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A change in Pathfinder’s calling

"The sharp angles of the asserted silhouette have given way to curves. The new Pathfinder looks like a tall family vehicle."

NAPA, Calif. - The season is beautiful and the wine, delicious. That is Nissan’s way of celebrating the new Pathfinder. This 4th generation off-road bad boy has changed its calling. Nissan even succeeded in adapting the new platform to the Infiniti division, the new JX borrowing most the new architecture.

Our presenter introduced all the novelties presented in the past few months. But the wave doesn’t stop there. The new hatchback Versa will be presented sometime in spring 2013. Another new product should be introduced at the same time but no details whatsoever could be squeezed out of the spokesperson. We already had our hands full with two vehicles to try during our four-day stay in the Californian wine valley.

The adventurous side of Pathfinder had something sexy, both for its very macho looks and its versatility. Those of you who liked it that way are going to be disappointed by this new redesign. Looking at it, it reminds me of a mix of Dodge Durango and previous-generation Hyundai Santa Fe. The sharp angles of the asserted silhouette have given way to curves. The new Pathfinder looks like a tall family vehicle.

The front section is branded with the huge maker’s logo, located in the middle of the grille. The rest is very generic and could belong to any other builder. But we have to acknowledge the inferior CX which makes for a better fuel economy. It has also shed close to 500 pounds.

The cabin is well presented with wood and aluminum appliques, varying according to the model chosen, and good quality leather. The dashboard is similar to what is currently being done with Infiniti. The tools are clear and easy to use. The main point of interest is located at the back though. The second row of seats can be slid forward and folded to ease access to the 3rd row, without having to remove a child seat, for instance, that might otherwise be in the way. The last row seats are also quite comfortable, considering what they are, and the same can’t be said very often.

Nissan’s management has a very specific idea of what its customers want. Nowadays, buyers are looking for space, tech accessories such as the Bluetooth and the GPS and don’t care so much about performance. This is why the Nissan engineers equipped Pathfinder with a V6, 3.5-litre engine only, developing 260 hp and a 240 lb.-ft. torque. You have to understand that it can also tow up to 5,000 pounds. So if you do the math, add four adult passengers, the luggage and a camper at the back, the V6 might suffer a bit.
The organizers offered us to try the Pathfinder with a camper tied at the back to test the towing capacities. I have to admit that it does pretty well…with an empty cargo and cabin that is.

The V6 is teamed up with a six-gear CVT dragged by a chain, not a belt, for a matter of resistance. The Pathfinder is also the first model of the segment to be geared up with this type of transmission box. The system is efficient but my allergy to CVTs keeps me from fully enjoying it.

Both front wheel drive and all-wheel drive are available on the new Pathfinder. The latter offers three different modes. By pressing a button, you can chose between front wheel drive, the automatic mode that will adapt to the road conditions and the AWD that will keep the 4x4 active at all time. Four trims are also available; S, SV, SL and Premium with a price range that will vary between $29,998 and $45,198.

Overall, the new Pathfinder has nothing from its previous generations save the name. The switch in personality shows a desire to adapt to the changing market reality. While the numbers show an increase in the sales of the competitors such as the Honda Pilot, the Ford Explorer or the Toyota Highlander, those of the Pathfinder were stagnant. This new generation should do better and mostly comply to the demands of a new generation of customers.

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Fact File
2013 Nissan Pathfinder
Price range: $29,998-$45,198
Warranties: 3 years/ 60,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 100 000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Buick Enclave; Chevrolet Traverse; Dodge Durango; Ford Explorer; Honda Pilot; Toyota Highlander
Strengths: spacious; good assembly quality; runs smoothly
Weaknesses: anonymous silhouettes; V6 a bit short; CVT

2013 Nissan Pathfinder: what's new? |
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