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2020 Nissan Pathfinder vs Toyota 4Runner

2020 Nissan Pathfinder vs Toyota 4Runner
Reviewed & fact checked by
James Murdoch

2020 Pathfinder vs 4Runner - How do they stack up? Which is Better?

Looking for an SUV but do not want to go full-size? Then you are probably considering getting a crossover SUV. They tend to be sedan-like in their driving quality but offer more space. Comfort is crucial, but spaciousness is really the name of the game. And that is certainly the case for the 2020 Nissan Pathfinder and 2020 Toyota 4Runner.

Each of these two vehicles has some great things to offer. The Pathfinder has a strong V6 engine with good fuel economy, the towing is above average, and the third row is easy to access. The 4Runner is a stellar off-roader and has a lot of configurations to choose from. The cargo space is versatile, and the optional slide-out floor is really helpful.

These vehicles do have some pitfalls though. The Pathfinder's cargo space is not as generous as other vehicles in this segment, its third row is kind of cramped, and the top trim level has a ride quality that is far too firm. As for the 4Runner? Its ride quality is a bit too jittery for comfort, and the V6 is not terribly fuel efficient. The high step-in height is another downside as it makes entering and exiting the vehicle tough for shorter people and totally non-ideal for people with mobility issues.

So, which of these vehicles is the better choice? Which has the most value? Is one more drive-able than the other? Is one safer than the other? Read on through to the end of this comparison review to find out whether the 2020 Nissan Pathfinder or the 2020 Toyota 4Runner might be the right vehicle for you.

The Powertrain

Let's get things started with the powertrains that get equipped on these crossovers. You are investing a lot of money in a vehicle, so you need to know how your vehicle is going to perform, if it is going to have enough power to suit your needs.

That being said, the 2020 Nissan Pathfinder comes with a standard 3.5L V6 engine that generates 284 hp and 259 lb-ft of torque. The V6 is matched up with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Front-wheel drive comes equipped with this powertrain. You can opt for all-wheel drive on any trim level though, and that comes with hill descent control and a locking feature that creates more traction.

The 2020 Toyota 4Runner runs on a 4.0-L V6 engine and 5-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain puts out 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque. The SR5 and Limited trim levels come with 2-wheel drive (2WD) and are able to seat 7 people while the other trims get 4-wheel drive (4WD) and are able to seat 5 people.

Overall, these two powertrains are pretty comparable, but the 3.5-L is much more fuel efficient than the 4.0-L and is considerably strong, perhaps even a bit stronger than the 4.0-L.


How a vehicle drives is not just based on which powertrain it has installed. There are a good many factors that go into what makes a vehicle drive-worthy. Its comfort level, interior design, technology, and utility cannot be ignored. So, how do the 2020 Nissan Pathfinder and the 2020 Toyota 4Runner stack up in terms of overall drivability? Let's find out.

First up is the Nissan Pathfinder. It is a vehicle that feels stable and inspires some confidence in the driver. It has just the right amount of power for everyday driving scenarios. The suspension is well-tuned, although the steering tends to feel a bit heavy. Downside? You only get 7 inches of ground clearance, so you will not want to do any off-roading in this vehicle.

The Pathfinder has front seats that are well-bolstered and padded for comfort. The second row will comfortably fit adults, but the third row is only suitable for young children. The tri-zone climate control system does a remarkably good job of sending air flow to all three rows, so even third-row passengers can get cooled down or warmed up in a hurry. The ride quality is smooth as long as you stick with the smaller wheel sizes. The 20-inch wheels allow way too many bumps into the cabin as you go over rough pavement.

The controls are all labeled with clarity, but the dashboard definitely feels cluttered with them. The controls mounted onto the steering wheel are for both the instrument panel display and the audio controls. It is a very confusing set-up. The buttons placed by the driver's knee are also pretty odd, as that is not an ideal placement for any type of control. Finding the driving position that fits you best will feel almost impossible since there is not much adjustability up front. If you are a shorter person, you will feel like you are seated too deeply inside of a larger SUV. Outward visibility is okay, but you can get an optional surround-view camera system to improve it.

Technology inside of the Pathfinder is nothing short of dated. The infotainment system seems like something from years ago with its laggy response time. There is also no smartphone app integration, so you cannot utilize Android Auto or Apple CarPlay as a getaway from the atrocities of the vehicle's built-in functions. The only good bit of technology you get is the optional 13-speaker Bose sound system, but it really is not worth the cost to upgrade.

But how is the Pathfinder on utility? It has second- and third-row seats that fold with ease, giving the vehicle a number of configurations for the cargo area. The 6,000-pound max tow rating is above average for this segment, hovering right near the top of the class. The only problem is that there is not a flat loading floor when you fold the seats down. This means lengthier items will be hard to load, which just complicates the fact that you do not get as much cargo space as you would in some of the Pathfinder's rivals.

