A silver 2024 Nissan Pathfinder is shown driving down a city boulevard.

Is the Nissan Pathfinder a Good SUV for Family Vacations?

Families who are looking to get away during a school break or special occasion don’t always want to deal with the stress of air travel. Between the TSA screening and the close quarters in the air, flying can be a pain for anyone taking their young children along for the ride. Road trips have their own set of issues, but many of these can be solved by vehicle design. You have to pack light in a small car, but other vehicles have more interior space, plus roof racks and the ability to have a trailer in tow. Elbow room can also be expanded with a larger vehicle.

So it’s no wonder that a midsize SUV like the 2024 Nissan Pathfinder is selling itself as a “family-friendly SUV that’s ready for adventure.” But can it back that claim up with the capability and features that make for a good road trip vehicle? Let’s take a closer look and see what families who like to do their bonding out on the open road or in the beauty of nature can expect from the Pathfinder.


With three rows of seating, the Pathfinder can accommodate families with more than two or three kids or those who like to bring extended family or family friends along to join in the fun. If you need to be able to seat eight, then you can get a model that has bench seating in both the second and third rows. But if seating for seven is enough, you can upgrade to more comfortable captain’s chairs in the second row. This disparity between second- and third-row accommodations might cause a bit of sibling rivalry in the back, but you can always use it as a lesson in taking turns, switching off every time you stop for gas or a bathroom break.

With all the seats upright, the cargo area gives you 16.6 cu.ft. to work with. Like most SUVs, the Pathfinder has a 60/40 split for the back row, so you can fold down some or all of it to trade passenger space for cargo volume when it makes sense to do so. There’s also an under-floor storage compartment in the cargo area that keeps items out of sight and makes it easier to stay organized.

Up front, there’s a front console that has both a large bin for secure storage plus a pass-through that lets you keep items tucked away but within easy reach for quick stops. If there are captain’s chairs in the second row, you can also get a console between the two that has cup holders and extra storage space. And, of course, you can always make the kids keep some bags and coolers at their feet, especially the little ones who won’t be making use of their allotted legroom.

While all trims come standard with comfort features like tri-zone climate control and rear passenger vents, other features are reserved for higher trims. Upgrade all the way up to Platinum, and you can get heated and ventilated front seats, a power tilt and telescoping steering column, a heated steering wheel, and front-row seats that are ten-way power-adjustable with power lumbar support. The backseat gets some upgrades, too, like heated second-row seats and a panoramic moonroof.

Performance & Capability

The Pathfinder’s engine can produce up to 284 hp and 259 lb-ft of torque, so you’ll have the power you need to keep up with highway speeds and pass slowpokes safely on rural two-lane roads. That power also allows the Pathfinder to have a towing capacity of up to 6,000 lbs, when properly equipped so that you can bring extra equipment or luggage along for the ride in a trailer. An intelligent 4×4 system is available, giving you 4WD for extra traction when road conditions get dicey but allowing you to benefit from the efficiency of 2WD when the roads are dry and well-maintained. For steep paths, the Pathfinder has hill start assist and available hill descent control to help keep you in full control, even if the grade is particularly steep and you’re carrying a heavy load.

This combination of raw power and useful features lets the Pathfinder tackle a variety of different roads. So, if you find out at the last minute that the cabin you rented has a long, unpaved driveway that has seen better days, you won’t have to worry about whether your vehicle can handle the rough surface. That kind of flexibility comes in handy on a road trip, where you’re likely driving into unfamiliar territory and want to be ready for anything.

The brown leather interior of a 2024 Nissan Pathfinder is shown.

Safety Features

When you’re driving with your kids in the back, you want to be sure that your vehicle is safe and sound. Parents will be relieved to hear that the Pathfinder has a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and has been named a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, meaning that it has been tested and found to be crashworthy and secure. The Pathfinder also has a variety of modern safety technologies and driver assistance features. Intelligent forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, rear automatic braking, automatic high beam assist, and trailer sway control all come standard across all trims of the 2024 model. Cruise control is standard, too, so you can give your ankle a rest during long hours of driving and avoid being distracted by discomfort or fatigue. If you do get distracted, the intelligent driver alertness warning will let you know that it’s a good idea to pull over for a coffee break or switch drivers for a few miles.

Higher trim levels offer even more advanced technologies. ProPilot Assist takes cruise control to the next level by automatically slowing down and speeding back up to match the flow of traffic and using an automated system to keep you centered in your lane. If you get a trim with the available Navi-Link onboard navigation system, then ProPilot Assist will be able to use map data to see curves, junctions, and other obstacles coming so it can slow down for a smoother ride. Once you arrive at your destination, the available intelligent around view monitor makes it easier to park or navigate a tight driveway by giving you a 360º view of the area around your vehicle.

Rugged Rock Creek Trim

While some families prefer to drive from motel to motel and stick mostly to paved roads or unpaved streets that are flat and reasonably well-maintained, others like to rough it. If your idea of bonding involves a family camping trip, then you might want to be able to venture off the beaten path. If so, you can opt for the Rock Creek trim, which features an off-road-tuned suspension with extra ground clearance, a tubular roof rack for camping gear, and a selectable drive mode dial with seven modes, including one designed specifically for traveling off-road. A set of all-terrain tires comes standard, and the powertrain has been boosted, giving you up to 295 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque for tackling steep climbs and uneven ground.

A red 2024 Nissan Pathfinder is shown parked off-road.

The Pathfinder Is a Solid Choice

Nissan has clearly worked hard to make the Pathfinder appealing to both adventurous drivers and families. That makes it an excellent choice for those who like to go on adventures as a family. The base trim is fine for the average road trip, while higher trim levels let you venture into the wilderness or upgrade the cabin with extra comfort and convenience features. Across the board, the Pathfinder is a solid choice for parents looking to hit the road with their kids.