2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4X2Posted on May 23rd, 2013
Seven-passenger SUV enters its fourth generation
By Nina Russin
The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder is a solid, well-built seven-passenger SUV with good fuel economy, excellent towing capability and good road manners. It is not, however a pathfinder.
The original model was, as the name suggests, an off-the-grid vehicle: designed to scramble across rocks, plough through mud and snow and even ford the occasional small stream.
While the fourth-generation has an available all-wheel drive system, nobody would mistake it for an off-road vehicle. The wheelbase is 114 inches long and ground clearance is 6.5 inches. The all-wheel drive system has a locking differential, but no two-speed transfer case.
The standard powertrain consists of a 260-horsepower V-6 engine and continuously variable automatic transmission. The two-wheel drive version tested has a 5000-pound towing capacity: well in excess of our minimum ALV standard.
Base price is $34,470 excluding the $825 destination charge. Options on the test car include splash guards, roof rail cross bars, carpeted floor mats, illuminated kick plates and a premium package that adds a Bose 13-speaker sound system, 120-volt power outlet, dual panorama moonroof, tow hitch and trailer harness. Final MSRP is $38,870.
Test drive in Arizona
This past week, I drove the newest Pathfinder on a road trip between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, as well as on surface streets in both towns.
Nissan has done an excellent job on the powertrain. The 3.5-liter V-6 engine has plenty of power on the low end for accelerating into high-speed traffic and passing slower cars on the highway.
While I’m not a huge fan of continuously variable transmissions, Nissan’s is the best in the industry. It is very responsive to throttle, and doesn’t have the anemic feel competing units do.
The advantage of the CVT unit is that the engine revs very low, even at highway speeds. Cruising on the highway at about 80 miles-per-hour, it rarely reached 2000 rpm: the point at which fuel economy drops off significantly.
The electric power steering unit is speed sensitive, so it provides more assist at slow speeds for better maneuverability with a heavier feel on the highway. The four-wheel independent suspension consists of independent struts up front and a multi-link setup in the rear. It provides a comfortable ride, even when travelling over rough surface streets, yet doesn’t feel mushy. Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the corners.
Visibility around the perimeter is limited, due to the car’s high beltline and thick pillars. I noticed some rather large blind spots in the rear corners. The back glass is small, so there is also a large blind spot underneath it. The rearview camera on the test car eliminates this problem when driving in reverse, but I wish that I had a blind spot monitoring system to keep track of cars in adjacent lanes on the highway.
Large ventilated disc brakes stop the car in firm, linear fashion.
Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior: something that is especially important in a seven-passenger vehicle. My husband and I had no problems conversing on the highway or listening to the audio system.
Inside, the newest Pathfinder has gobs of room. Even the center second-row seating position has enough leg and headroom for an adult to be comfortable on a road trip.
Keyless entry and start on the test car saves the owner from fumbling for a key fob. Once inside, driver’s seat memory control enables multiple family members to share the car.
Both the driver’s and front passenger seats are comfortable for drives several hours in duration. The adjustable lumbar on the driver’s seat provides ample back support.
Both the gauge cluster and center stack screen are easy to read in bright sunlight. The numbers on the digital information screen in the gauge cluster were a little small for me, but readable. Redundant steering wheel controls enable the driver to access and change the audio and information settings.
A mouse-type control enables the driver to access various infotainment functions on the center stack.
Tri-zone climate controls keep the driver all seven passengers comfortable. Vents behind the center console circulate air through the back of the cabin. Both first and second-row seats have seat heaters for the winter. A 115-volt power outlet behind the center console enables kids to plug in games on long trips.
The panorama moonroof makes a lot of sense on a vehicle of this size, bringing a welcome dose of ambient light into the interior.
A power liftgate makes it easy to load large cargo into the back. Both second and third-row seats fold flat, so the Pathfinder can hold multiple bicycles inside. Optional roof rails and cross bars on the test car enable the owner to add a roof rack as well.
The Nissan Pathfinder comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction control and stability control. A display in the gauge cluster shows tire pressures, adding some real value to the tire pressure monitoring system.
Nissan builds the Pathfinder at its Smyrna, Tennessee assembly plant.
Like: A spacious seven-passenger crossover with 5000-pound towing capacity and a bicycle-friendly cargo area. The V-6 engine and continuously variable transmission are excellent performers, combining good power and fuel economy.
Dislike: Nissan has moved away from the vehicle’s off-road heritage, which will disappoint fans of earlier models.
Model: Pathfinder SL 4X2
Base price: $34,470
As tested: $38,870
Horsepower: 260 Hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 240 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 20/26 mpg city/highway2013, Luxury 2013, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Nissan, performance, pricing, standard safety
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