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2021 Nissan Pathfinder Review: Expected Changes, Release Date, Prices, MPG, And Performance 

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Aaron Smith

Automotive Journalist

August 07, 2020 at 06:30 AM

The Pathfinder has been one of the oldest badges in Nissan’s lineup but its also dated and the outgoing version is failing to make a case for itself with new rivals like the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade on the block. Luckily Nissan has decided to revamp the Pathfinder after seven long years for the 2021 model year to bring it on par with the rest of the competition? Let’s find out if the changes are substantial enough to make a mark in this highly competitive segment.

The Nissan Pathfinder has been one of the oldest mid-sized 3-row SUVs in the business. When it was launched back in 1996, it was a game-changer in an era where the SUV fever was just about catching on to the mass market and the SUVs of the time were more or less just pick-up trucks with covered beds with seating and the Nissan a step up in refinement and quality over others back in the day. But 13 years later, this segment has turned into a highly contested space with a wide variety of SUVs from different automakers catering to this segment.

2021 Nissan Pathfinder is based on Nissan's D-platform

The outgoing Pathfinder was launched in 2013 and is largely unchanged, and extremely outdated in comparison to its closest competitors but the 2021 model will be heavily reworked and will incorporate cues from Nissan's latest Arya concept. Let’s see how Nissan plans to play its cards with the all-new 2021 Pathfinder.

What’s new with the 2021 Nissan Pathfinder?

  • Completely Revised Exteriors
  • Updated Interiors
  • New 2.0L VC Turbo Engine
  • All-new infotainment system
  • New 9-speed Transmission

What’s the expected price and release date of the 2021 Nissan Pathfinder?

Due to the ongoing pandemic, a lot of launches are being delayed, but if everything goes Nissan’s way, we can expect the 2021 Pathfinder to debut towards the end of this year as a 2021 model year offering.

What to expect under the 2021 Nissan Pathfinder’s hood?

The Outgoing 2020 Nissan Pathfinder is not able to match up to its competitors in most aspects apart from its engine. The 3.5L V6 under its hood continues to be one of the most powerful options in this segment and is one of the main reasons why people continue to buy this outdated SUV because of which Nissan has decided to retain this engine for the 2021 model year.

The news however is the introduction of an all-new 2.0L Turbo engine with Nissan’s famed Variable-Compression technology. This engine has been used under the hood of other Nissan and Infiniti products as well and is well renowned in the industry for striking a good balance of performance and economy. A hybrid model is also expected to make its way into the lineup in the future. Also new for the 2021 Pathfinder will be a 9-speed transmission which is expected to be more economical as well as a lot more refined in comparison to the outgoing models CVT transmission which has the tendency to get loud at highway speeds.

Nissan's V6 motor will be largely unchanged for the 2021 model year

Nissan will offer the Pathfinder with a Front Wheel Drive configuration as standard which should be the more economical option especially for the customer base that plans to use it on pavement mostly but an optional 4WD model will be available later on with shift-on-the-fly capabilities which should improve its off-road and all-weather capabilities drastically. The new Pathfinder is also expected to have different drive modes, unlike the outgoing model which will be able to send power to either the front or all four wheels depending on the selected mode and the kind of terrain.

Models

2021 Nissan Pathfinder (Expected)

2020 Ford Explorer

2020 Toyota Highlander

2020 Mazda CX-9 

MSRP

$33,500

$36,675

$34,600

$33,890

Engine

3.5L Naturally Aspirated V6

2.3L turbocharged Inline-4

3.5L Naturally Aspirated V6

2.5L turbocharged SKYACTIV-G Inline-4

Transmission

9- speed automatic

10-speed shiftable automatic

8-speed shiftable automatic

6-speed shiftable automatic

Drivetrain

AWD

RWD

FWD

FWD

Horsepower 

284 hp @ 6400 RPM

290 hp @ 6500 RPM

295 hp @ 6600 RPM

227 hp @ 5000 RPM

Torque

259 lb-ft @4,800 RPM

310 lb-ft @ 2,500 RPM

263 lb-ft @ 4,700 RPM

310 lb-ft @ 2,000 RPM

0-60 MPH 

7.0 sec

6.8 secs

7.4 secs

7.1 secs

2020 Data used for reference

3-row family SUVs like the Nissan Pathfinder are designed to be practical, frugal, and spacious and in achieving the best possible balance of these three factors, the performance takes a back seat but thankfully Nissan’s peppy V6 engine has made this mid-sized SUV one of the best performers in its class. The outgoing version is capable of getting to 60 mph from a standstill in about 7.4 seconds and with the upcoming model’s new 9-speed transmission and the 2.0L VC-Turbo engine, we can expect this time to come down significantly. Currently, the Ford Explorer holds the best time in this roundup but the 2021 Pathfinder should manage to match the Explorer’s figures.

