4th Place - Nissan Pathfinder Platinum Premium Hybrid
Wait, how is the Nissan Pathfinder in fourth place? An how did it wind up behind the Hyundai Santa Fe? Didn’t the Pathfinder beat the Santa Fe in a comparison test last year? Yes astute reader, you’re correct. However, there is one major difference between that test and this test. In this comparison the Pathfinder arrived in Hybrid trim.
To become hybridized, the Pathfinder ditches its 3.5-liter V6 engine for a more efficient gasoline-electric set-up. Essentially a mild, assist-style hybrid, the vehicle comes equipped with a supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired to an electric motor to produce a total of 250 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. This makes it the least powerful vehicle in this group and it shows.
The 4,714 lb. Pathfinder is slowest to respond and really strains to garner passing speeds on the highway. In the city, the transition between hybrid and gasoline power is somewhat rough and not being a two-stage hybrid, it can never run on electric power only.
Officially rated at 25 MPG in the city and 27 MPG on the highway, the Pathfinder Hybrid is rated significantly higher than all the other vehicles here. But when it came to real world testing, it could only muster a 23.5 MPG average that was still best in test, but not as lofty as the EPA ratings.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid Review
The Pathfinder offers a smooth ride, almost to a fault as some found it to be a bit floaty. It doesn’t enjoy changing directions quickly, but is otherwise easy to operate. The front seat drew a lot of praise for its comfort while the middle seat did not.
As we have said before, the trade-offs experienced with the Hybrid versions of the Pathfinder are not worth it. To put things in perspective, on a 100 point evaluation scale, the Pathfinder Hybrid missed coming in first place by only 1.1 points. Had a regular V6 Pathfinder been entered, it would have given up a few points in terms of fuel economy, but it would have gained points in price, engine and NVH. Who knows, that might have been enough to win the comparison.
- PRICE AS TESTED: $44,710
- ENGINE: 2.5-liter supercharged four-cylinder plus electric motor, 250 hp, 243 lb-ft
- TRANSMISSION: CVT
- OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 23.5 MPG
- CARGO CAPACITY (behind second row): 47.8 cu. Ft.
3rd Place – Toyota Highlander XLE AWD
Anyone who wonders why Toyota does so well as an automaker needs to look no further than the 2014 Highlander. All-new this year, the third-generation doesn’t really shine in any specific category, but it doesn’t offend either. Aside from exterior style and third row space, the Highlander scored at least mid-pack or higher in every category.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise then that the Highlander was voted to have the best balance of power, ride comfort, handling and fuel efficiency. Power continues to come from a 3.5-liter V6 making 270 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. But don’t let those numbers deceive you; Toyota has programed this crossover to feel more powerful than it really is.
Upper Mid-Pack All-Around
Fuel economy was – surprise, surprise – just above mid-pack with official ratings of 18 MPG in the city and 24 MPG on the highway while our observed average came in at 20.7 MPG. Ride comfort and NVH were also rated above average and many staff members commented on how easy the Highlander is to drive.
The center console and front seat storage were deemed second best after the Pilot and most of AutoGuide.com’s editors liked the large infotainment display screen. Complaints were few, like the old-school heated seat buttons, a steering wheel that wouldn’t telescope far enough and a tuning knob some staffers found was positioned too far away.
The one area the Highlander did out-right win was price. At $38,360, it undercut all other crossovers on hand, but was also one of the least equipped vehicles. That said, it still came with most of the essentials like a sunroof, reverse camera, navigation, a power driver’s seat and heated front seats. And for such an affordable package the interior was surprisingly high quality.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Toyota Highlander Review
It is also the smallest of the eight-passenger crossovers in our comparison, but with 83.2 total cubic feet of cargo carrying capacity, it still offers more space than four of the entrants including the Ford Explorer. The second row seats tied for best in test, but that may come at the expense of the third row seats that were rated worst in test.
But if the third row is only needed in a pinch for smaller passengers and value is a top priority, the Highlander is tough to beat. It continues to rely on that magic Toyota formula of making vehicles consumers want.
- PRICE AS TESTED: $38,360
- ENGINE: 3.5-liter V6, 270 hp, 248 lb-ft
- TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
- OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 20.7 MPG
- CARGO CAPACITY (behind second row): 42.0 cu. Ft.