After a 28 year run with its off-road-capable sport utility, Nissan decided 2014 was the year for the Pathfinder to find a new direction in life. There has been an explosive growth of sales for car-based, crossover utility wagons, Nissan finally decided to join the group. Slow sales in what was once a vast off-road-capable segment have whittled Nissans lineup down to the Xterra for those looking for outdoors adventurer.

The trend has been toward vehicles with elevated seating, above-traffic visibility, plentiful cargo space and utility, and all-wheel drive for the occasional off-pavement foray. Manufacturers have matched demand with tall, sedan platform vehicles that give the look of SUVs with the driving ease and highway comfort of a car.

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The new 2014 Pathfinder, shares its platform with Nissan’s front-wheel-drive Altima family sedan. The exterior is sleek and attractive, and very much resembles a vertically stretched Altima. Inside my midlevel SL model was generously sized and adult-friendly, even in the third row, leather seating for seven.

The Pathfinders dash is covered in hard plastics, I don’t personally find it a let down, but it does stick out in an otherwise upscale and logically laid-out cabin.

There’s an available tow package that will let you take along an extra 5,000 lbs of cargo. Add this to the 16 cubic feet of cargo space available with the third row upright or 47 cubic feet with the third row folded flat and you’ve got some serious capacity even with four passengers.

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Powering the Pathfinder is a 3.6-liter, twin-cam V-6 good for 260 horsepower. Nissan’s latest continuously variable automatic (CVT) transmission delivers smooth performance with virtually none of the sensation of slippage that plagued earlier versions, they are still at the top of the CVT game.

The Pathfinder’s carlike handling won’t win hearts and minds off-road but that isn’t the point. It’s a very stable highway ride and would make for a great cross-country road tripper. It’s also a quiet ride with a minimal amount of wind and road noise, even on those dirt roads.

Fuel economy won’t be winning any awards at 19 mpg in town and 25 mph on the open road, but considering you’re running full time all-wheel drive it could be much worse.

2014 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4×4 Specs:

[accordion] [item title=”Base Price”]$36,600[/item] [item title=”Price as Tested”]$39,515 (including delivery)[/item] [item title=”Drivetrain”]3.5-liter DOHC V-6; 260 horsepower; 240 lb.-ft. torque; continuously variable automatic transmission; all-wheel drive[/item] [item title=”Wheelbase/Length”]114.2″/197.2″[/item] [item title=”Curb Weight”]4,346 pounds[/item] [item title=”EPA Fuel Rating”]19 mpg city/25 highway[/item] [/accordion]

Pricing on the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder starts at $28,700 with the SL 4×4 as tested running $39,515. This included options like fog lights, a power liftgate, leather seats, a trailer tow package, a tech package with HDD navigation with voice recognition, Bose audio and an 8″ color monitor.

As a family hauler with room for seven, 4×4 capability and the option to tow, the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder is a worthy choice for active families.