New Pathfinder adds to Nissan’s SUV legacy
By JEFF TAYLOR For Sun-Times Media November 8, 2012 2:25PM
2013 NISSAN PATHFINDER
ENGINE: 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6
TRANSMISSION: continuously variable transmission
FUEL ECONOMY: 20 city/26 highway (2WD), 19 city/25 highway (4WD)
BASE PRICE: $28,270 (2WD)
AS TESTED: $40,770
The first Nissan Pathfinders rolled onto dealers’ lots more than 25 years ago, ushering in a modern wave of Asian SUVs to the U.S. market. The 2013 Pathfinder, Nissan’s fourth generation, adds and subtracts from previous models.
The latest Pathfinder is a midsize seven-passenger SUV available in four trim levels: S, SV, SL and Platinum. The new look is familiar, yet still retains a bit of rugged off-road promise with bulging fenders and a squat, substantial lower half. Front and rear spoilers, rear tire deflectors and rear suspension fairings enhance styling while aiding fuel economy through aerodynamics.
Pathfinder uses a refined new drivetrain featuring a 260-horsepower 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 engine mated to a next-generation Xtronic continuously variable transmission. The letters “mpg” have eclipsed “hp” as the important ones in the automakers’ alphabet. So Nissan claims a 30 percent increase in combined city/highway fuel economy over 2012 models.
Since you still need to accelerate and tow in this class, acceleration appears to suffer a bit for the sake of fuel economy gains as the CVT (only transmission available) causes the Pathfinder to pull away lazily from a standing start. After you acquire a bit of speed the CVT whips the Pathfinder along nicely and smoothly. The engine/CVT drivetrain provide Pathfinder with a best-in-class 5,000-pound towing capacity.
Aided by the loss of 500 pounds, the unibody Pathfinder is more nimble to a point. In moderate cornering the body swayed a bit too much for my liking and the tires could be meatier to provide more grip. On the plus side, Pathfinder felt more agile in low-speed maneuvers, and the on-road ride was well dampened and less bouncy and jarring than the old body-on-frame version.
On the road, the steering feel is good; the brakes felt a bit spongy, but did a good job of stopping this SUV in short, straight order when called upon.
Off-road, the Pathfinder’s prowess has dipped. The minimum ground clearance is only 6.5 inches, four-wheel-drive low is absent, and skid plates and hill descent control aren’t offered, but hill start assist is standard. On 4WD models you can the select the 4WD mode when desired as well as an auto mode or two-wheel drive.
From an off-roading standpoint, the 2013 Pathfinder comes off as a bit of a poser and is really suited for sloppy weather driving, but that’s perfect for the majority of buyers.
The new Pathfinder offers three-row/seven-passenger seating with 79.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity, which matches competitors like the Ford Explorer but is less than others. I thought the interior could use a bit of color/texture enhancement (ala the 2013 Sentra).
The new layout is less cramped than the previous generation, but I found the seats to be a bit hard and low, especially in the second row. The second row does move fore and aft 5.5 inches, and a new latch and glide system flips the entire second-row seat forward. Third-row-seat access is excellent while adult seating is not.
Pathfinder’s interior puts you face to face with the advanced drive-assist display cluster, which also includes a multifunction information technology display, available Nissan navigation system with NavTraffic and NavWeather (SiriusXM subscription required), streaming audio via Bluetooth and rear-view monitor.
I liked Nissan’s advanced, class-exclusive around-view monitor, which provides a virtual 360-degree image of the area around the vehicle. Other technology includes trizone automatic climate control, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, power rear lift gate, iPod integration and trizone entertainment system with second-row head-restraint-mounted DVD display screens.
The class-exclusive tire alerts are a handy feature designed to provide both visual and audible signals to help you maintain correct tire pressures without the use of a gauge.
Nissan’s Pathfinder has adapted to the times in most respects and is at the forefront of the new “kinder, gentler” SUVs coming our way.
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