Changes have been in the works for the 2021 Nissan Pathfinder. To make this SUV more attractive, Nissan is giving it a brand-new interior design and even more standard features than before. There are even rumors that Nissan might add a hybrid powertrain option for Pathfinder buyers. There is also potential for the current CVT to be upgraded to a 9-speed automatic transmission, which would be a huge improvement in terms of performance. If this does happen, the acceleration speed could be slightly improved.
Advancements in terms of the engine should happen too. In order to be more fuel-efficient, Nissan is making the engine a direct fuel ignition with a mirror bore cylinder coating, which should streamline the combustion process and ease up the engine weight. We don't know exactly how this will change in terms of EPA estimates, but we suspect it will improve over the 2020 Pathfinder's 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.
The Pathfinder looks to be getting a more aggressively styled front fascia, which keeps up with the trend in this segment. The Pathfinder has always had a family-friendly vibe, but this year, it seems to be getting a sportier and more contemporary design. Inside, you can expect there to be a lot of creature comforts with the spacious design.
So, is the 2021 Pathfinder going to be the right vehicle for you? Or should you go for something else? We will look at what the Pathfinder's trim levels have to offer (including their tech gadgets), how it performs, its safety and reliability ratings, how the interior looks and feels, and which competitors make for good alternatives.What Do the Various Trim Levels Offer?
The Pathfinder has four trim levels: the base S, SV, SL, and the line-topping Premium. Each one is powered by a 3.5-L V6 engine that generates a power output of 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque. This is paired up with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Front-wheel drive (FWD) standard, but all-wheel drive (AWD) is an option that gives you a special locking capability and hill descent control for additional traction. Each vehicle has a max towing capacity of 6,000 pounds.
Starting with the base S trim level, you get a tri-zone automatic climate control system, roof rails, and a second row of seats that is able to slide and recline. An 8-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth connectivity, two USB ports both for front and rear seat occupants, and a six-speaker sound system are standard as well. Reverse parking sensors and automatic emergency braking come equipped as well.
Upgrading one notch to the SV trim level adds adaptive cruise control and a blind spot monitoring system. A leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, heated front seats, and a hands-free liftgate get added to the list of standard creature comforts.
The SL does more to boost the amenities list. A leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, heated front seats, and a power adjustable driver's seat get added to the list of standard creature comforts.
The SV takes it up another degree by adding luxuries like heating for the rear outboard seats, a hands-free liftgate, leather upholstery, and a built-in navigation system.
The Platinum goes even farther by adding a panoramic sunroof, a steering wheel with power adjustability, a Bose premium sound system, and ventilation on the front seats. Two 8-inch headrest screens come with a rear-seat entertainment system that is exclusive to this trim level.
Options include the Rock Creek Edition for the SV and SL trims. It comes with blacked-out stylings for the grille, 18-inch wheels, roof rails, and other exterior elements. You also get a wiring harness and trailer tow hitch.Which Trim is Right for Me?
The SL trim level means spending a few grand more than you might like, but it adds a ton of extra - and highly desirable - features. The leather upholstery is breathable and chic, plus you get the 360-degree surround-view camera system. The Platinum's 20-inch wheels create a harsh ride quality, which is why we would recommend staying away from it.What Kind of Technology Does it Have?
The Pathfinder's tech list is fairly standard for the segment. It has pretty much everything you need: smartphone app integration, Bluetooth connectivity, multiple USB ports, and the option for a 13-speaker Bose sound system. Just remember that, on the 2020 Pathfinder and before, smartphone app integration was not supported.How Does It Perform?
The Pathfinder's old V6 from 2020 was adequate but nothing exciting. The new powertrain is geared more toward efficiency, meaning it is still modest in terms of performance but delivers on miles per gallon. But, despite its namesake, the Pathfinder isn't meant to be an off-roader. At just 7 inches, it doesn't have the ground clearance.Is It Safe and Reliable?
The 2020 Pathfinder was given 5/5 stars from NHTSA, with a few points taken off for the front barrier and rollover risk. IIHS rated it as "Good" on its tests. It comes with a lot of safety features tacked on, so you do get some assistance from them. It does have a lower-than-average ownership cost and is rated as being of average reliability for its class.What's the Interior Like?
The Pathfinder's interior is all about space. However, the layout on the dash is cluttered, and some of the controls require a bit of forethought. They can be kind of frustrating to use while driving. Shorter drivers will have a harder time finding a good seating position.What are the Alternatives to this Model?
The Honda Pilot is a favorite in this segment with its versatile storage solutions, plentiful cargo space, and abundance of standard infotainment features and driver aids. The Toyota Highlander is another solid choice since it has a smooth V6 engine and roomy interior design.
Note: All Nissan Pathfinder lease prices and dollar figures above are approximate amounts. Prices are subject to change without notice.