Midsize SUV Comparison: 2015 Nissan Pathfinder

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Smooth Driver with a Creamy Center

As the oldest midsize SUV in our comparison test -- a seniority shared with Hyundai's Santa Fe -- the 2015 Nissan Pathfinder conducted itself more than admirably. All of the things we enjoyed in Nissan's midsize 7-passenger SUV when it first appeared as a 2013 model continue to be its strengths as a 2015, and the Pathfinder is still fully competitive in the class.

In spite of having the least horsepower and torque numbers in our field, the Pathfinder's 3.5-liter V6 is a lovely engine. The 260-horsepower 6-cylinder is capable of towing up to 5,000 pounds and drawing on its 240 lb-ft of peak torque at a lower rpm than any of the other players in our test, all the while delivering strong fuel economy. Even while we were climbing hard roads that rose from the high deserts of Southern California to the ski resorts in the mountains, nobody complained about a lack of power on the part of the Pathfinder.

Significantly, there were no misgivings about the SUV's continuously variable automatic transmission, either, a very pleasant tool that helps the 2015 Pathfinder stay competitive in the fuel-economy derby as well. In fact, the Nissan Pathfinder ranks as one of the best sports cars in our group. We have some qualms about the steering -- some found it heavy, others described it as "rubbery" -- but when the time came to make time on twisty roads, the engine, transmission, brakes, and carlike responsiveness of the suspension teamed up to make the SUV a treat to drive.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder at a Glance

2015 Nissan Pathfinder Comparison Chart

Back in the real world of midsize SUVs, where a comfortable driving experience draws a much higher value than a sporty one, the Nissan Pathfinder wins our fandom as well. Our whole test crew was enamored with the Nissan's seat comfort, a vein of praise that extended all the way back to the third row comfort and roominess. And while cargo space was just a bit shy of that offered by everyone but the Kia Sorento in our comparison, the Pathfinder's wide hatch opening and flat-folding floor had no trouble keeping the SUV competitive for cargo hauling.

The 2015 Nissan Pathfinder starts at a little over $30,000 and can climb into the $45,000 neighborhood, while the Pathfinder we tested was a front-wheel-drive SL model which started at about $37,000. This is the version we would recommend as it comes with plenty of comfort and convenience equipment (including leather seating and power-adjust front seats). Additionally, you can add the value-packed SL Tech Package which includes premium Bose audio, navigation, Bluetooth streaming audio, power outlets galore, an 8-inch color monitor, and Nissan's Around View Monitor -- your best friend for parking. You'll still keep the price under $40,000, and you will be so happy.

Here's how the 2015 Pathfinder stacks up against the others:

Nissan Pathfinder vs. Toyota Highlander

Among our comparison test fleet of midsize SUVs, only the Kia Sorento and Toyota Highlander offered 4-cylinder variants. Unfortunately, that doesn't translate into an under-$30,000 base price as it does with the Sorento. The Highlander, however, is an easy-to-drive SUV that's comfortable in just about any situation (with the exception of hard acceleration to passing speeds on the highway, where even the V6 version struggles). About as unfussy as a vehicle can get, the Highlander doesn't show off, but it is quiet and comfy to almost anyone's requirement, and offers the best 2nd-row roominess and the easiest Bluetooth phone pairing we've seen. More Toyota Highlander

Nissan Pathfinder vs. Honda Pilot

Stacked against the newest midsize SUV in our test -- the all-new 2016 Honda Pilot -- the 2015 Nissan Pathfinder held its ground in many ways, though it lost ground in others. Like the Pilot, all three rows of the Pathfinder were roomy, though the new Honda offers room for three in the third row and more cargo space. And while the Pathfinder had a sportier personality with almost identical fuel-economy numbers, the quieter Honda Pilot got higher marks as a day-to-day driver, even though its surprisingly fussy infotainment system received no love at all compared to the Pathfinder's wall of knobs and buttons. More Honda Pilot

Nissan Pathfinder vs. Kia Sorento

New this year, the 2016 Kia Sorento looks and acts smaller than the Pathfinder and every other midsize SUV in our comparison test. Its shorter overall length makes it easier to parallel park, but that truncation requires significant sacrifices in both 3rd-row room and cargo area. And while it wasn't a driving favorite, there was no denying the quietude of the cabin, the modern look and feel of the interior, and the fact that you can get a 4-cylinder version for as low as $27,000. Like the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento owners can rest assured with a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and the legendary 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain coverage. More Kia Sorento

Nissan Pathfinder vs. Hyundai Santa Fe

In a face-off between the two oldest vehicles in our comparison -- the Pathfinder and the 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe -- the Nissan had more personality than the Hyundai. It was also quieter. Plus, the Santa Fe's third row was very cramped and difficult to access. However, the Hyundai represents a strong value proposal, offering features like power lumbar support for the driver and dedicated air conditioning and heating controls for the 3rd-row passengers. Throw in Hyundai's benchmark 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and you've got undeniable appeal. The basic Nissan warranty is a 3-year/36,000-mile affair, with 5-year/60,000-mile assurance for the drivetrain. More Hyundai Santa Fe

More Midsize SUVs

How much should you pay for a Pathfinder? How does its 5-Year Cost to Own stack up? If you're interested in exploring Nissan's midsize SUV further, check out our Nissan Pathfinder Editors' Page as well as our comprehensive Expert Review of the 2015 Pathfinder. If the 2015 Nissan Pathfinder is a strong "might be" in your midsize SUV shopping, but you still want to see what else is out there, check out even more of the Pathfinder's competition in our Midsize SUV Buyer's Guide.

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