It was way back during the Eighties that the Pathfinder made a name for itself as a rugged SUV that could tame the most treacherous of terrain. Introduced as a two-door body-on-frame SUV, it rode on the Hardbody truck chassis and shared some of its styling elements; the three grooves on the edge of the bonnet etched themselves in our memories the moment we laid eyes on them. It was a spartan workhorse that overflowed with character but Nissan began shifting the model’s focus to being a more road-friendly, three-row, plush crossover for the family. It retained its off-roading roots (albeit, to a lesser extent) but since 2013 it’s been suffering a case of the blands. Nissan is seeking to eradicate this dreary image with an aggressive looking Midnight variant, but does it succeed?

It tried the same trick in 2017 and the trim has returned once again for the 2019 model year. The Pathfinder may never recapture the go-anywhere appeal of the original, but, at least there’s more to appreciate visually about this one and this is important; we’re not exactly short of choice when it comes to family haulers, but how many of them get pulses racing? Nissan tries to add a bit of sparkle by dressing up the current generation with lots of black trim and as a result, you’d probably give this a second or third glance as it rolls by.

 

You may also like: 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado review: Age is just a number

Photos: Stefan Lindeque

The exclusive 20in black aluminum-alloy wheels would be enough to warrant a double take from most but Nissan hasn’t stopped there. In fact, it’s just getting warmed up. It also adds black outside mirrors, black roof rail, black grade badge with a Midnight emblem on the lift gate, black front and back mud guards, black radiator grille, body coloured bumper with black rear lower accent, black back door finisher, black rear spoiler and LED high mount stop light. These additions help to give the Pathfinder Midnight a unique look and this moodier version that also features Nissan’s signature V-Motion Grille and boomerang-shaped headlights is sure to go down rather well with those on the hunt for a family-friendly crossover that stands out from the rest.

This is just an exterior package but it is now better able to combine performance with style. The interior, tech, infotainment and indeed the drivetrain haven’t changed — but there were plenty of changes for the 2018 refresh. These included a new, more aggressive bonnet, new taillights and recessed windshield. The other significant addition was the Motion-Activated liftgate; all it takes is a simple wave of the foot under the liftgate to activate the power opening function. And with your hands full with bags of groceries, this feature sure is useful.

 

You may also like: 2017 Mazda CX-9 review

Photos: Stefan Lindeque

The three-row cabin isn’t just comfortable and roomy enough for seven passengers, it is dripping with tech and kit too from two USB ports, Advanced Drive-Assist Display, climate controlled front seats, Nissan Intelligent Key with Push Button Start, an advanced Bose Audio System with 12 speakers, Intelligent Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection, Tri-Zone Automatic Climate Control, Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System and iPod integration.

The 3.5-litre V6 utilizes more than 50 per cent new or new-to-Pathfinder engine parts and components and is mated to Nissan’s third-generation Xtronic transmission to produce 271 horses and 340Nm of torque but the CVT does take a bit of the fun out of the drive. Even though you can send all the power to all four corners via a twist of the terrain management rotary dial (it has selectable 2WD, Auto or 4WD Lock modes) would you really want to chip those 20in wheels by venturing off the beaten path in this? And here’s my biggest issue with the Dh162,000 Midnight edition — it looks too nice to get dirty. I suppose it’s good to know its off-road credentials are in tact if ever you needed them and the last thing you would call this particular variant is dreary. Thanks to this stylish trim, the Pathfinder is back on the right path.