It took the Pathfinder 20 years to establish itself as a rugged off-roader and just when we all thought it would continue to go down this robust route, Nissan made a surprising U-turn...

When it launched in 1985, it went up against other hard-as-nails models such as the Chevy Blazer, Ford Bronco and Jeep Cherokee, but trends in the automotive industry were changing and the focus, by the time the third-generation Pathfinder came along in 2005, was now on practical and family-friendly SUVs. Nissan took the brave decision of repositioning it and to target a much wider audience; it ditched the body-on-frame construction for a unibody design, the exterior received a softer appearance and the cabin got an extra row of seats making three in total. When the current fourth-gen came along in 2013, it shared the same platform as the Altima. To its credit, it drove more like a saloon than a truck and by changing the Pathfinder’s character and turning it into a more rounded SUV, it sure swelled Nissan’s coffers — even though it didn’t quite have the old go-anywhere appeal of yesteryear.

Now, it’s undergone a refresh for 2018 and brought with it a host of changes so just how good is it? We got hold of the top-spec SL trim finished in a ravishing new shade of Caspian Blue to find out.

Standard safety features include Nissan Advanced Air Bag System, three-point seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters, curtain and side airbags for side impact and rollover head protection for outboard passengers in all three rows, child safety rear door locks, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and Traction Control System (TCS)

It’s been fortified with more tech and safety features for 2018 with the highlight being the new Rear Door Alert system; the Nissan will honk at drivers as they leave the SUV if they’ve forgotten valuable things in the back seat, such as their kids... It also has a Motion-Activated liftgate, Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) as standard, along with adaptive cruise control with traffic following capability and four additional USB ports making for six in total. When you factor in the freshened up exterior that sees the addition of a new “V-Motion” grille, boomerang-shaped headlights with LED daytime running lights, revised taillights, new rear bumper and new 20in aluminium alloy wheel designs (along with a smattering of chrome touches from the grille, door handles to the roof rails), Nissan can finally be pleased with this 2018 model.

Thanks to the long bonnet, raked windshield and flowing character lines, it’s a bit like a saloon with a raised ride height. It does a good job in hiding its mass and doesn’t appear that large but what’s for sure is that this is no longer the squared-off utility vehicle of old.

The 3.5-litre V6 utilises more than 50 per cent new or new-to-Pathfinder engine parts and components

The 3.5-litre is mated to Nissan’s third-generation Xtronic transmission that includes DStep Logic Control and the good thing about this CVT is that it simulates shifts and is able to give a more natural acceleration feeling. The naturally aspirated V6 has 271 horsepower and 351Nm of torque and features a Direct Injection Gasoline (DIG) system that doesn’t just have better wide-open throttle performance but also improves fuel economy and reduces emissions too. Just like previous years, the 2018 model has selectable 2WD, Auto or 4WD Lock modes from the All-Mode 4x4-i system and with the intuitive four-wheel drive, it continues to be the ideal companion for all driving conditions.

The quiet, comfortable interior also includes a wide range of available features including climate controlled front seats, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, Nissan Intelligent Key with Push Button Start, and an advanced Bose audio system with 12 speakers

It has Nissan’s innovative EZ Flex Seating System with Latch and Glide, a second row tilt and glide seat that allows easy third row access with a child safety seat remaining securely in place in the second row

It isn’t a traditional truck, and hasn’t been for a while, but it isn’t as sporty as others in this cut-throat segment such as the Mazda CX-9 and although the suspension has been stiffened up a tad it still feels a bit wallowy in the corners and perhaps it was just our tester but the steering felt a bit on the heavier side. But overall its driving dynamics are decent enough.

The seats are ever so comfortable and offer good support (the front chairs have heating and cooling functions) and they’re covered in plush, soft leather while upscale materials swathe the rest of the interior. There is ample leg and headroom in the first two rows, but less in the third — but kids will enjoy it back there. It packs a standard 8.0in touch-screen monitor in the middle of the instrument panel and it controls a wide variety of the Pathfinder’s systems and settings including navigation and infotainment functions.

When it launched in 1985, it went up against other hard-as-nails models such as the Chevy Blazer, Ford Bronco and Jeep Cherokee...

Its lineage goes back to the mid-Eighties and 32 years later there’s a massive difference from the original. It’s like chalk and cheese; the first-gen model was a rough and tough workhorse but now it’s evolved into a modern, street-smart family hauler that is happier doing the school and grocery run but doesn’t mind getting dirty when pressed into off-road duty from time to time either.

With its ability to accommodate seven passengers in a cabin that is overflowing with bells and whistles, and when you throw in all of the new driver assistance features too, this is a safe, comfortable and sensible daily driver that the whole family will enjoy.