rear entertainment system with a DVD player and seven-inch rear headrest LCD screens, a dual panorama moon roof, and a premium Bose audio system with 13 speakers, including subwoofers. But it’s expensive. Stick with the base hybrid SV model – it’s cheaper but still well-equipped with a heated steering wheel, cruise control, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, an eight-way power driver’s seat, and a power liftgate that makes it a cinch to load and unload groceries into the cargo area without fiddling with keys.
At the heart of the Pathfinder Hybrid is a new supercharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine coupled to an electric motor with a compact lithium-ion battery. Combined output from the 15 kW electric motor and gas engine is 250 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. The numbers are impressive and similar to the regular Pathfinder with its 3.5-litre V6 engine. That model delivers 260 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque.
The hybrid uses Nissan’s next-generation CVT, or continuously variable transmission, which features regenerative braking to automatically recharge the battery. Performance wise, you don’t notice much of a difference driving the hybrid version over its gas-powered sibling.
Off the line, the throttle response is a bit vague – you have to nail the gas pedal to move this big SUV. But when the gas engine kicks in, its smooth sailing. The Pathfinder Hybrid is powerful, strong, quiet and comfortable. The 4x4 system is excellent; it lets you chose between three modes: full-time 2WD to maximize your fuel economy, auto, or 4WD lock when you really need to tackle anything Mother Nature throws your way.
The Pathfinder Hybrid is big and brawny so parking takes times and patience – thankfully an Around View monitor, which gives you a 360 degree view of the area around the vehicle, helps. The fuel figures are impressive, too. Fuel economy is rated at 7.4 litres/100 km combined driving, which is a 22 per cent improvement over the standard Pathfinder. It can also tow 3,500 pounds when properly equipped.
Visually, there are few details to distinguish this green SUV from its gas-powered sibling. The exterior is menacing and bold in its design with muscular fenders, a long wheelbase, a wide chrome grille, painted roof rails, and short front and rear overhangs. On the outside, you’ll spot tiny Nissan Puredrive hybrid badges on the front doors and lift gate as well as new distinct LED taillights. Inside, a unique hybrid info screen appears in the centre of the instrument cluster; it displays the flow of power from the electric motor and gas engine as well as the power regeneration back into the battery.
The Pathfinder seats seven. The cabin is spacious, comfortable, and elegant. There’s no compromise for passenger seating, either. Legroom and cargo space is abundant. Often in a hybrid, the battery pack eats up space in the cabin or cargo area. But this isn’t the case with the Pathfinder Hybrid. The battery fits under the third-row seat and has little effect on the cargo or passenger room. The front-row seats are supportive.
From the driver’s seat, all-around visibility is excellent. You have a commanding view of the road ahead. Accessing the third row is easy thanks to large rear door openings and a seating system that lets you recline or slide the 60/40 split second row seats forward or backward to increase legroom.
2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid
Type: Seven-passenger sport utility vehicle
Engine: supercharged 2.5-litre DOHC I-4 + 15 kW electric motor
Horsepower/torque: 250 hp/243 lb-ft
Transmission: continuously variable transmission
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 7.8 city/7.1 highway
Alternatives: Volkswagen Touareg, Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander, Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer