2016 Nissan Pathfinder SL Road Test and Review

Charles Krome
by Charles Krome
July 15, 2016
4 min. Reading Time
2016 Nissan Pathfinder towing

2016 Nissan Pathfinder towing

The 2016 Nissan Pathfinder SL sets the pace in some key areas for three-row crossovers. In passenger volume and fuel economy, and in offering premium content, this Nissan shines. The standard Pathfinder also has a less expensive starting point than rivals from Ford, Toyota, Honda, Chevy, and others. This helps the uplevel SL, with its many added features, also represent a strong value. In fact, there’s enough of both—value and features—that despite the upcoming debut of the refreshed Pathfinder this fall, the current model is quite competitive today.


The 2016 Nissan Pathfinder SL starts at $36,410, and it's part of a four-level lineup that includes the basic S and SV models, plus the top-of-the-line Pathfinder Platinum. The Pathfinder SL is equipped like a Toyota Highlander XLE, for example, but that rival is $905 more expensive. The Pathfinder SL is chock full of convenience features, too, such as Nissan Intelligent Key with pushbutton start, a power rear liftgate with memory, and a rearview camera. Further, like all Pathfinder models, the 2016 SL provides an EZ Flex second-row seat for easy access to the vehicle’s third row—which touts Toyota-topping passenger dimensions and folds flat for added cargo capacity.


Powertrains, Performance, Fuel Efficiency

Another benefit to the 2016 Nissan Pathfinder SL--it gets good fuel economy. According to the EPA, the Pathfinder is rated at 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway/23 mpg combined. As such, it leads the Chevy Traverse by 4 mpg/5 mpg/5 mpg in those respective categories. Nissan’s 3.5-liter V6 is a bit behind some rivals in output, but it still provides a versatile 260 horsepower and 240 lb.-ft. of torque. Max tow capacity is a respectable 5000 lb.


Exterior Design and Lighting

The mainstream three-row crossovers come in a wide range of lengths, with the 2016 Nissan Pathfinder, at 197.2 inches, falling between the shorter Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander and the longer Chevy Traverse and Ford Explorer. Nissan designers used those dimensions to create subtle surfacing and lines along the sides of the Pathfinder, for a distinctive and sophisticated look that extends to the multidimensional hood. The face of the vehicle is dominated by large, flowing headlights that frame a rather modest grille, and the SL trim in specific adds standard front fog lights and chrome body-side moldings, plus enhanced exterior mirrors. These, of note, are heated, and they automatically tilt down for an improved view when the Pathfinder is in reverse.


Interior Design and Capacities

A particularly important focus of our 2016 Nissan Pathfinder SV review is the vehicle’s three-row cabin. Here, folks enjoy a spacious and comfortable environment with best-in-class passenger volume and front headroom, as well as more second-row legroom than is found in rivals from Chevy, Toyota, Ford, or Honda. In this Pathfinder SV, the seats are leather-trimmed, and the first and second rows are heated. What's more, the driver gets a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, along with an eight-way power-adjustable seat with dedicated power lumbar adjustment.

The overall appearance of the 2016 Nissan Pathfinder is clean and functional. In actual functionality, the Pathfinder pleases us with 79.8 cubic feet of cargo space when its rear rows are folded out of the way.


Audio and Infotainment

Entertainment features are relatively basic in the Pathfinder SL, although the six-speaker sound system does supply a standard, iPod-compatible USB port, controls on the steering wheel and a complimentary three-month trial subscription for SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Also standard is Bluetooth technology for hands-free calling.

That said, Nissan can serve up numerous infotainment options in the 2016 Pathfinder. These include: navigation with an 8-inch touchscreen and voice control, Bluetooth for audio streaming, and a 13-speaker Bose audio system with Acoustic Waveguide technology, for a high-powered, low-distortion listening experience.


Available Equipment

As mentioned, the 2016 Nissan Pathfinder SL showcases plenty of optional upgrades, and three of the best are:

  • Tri-zone Entertainment System: Created to help keep rear-seat occupants occupied when on the road, this setup incorporates dual 7-inch DVD monitors that are built right into the back of the front-seat headrests, along with two wireless headsets.
  • Dual Panoramic Moonroof: Occupants enjoy one pane over the front row and a massive one that really brightens things up for the second and third rows.
  • ALL-MODE 4X4-i technology: Inspired by the capabilities of the old-school, body-on-frame Pathfinder SUV, this three-mode system lets owners set the drivetrain for efficiency-optimizing front-wheel operation, automatic all-wheel drive that kicks in as needed, or full-time four-wheel drive.

Safety Ratings and Technology

The 2016 Nissan Pathfinder SL earned a 5-Star Overall Safety Score from the NHTSA, and while it didn’t achieve a Top Safety Pick recognition from the IIHS, customers should understand why: The Pathfinder earned “Good” grades, which are the highest available, in all of the IIHS crashworthiness tests, but it doesn’t provide a front crash-prevention system. The Ford Explorer and Hyundai Santa Fe are among the Nissan rivals that flunked the IIHS small front-overlap test with a “Marginal” rating. Also, the Pathfinder SL does come standard with a number of other high-tech driver-assistance measures, such as a rearview monitor, sonar-enabled rear parking assistance, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. A 360-degree Nissan Around View Monitor is optional for the Pathfinder SL.


Tech and Premium Editions

Moving upscale, Nissan offers the 2016 Pathfinder in SL Tech and SL Premium versions. The SL Tech has an MSRP of $38,440—that's $2,030 more than the SL—and it bolsters all of the SL’s features with standard content such as an 8-inch, voice-controllable Nissan Navigation System that’s supported with a three-month trial subscription to the SiriusXM NavTraffic and NavWeather services. Filling out the Tech bundle are the brand’s Around View Monitor and the Bose Acoustic Waveguide audio system and a standard tow-hitch receiver (with seven-pin wiring harness). The SL Premium tops off that package by adding a Dual Panorama Moonroof for an additional $1300.


Final Thoughts

The 2016 Nissan Pathfinder SL is fuel efficient and functional, delivering notable benefits to customers looking for a mainstream, three-row crossover. Especially impressive is the Pathfinder’s spacious and flexible cabin, which, remember, has best-in-class marks for passenger volume. A robust 2.5-ton towing capacity only increases Pathfinder flexibility, making it ideal for pulling small watercraft and campers on family vacations, and owners can be confident in the vehicle’s superior IIHS crashworthiness ratings. Indeed, for some shoppers, the only other rival for the 2016 Pathfinder SL is the redesigned version, and that vehicle won’t be ready for shoppers until the 2017 model year.


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