The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder enters its second year as a seven-seat family crossover with a new model added: the first-ever Pathfinder Hybrid, a direct shot across the bows of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

The 2014 Pathfinder is unchanged in style from the model introduced last year, with its rakish tall-wagon look and more curvaceous lines than other crossovers--but using the same design language as other recently redesigned members of the Nissan family. It leads with a bold chrome grille and heavily sculpted front fenders, and the accents on the rear fenders give it a hint of "shoulder line" that makes its overall look more fluid than many of these tall wagons.

The hybrid model pairs a supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a 15-kilowatt (22-hp) electric motor sandwiched between engine and CVT, with a clutch on either end. Power output from the combined system is 250 hp, just 10 hp shy of the V-6 output.

Fuel efficiency of the new hybrid model is estimated at 26 mpg combined (25 mpg city, 27 mpg highway), and the Pathfinder Hybrid can be ordered with optional all-wheel drive. The lithium-ion battery pack fits under the rear deck, there's no compromise in storage space or packaging.

We do question, however, whether the lack of sustained electric-only running in an Infiniti prototype we drove will confuse customers who expect a "Hybrid" badge to mean smooth, quiet operation at low speeds using only the electric motor. In the Pathfinder Hybrid, the electric motor provides added torque, and restarts the engine when the driver starts to lift off the brake after a stop, but it's not beefy enough to propel this large vehicle on its own  under more than very limited steady-state cruising circumstances (and perhaps on downhill grades).

Besides badges, the Pathfinder Hybrid model includes LED taillights and energy-flow diagrams on the car's information screen. Like all Pathfinder models fitted with all-wheel drive, it offers the ability to select among 2WD, automatic, or 4WD Lock modes. The hybrid model's towing capacity is rated at 3,500 pounds, versus 5,000 pounds for the regular V-6 model.

Inside there's some influence from the Infiniti luxury division, but the cabin still feels conservative due to a limited selection of just two colors and otherwise unremarkable fabrics and plastic surfaces. Behind the wheel, though, drivers will likely forget they're driving a seven-seat crossover utility vehicle.

We haven't yet driven the 2014 Pathfinder Hybrid, but the V-6 and CVT combination doesn't drone at highway speeds, a chronic CVT weak spot. It's possible that parents more focused on the route and their kids might not even know the Pathfinder has a CVT rather than a conventional automatic in the first place.

Nissan has carefully crafted its options packages to reflect what families actually order. With the available Nissan Navigation System, you also get traffic information, Bluetooth streaming audio, and voice recognition. a tri-zone entertainment system that lets you play separate programming for each of the two seven-inch rear screens (DVD, gaming input, or photos), all while front-seat occupants can listen to their own programming.

If you want all that with a little more luxury and a more prestige badge, there's always the 2014 Infiniti QX60 Hybrid, also launched at the New York show.

For more launches and news from the New York Auto Show, head over to our dedicated show page.


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