Nissan Pathfinder crosses over for 2013
By KIRK BELL For Sun-Times Media January 14, 2013 1:54PM
2013 NISSAN PATHFINDER
ENGINE: 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6
TRANSMISSION: continuously variable automatic
DRIVETRAIN: front-wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY: 20 city/26 highway
BASE PRICE: $28,270
AS TESTED: not available
In the year 2000 more than 1.2 million truck-type (read: body-on-frame) midsize SUVs were sold in the United States. This was an era when bulky Ford Explorers, Chevrolet Blazers and Dodge Durangos roamed the earth in staggering numbers.
Precious few people ever took them off-road, so in 2012 about only 100,000 midsize body-on-frame SUVs were sold while about 1.3 million midsize crossover utility vehicles left dealer lots. Crossovers feature a more carlike unibody structure that improves ride, handling, interior space and fuel economy.
For 2013 Nissan is going crossover with its seven-passenger Pathfinder. Despite the change, the new Pathfinder is actually larger than the truck it replaces. It is 4.6 inches longer and 4.3 inches wider; without a heavy steel frame underneath it, it drops 500 pounds. In fact, the total weight of 4,149 pounds is similar to a full-size sedan.
The changes make the Pathfinder much more pleasant to drive than the outgoing model. On the road, the new Pathfinder is much easier to control. It almost feels sporty, right up there with the surprisingly agile Ford Explorer. It leans a bit in turns, but not so much as to affect passenger comfort, and it feels quite carlike for such a large vehicle.
Under the hood, the 2013 Pathfinder features a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. The 2012 model offered a 4.0-liter version of the same engine with more torque, as well as a 5.6-liter V-8. Both offered more power but poor fuel economy. The new Pathfinder is rated at 20 mpg city/26 highway with standard front-wheel drive, which Nissan says is best in the class, and 19/25 with all-wheel drive.
The V-6 offers plenty of power but not the rambunctiousness of last year’s V-8. It gets the vehicle moving with ease. Nissan isn’t providing 0-to-60 mph numbers, but it’s likely below eight seconds. The engine also works well with the continuously variable automatic transmission, which raises the revs quickly to provide the extra power needed for passing.
The Pathfinder can tow 5,000 pounds, down from 7,000, but that’s still enough to haul a 22-foot boat. The optional AWD system is meant mostly for on-road foul-weather security, but it does have a locking center differential to give it some modest off-road ability.
Like SUVs of yore, the new Pathfinder will likely never go off-road. Instead, it will be used to transport the family, and the new interior is perfectly suited for that. The rear seating is quite versatile as the three-passenger second-row bench seat slides fore and aft up to 5.5 inches. This allows passengers to maximize legroom in either the second or third row. The second-row seats fold down in a 60/40 split and the third row folds 50/50 to create a flat load floor and a generous 79.8-cubic foot cargo hold.
Up front the driver and passenger sit in comfortable bucket seats; they are surrounded by materials that are nice, but not the best in the class. While the Dodge Durango, Chevy Traverse and Ford Explorer feature soft-touch surfaces on most touch points, including the dashboard, the Pathfinder has soft door tops and armrests but a hard plastic dash.
The dashboard layout features a centrally located 7-inch screen. A large dial and a cluster of buttons on the center stack control the functions on the screen. On the base model, the screen is limited to digital readouts of radio stations in a font that looks like it belongs in a 1980s video game. When the navigation system is ordered, the screen grows to 8 inches and displays real-time traffic and weather information as well as a Zagat restaurant guide. An optional around-view monitor displays a 360-degree top-down view of the vehicle on the screen.
Nissan offers some other creature comforts as well, including leather upholstery, a Bose sound system, a dual-screen rear DVD entertainment system and a panoramic sunroof. While Bluetooth connectivity is offered in most models, Nissan doesn’t provide access to apps such as Pandora Internet radio or other concierge services.
The Pathfinder starts at $28,270 and ranges up to $39,170 for the top-line Platinum model. That pricing is competitive; most rivals range much higher at the top end but they also offer more features and connectivity.
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