How does the 2021 Nissan Pathfinder Handle?

The outgoing version of the Pathfinder isn’t going to win any awards for its handling with typical SUV-esque traits which include a hint of body roll that gets pronounced as it builds up speed and slightly bouncy suspension result in a vehicle that leaves us wanting more. The steering is pretty light but that doesn't always work in favor of the Pathfinder as at speed the steering feels vague and disconnected which isn't very confidence-inspiring, which brings us to body roll which is also quite pronounced in the outgoing version of the Pathfinder. 

2021 Nissan Pathfinder will get a completely revamped interior

However, the upcoming 2021 Pathfinder will be using an updated version of Nissan’s D platform that underpins vehicles like the Altima and Murano, which should give it far superior ride and handling than the outgoing model. So issues like body roll and high-speed stability should be taken care of and this should transform the Pathfinder into a great highway mile muncher.

How many miles to the gallon will the 2021 Pathfinder deliver?

The 2021 Nissan Pathfinder will reportedly deliver 20 MPG (City) and 27 MPG (Highway). This number has been derived based on the 2020 model of the same vehicle. The Pathfinder especially in its 2WD guise is considerably better than most of its competitors in spite of its relatively large V6  which in spite of its size, this three-row SUV manages a respectable fuel economy.

Models

2021 Nissan Pathfinder (Expected)

2020 Ford Explorer

2020 Toyota Highlander

2020 Mazda CX-9 

MPG (City)

20

21

21

22

MPG (Highway)

27

28

29

28

MPG (Combined)

24

24

24

24

Fuel Capacity (Gallons)

19.5

19.2

17.9

19.0

Range (City/Highway) (miles)

390/525

316/446

358/483.3

390.0/507.0

*2020 Figures used for reference

The new 9-speed torque converter unit should also aid in vastly improving the Pathfinders fuel economy especially on motorways where it can make use of the higher gears. It will be interesting to see how the 9-speed unit makes a difference to the V6 motors fuel economy as the CVT in the outgoing version did make it quite frugal. With the 2021 model things should improve further thanks to the 2.0L VC Turbo engine, which has proved to be quite frugal in the Infiniti QX50 SUV. The V6 is also expected to perform slightly better courtesy of stricter emissions norms.

What to expect from the 2021 Nissan Pathfinder’s interior?

The 2020 Nissan Pathfinder was let down by its interiors. We have come to expect a certain standard and quality of interior from modern family vehicle especially at this price point and the Pathfinder severely lacked the finesse and sophistication that most of its modern rivals brought to the party and that's mostly due to the fact that it was last refreshed almost 7 years ago and since then its been carried over pretty much unchanged.

2020 Nissan Pathfinder Interior Layout

The 2021 Pathfinder will be receiving a completely revamped interior that will borrow cues from the latest Nissan products that are based on the same D Platform, which includes the Altima and the Rogue. The new interior will definitely get redesigned seats which were the biggest gripe with the 2020 model. The quality of materials used in the cabin is also expected to improve significantly to make the Pathfinder a wholesome family SUV.

Models

2021 Nissan Pathfinder (Expected)

2020 Ford Explorer

2020 Toyota Highlander

2020 Mazda CX-9 

Seating Capacity

7

6

8

7

Front Row (Headroom/Shoulder Room/Leg Room) (inches)

42.2/60.9/42.3

40.7/61.5/43.0

40.7/59.3/44.2

39.3/57.9/41.0

Second Row (Headroom/Shoulder Room/Leg Room) (inches)

39.4/60.4/41.7

40.5/61.9/39.0

39.9/59.6/38.4

38.5/ 58.1/39.4

Third Row (Headroom/Shoulder Room/Leg Room) (inches)

37.8/57.1/30.7

38.9/57.6/31.9

35.9/55.0/27.7

35.4/53.1/29.7

*2020 Model used for reference

In terms of sheer space, the outgoing Pathfinder is one of the roomiest offerings in the segment and is one of the few SUVs in this class that can seat 7 comfortably thanks to its usable 3-row seats. We expect similar if not a larger cabin from the upcoming Pathfinder as its underpinned by an all-new modular platform which is a lot more flexible in terms of space management and optimization, combined with new hardware such as seats and hopefully a lower floor height, the 2021 Pathfinder should become one of the most comfortable SUVs in terms of cabin space and comfort. Only the Toyota Highlander with its 8-seater configuration can surpass the Pathfinder in terms of passenger capacity but all other SUVs are more comfortable than the outgoing version of this Nissan.

