Another SUV bites the dust.
For 2013, the Pathfinder trades its muddy boots for a pair of loafers. The 2012 model was a true SUV, one that proved popular a decade ago. It was able to hit the trail and, with its 310-horsepower V-8, tow your house down the block if necessary.
But that’s not what family buyers prefer. They generally opt for the greater refinement of car-based crossovers SUVs such as the Nissan Rogue or Juke, rather than truck-based models such as the Pathfinder. So, for the new model year, the Pathfinder has been recast from a rugged rock crawler to a suburban road warrior.
The new model’s chic sheet metal gracefully proclaims its newfound mission as a three-row crossover, even if its looks aren’t as distinctive as they once were.
In the process, the Pathfinder has grown 4.6 inches longer and 4.3 inches wider while cabin space has increased by almost 8 cubic feet. Despite the added girth, overall weight has decreased by 500 pounds, according to Nissan. Neat trick.
That extra room is immediately apparent once you climb inside. Sure, you’ll find some really hard plastics, and soft-touch surfaces are limited to the places where you’d place your arms. But this Pathfinder’s design suggests that it’s more upscale than the out- going model.
Some of that may come from the list of interior amenities, which transform the Pathfinder into a comfy mobile family room. There’s tri-zone automatic climate control, dual panorama moon roof, heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, heated steering wheel, keyless entry, push-button start, remote starter, dual rear 7-inch screens for DVDs or video games, Bluetooth, satellite radio and a navigation system.
Perhaps the coolest feature is Nissan’s Around View Monitor. This system uses four cameras — one on each side and one each in the front and rear. Their images are combined into one bird’s-eye view of the car, which helps improve safety.
Controlling the 8-inch screen the image appears on is easy; there’s a large knob surrounded by clearly labeled buttons to actuate it. You’ll find it remarkably user-friendly.
The front seats are comfortable, although the seat bolsters may be too narrow for those broader of beam. And you could fault the second-row seats for their low seating position, but there’s an impressive amount of headroom. Cleverly, the second-row seats can slide forward 5.5 inches for easier access to the third row, and they can be tilted forward with a child seat installed.
The sole engine for 2013 is Nissan’s ubiquitous 3.5-liter V-6 mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission, or CVT. Unlike a traditional transmission, which has a fixed number of gears, a CVT has an infinite number of gears, which it constantly varies. This improves fuel economy compared with a traditional transmission. It also can make a vehicle feel sluggish, although that’s not the case here. That said, you’ll never mistake the Pathfinder for something sporty. The Pathfinder’s demeanor is that of a typical family hauler, with a comfortable ride, quiet interior and a personality that’s fairly unexciting.
The Pathfinder’s V-6, rated at 260 horsepower, certainly provides adequate power through the front wheels, or all four, depending on model. Towing is rated at 5,000 pounds.
Surprisingly, while you may never go off-road with it, the Pathfinder is still capable of handling modest off-road duties.
Some may miss the old Pathfinder, but many more will appreciate the new model’s roomy cabin, upscale demeanor, improved fuel economy, lengthy options list and reasonable starting price. It may not be very invigorating to drive, but that’s not a priority in this market segment; suitably spacious accommodations are.
So while the Pathfinder may no longer welcome the muck and mire, it will welcome your family.