BLANCO, Tex. -- On the narrow and twisty McCall Creek Road in Texas Hill Country, we're trucking at a slow-go pace but applying serious torque from a 6-pack engine to turn every nubby 235/65R18 all-season tire on Nissan's 2015 Pathfinder, a streamlined sport utility vehicle nestled in the mid-size class.
Stretching more than 16 feet long and 6.5 feet wide, this slippery wagon rides on the front-wheel-drive chassis of a car. The unibody platform, revised for 2013 models, supports a 114.2-inch wheelbase and a tire track width of 65.7 inches in front and back.
Pathfinder in 2015 incarnations presents a chrome-encrusted grille and aerodynamic headlamps capping a curvy stepped hood, with muscular fender blisters bulging over big alloy wheels.
The passenger compartment is generous in scale with seating for seven passengers or 79.8 cubic feet of flat-floored stow space stretching from front-row seatbacks to tail-side liftgate.
Three rows of seats are standard in all trim versions of Pathfinder and legroom for riders is also good -- best-in-class front seat headroom (42.2 inches) and front legroom (42.3 inches), and 41.7 inches of legroom for the second-row bench that splits and folds and also slides fore and aft for easy access to the third-row split/fold 2-seat bench.
Pathfinder's cabin treatment includes a wagonload of electronic devices including the Nissan Advanced Drive-Assist Display positioned at the center of the instrument cluster and the Around View Monitor which depicts a 360-degree image of the vehicle.
For locomotion Nissan pulls out Altima's 3.5-liter V6, with twin cams on top and four valves for each cylinder plus CVTCS (continuously variable timing control system). It delivers 260 hp at 6400 rpm with 240 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm and links to an advanced continuously variable transmission (CVT) labeled Xtronic with enhanced D-Step Shift Logic control.
Pathfinder orients to front-wheel-drive (FWD) traction yet also offers Nissan's computer-managed 4-wheel-drive (4WD) equipment with yaw movement control for dependable grip on slippery pavement. The intelligent 4WD device sets a rotary dial on the console so the driver may select different traction settings: 2WD -- full-time FWD; AUTO -- all-wheel-drive (AWD), and 4WD LOCK -- full-time 4WD.
All 2015 Pathfinder editions carry an independent suspension system with struts in front and rear multi-link arrangement, plus hydraulic electric power-assisted steering and disc brakes for all corners with anti-lock brake system (ABS) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD). Further, each Pathfinder has a vehicle dynamic control (VDC) device with a traction control system (TCS) which automatically checks lateral skidding on slippery pavement.
The 2015 Pathfinder shows up in eight trim designations: S-FWD, S-AWD, SV-FWD, SV-AWD, SL-FWD, SL-AWD, Platinum-FWD and Platinum-AWD.
Pathfinder S is the price-leader edition but stocks premium equipment like 18-inch alloy wheels, a keyless entry device, 3-zone automatic climate system, cruise control, height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split second-row seat, tilting-telescoping steering wheel and 6-speaker audio kit with 6X CD player.
Pathfinder SV is the upgrade edition with extra equipment aboard such as roof rack rails, automatic headlamps, keyless ignition, 8-way power for driver seat, leather-bound steering wheel, Bluetooth phone connectivity, 7-inch color multi-information display, rearview camera and a premium sound system with USB/iPod interface.
Pathfinder SL edition adds gear, including exterior elements like foglamps, heated mirrors and a power liftgate, plus cabin extras like leather upholstery, heat elements in seats front and rear, driver seat memory functions, 4-way power for front passenger seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror, remote engine start and a power liftgate.
Pathfinder Platinum is the deluxe luxury edition stocking 20-inch alloy wheels and 235/55R20 all-season tires, the Around View Monitor parking camera, power-adjustable and heated steering wheel, cooling for front seats, a navigation system and 13-speaker Bose audio system plus a dual panorama moonroof.
Enhancements for 2015 added to SL and Platinum grades include Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Also, Hill Descent Control applies to AWD models.
Nissan sets MSRP figures for the 2015 Pathfinder series beginning at $29,510 for the entry-model S-FWD.