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FAMILY VALUES: For 2017, Nissan freshens the seven-seater Pathfinder with updated looks, improved performance

Nissan has updated its Pathfinder crossover for 2017, but it’s still no trailblazer.

What it is, though, is an attractive, thoroughly modern, comfortable family hauler that compares well with a number of its competitors in the popular, three-row seating segment of crossover sport utilities.

From its genesis in 1985 as an offspring built upon Nissan’s compact Hardbody pickup truck chassis, the Pathfinder was a response to various offerings from both American (Ford Bronco II, Chevrolet Blazer, Jeep Cherokee) and Japanese competitors (Toyota 4Runner, Isuzu Rodeo).

Those early Pathfinders were tough little trucklets, with excellent off-road manners (particularly if equipped with four-wheel drive) but pretty spartan inside the cabin.

Over two successive generations, Pathfinder gradually grew in size, gained power, and more creature-comfort features.

2017-pathfinder-insideFor 2012, the fourth generation arrived, completely redesigned into a larger, plusher, vehicle built on a unibody structure that underpinned the Altima sedan. The result is a vehicle that drives much more like a car than a truck.

Now four years into Gen 4 comes a midlife update, with front-end restyling, new taillights and a basketful of fresh tech and safety features in its comfortable cabin. The engine also receives a massaging, with direct fuel injection among the many improvements helping deliver a power bump to 284 horsepower and 259 pound-feet of torque. That added output improves both the vehicle’s acceleration and its towing rating to 6,000 pounds.

Also getting tweaked is the suspension for improved handling and ride. The CUV easily soaks up cracks and potholes on both highway and city streets. At interstate speeds, a bit of road noise intrudes inside, but only on unusually rough surfaces.

A panoply of modern safety techs – adaptive cruise control, auto emergency braking, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert – are now offered, but mostly on the top-drawer Platinum model.

Handsome, understated design inside and out is pleasing. Easy to drive, easy to load and unload, quietly comfortable: Those are what make the Pathfinder a great family mover.