The 2020 Toyota 4Runner has its pros and cons too. Its powertrain is certainly adequate, delivering smooth power and performing alright in everyday traffic. However, the brakes are startlingly jumpy, and there is way too much nosedive when you have to come to a panic stop. You can quickly round through turns, and the amount of stability you will feel is quite pleasing. It just is not as sporty as its competitors. The trade-off is that you get one excellent off-roading vehicle when you get 4WD. There is plenty of ground clearance.

The ride quality is a bit stiff, and it gets bouncy while hitting bumps in the road. Wind noise is excessive due to the fact that the body is boxy in form. You do not get much road noise coming in from the wheels though since the body-on-frame structure gives extra protection from all that noise.

There is a tall ride height to this vehicle that makes getting in and out of it pretty difficult. If you are short or have mobility issues, this is not the vehicle for you. Even if you are of normal height, you might want to get the optional side steps. Inside, the controls are easy to use and well-labeled. The driver's seat is highly adjustable, so you can find a position and get an expansive outward view. You can easily see on either side since the vehicle has a squared shape and big windows.

The technology you get inside of the 4Runner is better than it ever has been before. In fact, it was revamped for 2020! The new touchscreen is bigger, has better graphic quality, and broken shortcuts have all been fixed. You do not have to stare at the screen for a prolonged period of time, which used to be a huge driving distraction for people. Also, this year, smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto comes standard for the first time in the 4Runner's history. Kudos to Toyota for listening to consumer complaints and demands!

The 4Runner has a lot of cargo space - so much so that you can fold down the rear seats, throw down a sleeping bag, and camp out back there. You can access the cargo area by opening the rear hatch or by rolling down the power rear window. The second row is spacious enough for rear-facing child seats, which is something parents will love. The 5,000-pound max towing capacity is pretty standard for this segment, and there is pre-wiring for 4- or 7-pin trailer plugs.


Drivability factors are important, sure, but safety is absolutely crucial, especially if you plan on driving kids around. You should be aware of the safety features that are available as well as how these vehicles rated on their crash tests from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Let's start with features. The 2020 Nissan Pathfinder has standard automatic emergency braking and reverse parking sensors. If you go up a trim level, the SV has blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control. The 2020 Toyota 4Runner comes with Toyota Safety Sense P, a suite of driver aids. You get it on every single trim level. This bundle hosts features such as a pedestrian detection feature with its pre-collision warning, a warning for when you depart from your lane, high beams that come on and off automatically, and adaptive cruise control.

The IIHS gave the Pathfinder a Top Safety Pick label for 2019 but did not renew it for 2020. This year, it gave the Pathfinder an "A" on its small overlap front passenger side test, an "A" on the LED projector low beams and halogen high beams, and a "P" on the halogen headlights for excessive glare. It also got an "A" on the LATCH system, which can be kind of problematic with its anchors. NHTSA gave the Pathfinder 5 ful stars overall, but it only got 4 stars for its front driver side. There was a 17.90% rollover risk noted but no recalls or complaints at the time of writing this review.

As for the 4Runner, the IIHS marked it down with an "M" on the small overlap front driver's side, and the halogen headlights got a "P" for excessive glare from the low beams. The LATCH system got an "M" because of how confusing the equipment can be and how deeply the anchors are embedded in the seats. NHTSA gave the vehicle 5 stars overall, but it got 4 stars on the front driver's side and 4 on the rollover test. There was a 15.50% risk of a rollover noted. There has been a recall for a coolant leak, which could potentially cause engine damage if not taken care of quickly. Complaints include the gas tank not holding as much gas as advertised, the battery dying, and the fuel gauge being inaccurate.

Buying Tip:

To avoid overpaying on a new car, shop prices online first. Get up front pricing before you walk into a dealership. We recommend the following free services; Car Clearance Deals, NADAguides, CarsDirect & & Motortrend.
These free services will offer you the lowest prices and supply you with multiple competing price quotes. You will know the best price before you visit the dealer.

Which Has the Best Value?

Both vehicles have some value. With the Pathfinder, you get a basic warranty that is 3-year/36,000-miles and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Both are pretty typical for this segment. For all the features you get, it is a decent value, but the interior is far too dated.

The 4Runner has a cost that is greater than a lot of other crossovers. You do get off-roading capabilities and a decent towing rating, and the vehicle has a high resale value. You get two years of free maintenance, and the warranties are standard. However, you will feel the drain on your bank account due to the poor fuel economy. Getting a combined 17 mpg is not ideal, and it is at least 4 mpg below the class average.

Which is Better?

The 2020 Nissan Pathfinder and 2020 Toyota 4Runner are capable in their own ways. They both offer a good amount of comfort and a number of features for the price. However, each has some downsides. If you can live with the dated infotainment center, the Pathfinder offers better fuel efficiency from its standard powertrain. But if its technology you need, go for the 4Runner. Toyota has really stepped their game up in this regard.

Used 2020 Nissan Pathfinder: