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Nissan Pathfinder
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Nissan’s three-rows-of-seats car-based Pathfinder is aimed squarely at the Toyota Highlander, especially the fuel-saving Hybrid model.

Drivetrain
Regular versions use the 260-horsepower V6; Hybrid comes with a supercharged four-cylinder and electric motor with virtually the same power and torque as the V6; both front- and four-wheel-drive models work with a continuously variable transmission.

It’s great to see vehicles losing weight between generations, and Nissan’s legendary Pathfinder shed about 240 pounds (320 pounds for 4×4 units) compared to the old truck-based model. The diet included converting to a unitized (frameless) platform shared with the related Infiniti JX/QX luxury wagon. Nissan’s 3.5-liter V6 that generates 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque will be the engine of choice for most buyers, teamed with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that replaces the previous five-speed automatic. Front-wheel-drive versions are rated at 20 mpg city and 26 on the highway, while four-wheel-drive Pathfinders achieve 19/25. While those are serious improvements over the previous gen, there’s a fuel-saving gasoline-electric hybrid available that uses a supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder paired with a 15-kilowatt electric motor to deliver 250 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque. Fuel efficiency is improved to 25/27 with similar drops for four-wheel-drive. A compact lithium-ion battery is stowed under the third-row seat and doesn’t affect cabin or cargo space at all. Nissan’s All-Mode 4×4-i option allows you to select either two- or four-wheel-drive or engage the “Auto” setting and let the All-Mode make the call based on which tire/tires has/have traction. Downhills are now easier with standard hill-descent control for 4×4 models. There is a penalty to be paid for the new Pathfinder’s weight and power decrease in that the maximum towing capacity has been curtailed to 5,000 pounds from 7,000 (3,500 for the Hybrid). Visually, Hybrid models are differentiated by LED taillights and subtle badges along with different wheel designs. As for passengers, there’s a third-row reclining seat and a second row with five inches of fore and aft travel, while a portion of the split second bench slides forward for easier third-row access, even if there’s a child seat attached. The base Pathfinder S arrives with tri-zone climate control and 14 beverage holders. The SV (which is the base Hybrid trim) adds roof rails and a rearview monitor while leather-covered seats, remote engine start and a power liftgate are SL highlights. From there the sky’s the limit where the SL Premium, Platinum and Platinum Premium trim levels are concerned. Depending the depth of your pockets, there’s an up-level sound system, “Around View” camera (projects a 360-degree compilation image from overhead vantage onto the touch-screen), panorama moonroof, navigation system and new-for-2015 rear entertainment package with dual seven-inch screens.