Nissan ups technology, power for 2017 Pathfinder SUV

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Nissan Motor Co. expects upgraded interior technologies, refreshed exterior and a more powerful engine to attract SUV-happy consumers to the 2017 Pathfinder SUV.

“This is one of the largest mid-cycle improvements that we’ve made in our history. ... We’re committed to keep our lineup fresh,” said Mike Drongowski, a chief product specialist with Nissan, during a media event to unveil the vehicle Thursday in Detroit.

The refreshed Pathfinder is one of several new utility vehicles the Japanese automaker has recently introduced. The company earlier this year unveiled updated or new versions or its Armada large SUV and Titan and Titan XD pickups.

“We’re embracing our customers moving towards trucks, and we’re listening to that and moving forward with that,” said Chris Reed, Pathfinder chief engineer and Nissan Technical Center North America vice president of Components Engineering.

Pathfinder sales, despite high demand for utility vehicles, are down 5.2 percent through the first half of the year in the United States.

When the seven-passenger Pathfinder arrives in dealer showrooms in September, buyers may notice changes to the exterior styling, but the real differences are in the interior and under the hood.

Standard on all 2017 Pathfinders is an updated next-generation infotainment system with enhanced upgraded software and an 8-inch touchscreen, which replaces the previous 7-inch design.

Standard large touchscreens continue to grow across the auto industry, as automakers concentrate on the human-machine interface of new cars and trucks.

Reed said it provides a “smartphone-like approach” similar to updated systems on its redesigned Murano crossover and Maxima large sedan.

“We listen to what the customers are telling us. ... If something is working we didn’t mess with it,” Reed said. “We fixed the things that needed to be improved,” citing enhancements to the interior technologies and things such as cup holders.

Additional infotainment and driver assistance displays also are located in a standard instrument cluster display between the tachometer and speedometer. Voice recognition for audio, Bluetooth and vehicle information also has been enhanced with a new HD microphone for improved voice clarity. HD Radio has also been added as a standard feature.

Under the hood, Nissan has a standard direct-injection 3.5-liter V-6 engine, which increase horsepower and torque, while keeping fuel economy performance of the 2016 model-year at 23 mpg combined for front-wheel-drive models.

Horsepower is increased to 284 horsepower (up from 260 horsepower) and torque is now rated at 259 pound-feet (up from 240 pound-feet). Available maximum towing capacity has increased by 1,000 pounds to 6,000 pounds due to the enhanced powertrain and body reinforcements added around the trailer hitch area.

Exterior aesthetic changes include a refreshed front and rear fascia, new grille design and headlamps.

The refreshed exterior design is a step toward Nissan’s new design language on the Murano and Maxima but not as aggressive. Reed said the new Nissan design language “will certainly be embraced” with a complete redesign of the vehicles.

Nissan unveiled the 2017 Pathfinder in Detroit, New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. It is the first major update since the fourth-generation SUV was introduced for the 2013 model year. It will be offered in two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive configurations in four trim levels: S, SV, SL and Platinum.

Pricing was not announced, but is expected to be similar to the 2016 model-year that ranges from about $29,800 to more than $43,000.

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Twitter: @MikeWayland