Nissan Pathfinder 2013-2019: problems, engine, fuel economy, pros and cons

Updated: December 22, 2019

The 2013-2019 Pathfinder is a comfortable mid-size, seven-seat SUV. It's offered with front- or all-wheel drive. There is a hybrid version, but it is rare. Unlike the previous truck-based Pathfinder, this fourth-generation, known as R52, is built on a car-based platform. This change allowed for more space, refined ride and better fuel economy.

Nissan Pathfinder 2015 interior
Nissan Pathfinder 2015 interior.

The 2015-2020 4WD Pathfinder is rated at 19/26 mpg, which is not bad for a vehicle of this size. With the second- and third-row seats folded down flat, the Pathfinder offers 79.8 cubic feet of cargo space.

The Pathfinder drives like a large car with a quiet and comfortable ride. The engine is smooth and responsive. For an SUV of this size, the Pathfinder is also surprisingly maneuverable, offering a turning circle of 38.7 feet. One of the interesting features is an around-view monitor that shows a view of the vehicle and surrounding space from above on the center display. The system works by combining the views from 4 cameras into one composite view. Around View Monitor is available in 2015+ SL, standard in Platinum. Is Nissan Pathfinder reliable? What problems do Pathfinder owners report? What model year had more problems? We test-drove the 2015 Pathfinder and did our research.

Nissan Pathfinder problems: The CVT transmission in the 2013-2014 Pathfinder received a significant portion of the complaints. Owners describe intermittent lack of power and jerking/shaking or "judder" as Nissan refers to it. Nissan has issued several bulletins on the issue. Solutions included reprogramming the TCM (updating the CVT software), replacing the control valve assembly (part of the CVT transmission), or replacing the CVT transmission. On the plus side, according to the NissanAssist.com Nissan has extended Non-Hybrid CVT warranty coverage on 2013-2014 Pathfinder to 7 years/84,000 miles, whichever comes first.

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We also found many positive owner reviews that mention no CVT problems at all. We extensively drove the 2015 Pathfinder and took a quick drive of the 2016 Pathfinder, both 4WD. Neither exhibited any symptoms.

Among other problems, several owners mentioned issues with sun visors not staying in the upright position.

Nissan Pathfinder second row seats

The second row floor is flat.

Nissan Pathfinder 2015 seats folded

The Pathfinder offers 79.8 cu. ft. cargo space.

Nissan Pathfinder 2015 storage behind the third-row seat

The under-floor storage.


The driver's sunvisor was listed for $115 on Amazon. Check out some YouTube videos on how to fix it. Besides that, many owners mentioned various trim pieces falling apart.

The service bulletin NTB15-112 describes a problem with a bad stop lamp relay that can cause intermittently low power when accelerating and the brake light staying on. The repair involves some rewiring and replacing a stop lamp (brake light) switch with an updated part.

A bad wheel bearing can cause a humming noise that is more noticeable at higher speed and gets louder or quieter when changing directions. Replacing a wheel bearing costs $80-$180 for part and $200-$350 labor.

According to the bulletin NTB10-029e, vibration or judder feeling from the rear of the vehicle in 4WD Pathfinder when making slow turns on dry roads could be caused by a problem with the Electric Controlled Coupling for the rear final drive.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder
2015 Nissan Pathfinder R52.

The bulletin advises to follow the diagnostic steps and, if confirmed, to replace the coupling and perform "Unit Characteristics Writing." The part is quite expensive if out of warranty.

Nissan issued several recalls for some Pathfinder models that you can check at the NHTSA website with the VIN number of your vehicle. If you are having a problem with your Nissan, especially safety-related, and your warranty has recently expired, check with your dealer if they can help; we do know a few cases when Nissan approved certain after warranty repairs.

Engine: Except for hybrid models, the Pathfinder is powered by a well-known 3.5L V6 VQ engine (VQ35DE) that has been used in many Nissan and Infiniti vehicles. It's a proven strong and reliable DOHC motor that can last for well over 200K with good maintenance.

Timing belt or chain: The 3.5L V6 VQ engine has a maintenance-free timing chain, there is no timing belt. A timing chain only needs to be replaced if there is a problem with it, for example, when it's stretched.

Mechanical: The Pathfinder has MacPherson struts in the front suspension and a multi-link setup in the rear. The steering is hydraulically-assisted. The engine is transversely-mounted. The only transmission choice is a continuously variable transmission or CVT. Read more: Pros and cons of buying a car with a CVT transmission. The Pathfinder 4WD system can be manually switched to 2WD, Auto or 4WD Lock modes using the switch on the center console.

Nissan Pathfinder EPA Fuel Economy: mpg
city/hwy
L/100 km
city/hwy
2013-2014 V6 4WD auto 19/25 12.4/9.4
2015-2020 V6 4WD auto 19/26 12.4/9.0
2013 V6 2WD auto 20/25 11.8/9.4
2014 V6 2WD auto 20/26 11.8/9.0
2015-2020 V6 2WD auto 20/27 11.8/8.7
2014-2015 Hybrid 4WD auto 25/27 9.4/8.7
2014-2015 Hybrid 2WD auto 25/28 9.4/8.4

Fuel Economy: The 2015-2020 2WD Pathfinder is rated at 20/27 mpg. This means that, on a long interstate trip, you can travel up to 485 miles (780 km) on a 19.5-gallon (74-liter) fuel tank. It's better than most mid-size and large SUVs.
The Pathfinder Hybrid gets 25 mpg city, 27 mpg highway. See EPA fuel consumption ratings in the table.

Pros: Strong engine, good acceleration, comfortable ride, reasonable fuel economy, roomy interior, family-friendly features, small turning diameter, available around view monitor.

Cons: Troublesome CVT in early models, questionable long-term reliability, CVT is not strong enough for towing.

Overall: The Pathfinder is a comfortable family hauler with a solid engine. Used car buyers should be aware that as of December 2019, Consumer Reports rates the 2013-2016 Pathfinder 'worse than average' for reliability. The 2018 Pathfinder got an 'above average' rating.

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We found a similar pattern researching complaints at the NHTSA website: as of December 2019, the 2013 Pathfinder had 691 complaints (including 297 complaints related to powertrain), while the 2016 Pathfinder had only 55. Of course, some of the problems have already been repaired under warranty. Still, if you are buying a used Nissan Pathfinder, it might be a good idea to get an extended warranty with good coverage .
When checking out a used Nissan Pathfinder, test drive for as long as possible. Watch out for hesitation, slipping or shuddering during acceleration. Some owners describe a problem with the CVT where it engages hard when accelerating slightly after coasting for a while. If you can arrange for a pre-purchase inspection, ask a mechanic to check for leaks from the transfer case and from the transmission cooler lines, we found a few reports of these problems. It's a good idea to check with a Nissan dealer if all the recalls have been done. Read more: How to inspect a used car, illustrated checklist.

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Engine oil: We checked the owner's manuals for the U.S. 2013-2018 Nissan Pathfinder (you can access it here. According to these manuals, Nissan recommends using SAE 5W-30 oil for the 2013-2014 V6 VQ35DE engine.
The manuals for the 2015-2018 Pathfinder list SAE 0W-20 as the recommended oil viscosity.
The approximate drain and refill engine oil capacity (with oil filter change) for the 3.5L V6 is listed at 5-1/8 US qt or 4.8 liters.

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By Samarins.com Staff