First generation WD21 (1985–1995)
The first generation Pathfinder was introduced as a two-door SUV, and shared styling and most components with the Nissan Hardbody Truck. The Pathfinder was Nissan’s response to the Chevrolet Blazer, Ford Bronco II, and Jeep Cherokee. One of the features that was unique at the time was an optional 4WD system that could be engaged electronically while the vehicle was moving, mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.
All WD21 Pathfinders were available in both 2WD and manually engaged 4WD configurations, with base models installed with a 2.4 L four cylinder engine. In certain countries this generation also came with a 2.7 L I4 Diesel Engine known as the TD27 with the option of a turbocharger installed later in 1988.
When the four door version was introduced, Nissan chose to conceal the door handles as a part of the “C” pillar trim to visually make it appear like a two-door truck with a camper shell, with the conventional door handles on the front doors. This design tradition is still used on all Nissan SUVs currently offered, including the Nissan Armada, Nissan Juke, and the Nissan Xterra.
Second generation R50 (1995–2005)
The second generation Pathfinder was introduced in late 1995 with more rounded styling. It was completely redesigned from the first generation, switching from body on frame construction to unibody construction.
The engine was upgraded to the VG33E, with 168 hp and 196 lb·ft torque and in 2001 the engine was upgraded to a 240 hp V6.
Third generation R51 (2004–2012)
The third generation was again completely redesigned and returned to the body on frame construction. It is powered by a 4.0L V6 with 266 hp, 288 lb-ft or a 2.5L 169 hp, 297 lb-ft Turbo Diesel.
2005 brought the introduction of third row seating. Then in 2008 it received a facelift and the Titan’s 5.6L V8, rated at 310 hp and 388 ft-lb.
Fourth generation R52 (2012–present)
This generation again brought a change back to a unibody design instead of the body-on-frame. It uses the same platform as the Infiniti QX60, Altima, Maxima, Murano and Quest.
The Fourth Generation is only available with a 3.5L V6 with 260 hp and 240 ft-lb torque. The fuel economy is rated at 20 City, 26 Highway and 22 Combined MPG for the FWD version and 19 City, 25 Highway and 21 Combined for the 4WD version. This generation also abandons the door handles that were placed on the C pillar, present in the previous three generations.
The 2014 model year received some updates:
• New SL Tech Package, featuring Bose® 13-speaker Premium Audio System, Nissan Navigation System, voice recognition, XM NavTraffic and NavWeather capability, Zagat® Restaurant Survey, Bluetooth® Streaming Audio and 8.0-inch color touchscreen monitor
• Offered in four models: S, SV, SL and Platinum (each available in 4WD and 2WD); Pathfinder Hybrid offered in SV, SL and Platinum (4WD and 2WD)
• 3.5-liter V6 models available
The Pathfinder utilizes a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) transmission; early versions of this CVT have proved to be problematic to the point of requiring replacement by Nissan in some 2013 and 2014 model years due to a hydraulic line size issue.
Introduced for model year 2014, the Pathfinder Hybrid, available in 2-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive configurations, uses a supercharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor paired to a compact Lithium-ion battery. The Li-ion battery fits under the 3rd row seat, with no effect on space used for cargo or passengers. The Pathfinder Hybrid also featured hybrid emblems and L.E.D. taillights versus the non-hybrid Pathfinder model.
The hybrid system uses a Nissan Intelligent Dual Clutch System (one motor and two clutch parallel system) that manages power from both the electric motor and the gas engine. The 15 kW electric motor and gas engine work in tandem to provide performance similar to the non-hybrid Pathfinder’s 3.5-liter gasoline V6. The system is rated at 250 hp and 243 ft-lb of torque – versus the 3.5-liter V6 ratings of 260 hp and 240 ft-lb of torque. Nissan discontinued the Pathfinder Hybrid in early 2015 due to falling gasoline prices in the United States.
2017 Refresh Update
For model year 2017, the Nissan Pathfinder will have an exterior update which includes a new fascia with restyled headlights and taillights, which features bi-xenon HID projector headlamps and LED daytime running lights standard on Platinum trim levels, while S, SV, and SL trim levels offer restyled halogen bulb headlights, and all 2017 Nissan Pathfinder models will also have new exterior colors added, with some of the old exterior colors discontinued.
This is a refresh, not an all-new model. As such, it still resembles the outgoing 2016 model in many respects. The profile remains mostly the same, but the front and rear facias have been reworked. A new grill surrounds all this new lighting, against a raised and slightly bulkier hood. Overall, it does give the front of the new Pathfinder a slightly stronger appearance than the outgoing model, though nothing close to the old body-on-frame vehicles of yesteryear.
Underneath the skin, the 2017 Pathfinder still closely resembles the model that debuted in 2013. There are some advanced safety features like collision mitigation available on upper trim models. The suspension has been stiffened slightly and Nissan engineers adjusted the steering, but the four-wheel-drive system continues unchanged.
The biggest change mechanically comes under the hood. The 3.5-liter V6 is not a new design, but it does employ quite a few new parts. The engine now cranks out 284 hp and 259 ft-lb of torque (up from 260 hp and 250 ft-lb). It uses direct injection and in combination with a decreased drag coefficient, achieves the same fuel economy numbers as the 2016 model. The increased power output raises towing capacity to an impressive 6,000 pounds.
Inside, the Pathfinder benefits from a slightly redesigned console as well as a larger eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The Pathfinder will be available with the company’s divisive NissanConnect system. With a subscription, customers will have access to emergency services, remote access, and three years of Sirius XM Traffic and Travel service.