2021 Nissan Pathfinder: Infotainment and Connectivity

The tech is where we expect to see the biggest improvement in the upcoming Pathfinder. The outgoing model gets a very underwhelming 8-inch infotainment setup that lacks essential features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The UI is extremely outdated and navigating through the various menus is a slow and tedious process. The center console itself lacks fitness and feels cluttered due to the abundance of buttons.

The interiors of the 2021 Pathfinder will be based on the Nissan Arya Concept

The New infotainment setup is expected to feature a widescreen floating display like the one seen on the outgoing Altima but most likely it will lose the buttons and dials on the side in favor of a sleeker and classier design aesthetic, with all the latest features such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Satellite radio and more. It should also get an all-new digital instrument cluster that will be capable of displaying a lot more data than the current setup. The display is supposed to be inspired by the Nissan Arya concept and should get a very clean and minimalist design as opposed to the current car which is overwhelmed by an abundance of buttons.

Will there be any changes to the exterior of the Nissan Pathfinder?

The 2021 Nissan Pathfinder will get a completely revised exterior. The last update of the Pathfinder was back in 2007 and since then this family SUV has been unchanged apart from a few meager cosmetic additions that came with special edition models. The new Pathfinder will feature an all-new look that could be in-tune with the design seen on the recently revealed 2021 Nissan Rogue and is likely to borrow inspiration from Nissan's Ariya concept.

2021 Nissan Pathfinder will get a new 2.0L VC Turbo Engine

Expect to see the large V-motion grille that has become a trademark feature in all of the new Nissan Vehicles. Just like the Rogue and the Armada, expect a Split Headlamp setup which should be all LED and the Pathfinder should retain its boxy profile for a butch look even with this 2021 update. We also expect to see some plastic cladding around the sides and bumpers with integrated skid plates for that added toughness.

Models

2021 Nissan Pathfinder (Expected)

2020 Ford Explorer

2020 Toyota Highlander

2020 Mazda CX-9 

Curb Weight (lbs)

4427

4345

4145

4225

Length (inches)

198.5

198.8

194.9

199.4

Width (inches)

77.3

78.9

75.8

77.5

Height (inches)

70.6

70.0

68.1

69.0

Ground Clearance (inches)

7.0

7.9

8.0

8.8

Wheelbase (inches)

114.2

119.1

112.2

115.3

*2020 Figures used for reference

The 2020 Pathfinder might not be the most handsome SUV in its class but it has aged well thanks to its large proportions and butch looks. The new Pathfinder will most likely continue with the boxy design to make it look in tune with the brand’s flagship offering, the Patrol which sold as the Armada in the United States. But the new Ford Explorer is going to be a tough challenger as it's the largest and the most rugged-looking SUV in its class.

Will the 2021 Nissan Pathfinder be worth my money and time?

Yes, with all the changes expected, the 2021 Nissan Pathfinder will be the best version of the popular SUV yet. It is expected to carry some of the most advanced tech in the segment. In addition to that, it will also provide an amazing level of reliability. And in case, if anything does go wrong, Nissan offers an impressive warranty coverage.

Also Read:

Read our review of the 2020 Nissan Pathfinder

What sort of mileage to expect from the 2021 Pathfinder

2021 Nissan Pathfinder FAQs

When will the 2021 Nissan Pathfinder be launched?

Nissan hasn't officially announced when the 2021 Pathfinder will be launched or when it will go on sale. However, keeping in mind the other major launches that might happen during the end of 2020, it can only be assumed that, the 2021 Nissan Pathfinder will also be launched towards the end of 2020. Having said that, the ongoing COVID 19 can disrupt the schedule.

Does the Nissan Pathfinder have 3rd-row seating?

The Pathfinder just like its sibling- Armada offers 3rd-row seating as standard. To add to that, as per the spy shots, the 2021 Nissan Pathfinder seems longer than its previous generation that might translate to more practical 3rd-row seats.

How much will the 2021 Nissan Pathfinder cost?

Nissan is yet to reveal the official pricing structure of the 2021 Nissan Pathfinder but the speculations suggest that it will carry a starting price of $33,500.

How fuel-efficient will the 2021 Nissan Pathfinder be?

For the 2021 model year, the Pathfinder is expected to get a new engine option and a new 9-speed torque converter unit which should significantly improve the fuel economy so we expect the 2021 model of the Pathfinder to deliver around 24 MPG (combined).

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