2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid - finally
After initially betting the company on electric-only vehicles, Nissan enters the hybrid SUV fray and manages to keep the price down.
Nissan might be a leader in electric cars with its trendsetting LEAF, but it is late to market with hybrids. For years, Nissan sold only limited numbers of its midsize Altima sedan with the fuel-saving technology. But that is changing.
Infiniti, Nissan's luxury brand, introduced an all-new hybrid powertrain on the 2012 M Hybrid. Now some of that technology is making its way to other vehicles in Nissan's portfolio, including the Pathfinder Hybrid and its Infiniti equivalent, the QX60 Hybrid, both of which debuted at the 2013 New York Auto Show.
By introducing hybrid technology into the popular and fast-growing midsize crossover segment, Nissan is maximizing its reach. An aggressive pricing strategy to make the typically expensive technology more affordable will only increase its appeal.
2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid
What is it?
A hybrid version of Nissan's new midsize crossover.
It gets 24 percent better fuel economy than a standard Pathfinder and is expected to cost about $3,000 more, which is less than the typical hybrid premium in this segment. It will be offered in three trim levels, with and without all-wheel drive. Estimated fuel economy is 25 miles per gallon city, 27 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined.
A 2.5-liter supercharged 4-cylinder engine and an electric motor produce a combined 250 horsepower and 243 lb-ft of torque. That's slightly less horsepower, but slightly more torque than the standard Pathfinder's V6 produces. The hybrid technology adds 250 pounds to the Pathfinder's overall weight. Towing capacity is 3,500 pounds, which is 1,500 less than the regular Pathfinder can tow.
It does not have a low-speed electric-only mode, but the gas engine shuts off when coasting and decelerating. The lithium-ion battery under the third row is so compact that it does not reduce interior volume at all.
It's hard to fault the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder based on what we know so far. One could argue that the lack of an electric-only mode such as the Infiniti M Hybrid has — it can go up to 62 mph on battery power alone — puts it at a disadvantage versus other hybrids. But giving it that capability would have raised the price, because it would require a larger, more expensive battery. So Nissan made an understandable compromise to keep the price down.
How much and when?
It goes on sale in late summer and should start around $31,650, judging from the base price of the 2013 Pathfinder.
MSN Autos' verdict?
The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid looks like a great value as hybrids go. Based on preliminary estimates, it should cost more than $8,000 less than the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which gets an estimated 28 mpg overall.
Matthew de Paula wanted to be an automotive journalist ever since reading his first car magazine in grade school. After a brief stint writing about finance, he helped launch ForbesAutos.com and became the site's editor in 2006. Matthew now freelances for various outlets.