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2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid Road Test Review

2014 Earth Aware Vehicle Buyer's Guide
Featuring Top 10 Green SUVs & CUVs

2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

Road & Travel Magazine's Top 10 Picks

Audi Q5 Hybrid

Mazda CX-5

Chevrolet Spark EV

Mitsubishi Mirage

Jeep Grand Cherokee

What a wonderful word "pure" is. Pristine, serene, exuding wispy visions of unsullied skies, fluffy white clouds and water so clear that minnows seem to float in air. "Pure" is a tag line that Nissan has attached to its new 2014 Pathfinder hybrid, with the "Pure Drive HYBRID" badging. That has to make a driver feel good about the experience even before getting behind the wheel.

After all, one of the reasons hybrid vehicles have been getting attention from consumers as well as government agencies is their ability to provide practical transportation while saving the atmosphere with a maximum of usefulness for a minimum of fuel. It's kind of a "best of both worlds" vehicle as auto makers struggle for the perfect balance while getting us from here to there.

We could be pretty sure Nissan would have something extraordinary in the race to become environmentally friendly. Its Leaf sent shock waves through the industry by being the first all-electric plug-in vehicle ready for prime time consumer consumption a couple of years ago. Was there any doubt the Japanese auto maker would follow up that small five door, electric-only hatchback with an energy saving vehicle for a much broader market, especially when there is a need for wheels to accommodate seven? Not all families are twofers is a good thing to remember.

Pathfinder surely has been on many large sport utility buyers' shopping lists through the previous three generations. Now in its fourth with a softer looking, unibody foundation replacing body-on-frame, it remains solid, dependable, and a respectable competitor of such mid- and full-size SUVs as Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer and Chevy Tahoe. Like most large vehicles capable of hauling a junior basketball team plus two, a major full-size SUV drawback often has been its thirst. Teen numbers might work well in a growing family, but attached to EPA mileage expectations can be a downer.

Change the underpinnings from the Pathfinder's standard gasoline powerplant to a supercharged 2.5-liter gasoline engine paired with a 15kW electric motor feeding off a compact Lithium-ion battery pack and the hybrid Pathfinder can brag about its 26 miles per gallon fuel economy rating (Those numbers are similar to the combined MPG rating of its non-hybrid 5-liter V6 version, however. And 250 net horsepower and 243 lb. ft. of torque for the hybrid also are similar to the non-hybrid version. The hybrid can tow 3,500 pounds when properly equipped for the job, about 1,500 pounds less than the gas-powered model.) But pair it with a need to stop the outpouring of dirty emissions and the hybrid shines.

While the hybrid is the big Pathfinder news for 2014, this popular sport utility has gained some other enhancements that might seem more fitting for a luxury rather than midstream version.

The Pathfinder hybrid isn't a one-size-fits-all contender. There's plenty of variety for the tree hugger eco version, with SV, SL and Platinum editions that Nissan calls a fully equipped, and no compromises model, in two- or four-wheel drive. Nissan stresses the affordability of the hybrid Pathfinder. Its $3,000 premium for going hybrid beyond the 2WD S $28,850 base price takes less of a bite from the wallet than some competitive models.

While the hybrid is the big Pathfinder news for 2014, this popular sport utility has gained some other enhancements that might seem more fitting for a luxury rather than midstream version.

An SL Tech package adds 13-speaker Bose Premium Audio, Nissan Navigation, voice recognition, and capability to access traffic and weather with a SiriusXM subscription, Bluetooth and an 8-inch touch screen monitor. A second row "tip up" seat allows access to third row seating without removing a child safety seat -- a boon for large families with a toddler in tow.

With thoughtful amenities, a handsome interior and an ability to be earth friendly, we can call the hybrid Pathfinder a "pure" delight.

For more information on Nissan vehicles, click here.