This is one of those reviews to pay attention to as C&D's reviewers aren't just driving the new Pathfinder for a day but for almost as long as a real owner would. So far they had it for 5 months, see what they had to say below and comment below.
Photos, Specs & Full Review: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder AWD Long-Term Test – Review – Car and DriverMonths in Fleet: 5 months
Current Mileage: 17,075 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 20 mpg
Range: 390 miles
Normal Wear: $0
Damage and Destruction: $1066
The Nissan Pathfinder isn’t what it once was. Like the Ford Explorer, this one-time hardbody truck has morphed into a mom-bomb crossover. Towing capacity and cargo volume are now secondary concerns to fuel economy, comfort, and refinement. The V-8 engine has disappeared, the drivetrain has flipped to a front-wheel bias, and the sheetmetal has melted like a minivan’s. There’s no question that Nissan needed a three-row crossover to keep up with buyers’ changing tastes, but we were curious to see if a softer utility vehicle could live up to the Pathfinder name, so we ordered one for a 40,000-mile test.
All Pathfinders come with a 260-hp V-6 paired to a continuously variable transmission, and we opted for the only drivetrain upgrade, from front- to all-wheel drive. The top-trim Platinum AWD model ($41,595) we’ve put in our long-term test fleet brings a 13-speaker Bose stereo, heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, navigation, three-zone climate control, and a 120-volt power outlet. It also has a towing package—to make use of the Pathfinder’s respectable 5000-pound capacity—and rear backup sensors and overhead-view cameras that make parking this large crossover a breeze. In addition, we specified the Premium package, which adds a rear-seat DVD system with two seven-inch screens and a pair of wireless headphones, along with dual sunroofs for $2300. With $200 for a set of carpeted floor mats, the final price of our tester came to $44,095, raising an interesting question: At $650 more than the starting price of its mechanical twin, the Infiniti JX35, is our loaded Pathfinder a luxury-ute scab? That’s a question we intend to answer with more miles under our collective belt.
Stop and Go
Shortly after clearing the 1200-mile break-in, we hustled the Pathfinder to the track for its preliminary test. The results fell right in line with what we’ve come to expect from family crossovers of this size. The 7.2-second 0-to-60-mph time is hardly slow, but the Pathfinder doesn’t feel as quick as that number suggests. The CVT slurs the initial response and muddles the traditional relationship between the tachometer and speedometer, giving the driver the impression that the engine needs to work harder than most others. The quarter-mile arrived in 15.6 seconds at 92 mph, and top speed is governed to 121 mph. Lateral grip was limited to 0.76 g by a stability control system that can’t be fully defeated, and the fade-resistant brakes hauled the Pathfinder from 70 mph to a standstill in 170 feet.
We put those brakes to good use months later when, in stop-and-go Chicago traffic, a cabby darted in front of the Pathfinder, nearly clipping the front right quarter-panel. Unfortunately, the driver of the Chevrolet Traverse behind us didn’t react as quickly. During the ensuing trip to the body shop, the Nissan acquired a new rear bumper cover, valance panel, and towing wiring harness at a cost of $1066. We’ve made stops at 7500 and 14,000 miles for regular maintenance, plus an unplanned visit to the dealer when both daytime running lights extinguished at about 5000 miles on the odometer. The bulbs were replaced free of charge.
Function before Fun
Early impressions have lauded the Pathfinder for its utility. Its second row slides fore-and-aft, providing generous legroom in the third row. Alternately, the rear-most seats fold completely flat to create a cavernous cargo area. Yet despite all the interior space, the Pathfinder was clearly designed to haul two adults and their brood rather than a pair of couples heading out to dinner. The middle bench sits close to the floor, and the seat pan is too short to provide thigh support for grown adults. But for family road trips, the Pathfinder has been a reliable and practical set of wheels. We only wish we were averaging more than 20 mpg, which is only 1 mpg higher than the Pathfinder’s EPA city rating.
Our drivers are less enthusiastic about the experience at the helm. The Pathfinder’s cabin is reasonably quiet, and its body motions are nicely controlled. The six-cylinder’s 240 lb-ft of torque easily move the crossover around town without provoking the CVT’s high-rpm fury. But when merging onto a highway or passing a dawdling car, we can’t help thinking how much more enjoyable a crisp-shifting six-, seven-, or eight-speed would be. The steering leaves something to be desired, with the boost from the electrohydraulic assist occasionally wavering in turns. Whether our 40,000 miles will be defined by tepid driving dynamics or memorable road trips remains to be seen.