It’s been a busy time for Nissan designers and engineers as the Japanese brand has rolled out several revised products in 2012, with more to come.
One of the latest models to undergo a redesign is the seven-seat 2013 Pathfinder, a sport-utility vehicle that is now in its fourth generation. And Nissan will be counting on the all-new Pathfinder to gain traction in the sales department to catch up to the competition.
Early results are promising, said Tim Franklin, Nissan’s senior manager of product planning, during a media presentation on the Pathfinder in Vancouver.
It was a pretty good place to give journalists a first spin behind the wheel of the redesigned SUV, with a drive planned from downtown Vancouver to Squamish, B.C., along the Sea to Sky Highway.
Unlike the previous Pathfinder, which was a body-on-frame construction and offered a choice of two engines, the 2013 model is a unibody construction and offers but one power plant. It’s a 3.5-litre V6 engine that delivers 260 horsepower and 240 foot-pounds of torque in either a two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive set-up.
The engine is paired to a Nissan continuously variable transmission, but with a little twist.
Instead of a CVT belt, as used in most systems, the Xtronic CVT on the Pathfinder uses a chain, increasing durability, according to Nissan.
What that also does, in my opinion, is make the CVT much more palatable and — dare I say it — enjoyable.
Instead of the constant drone of a traditional Nissan CVT, the one in the Pathfinder feels much more like a normal automatic with all the benefits of a CVT, including low engine rpm at highway speeds for improved fuel economy.
And while redesigning the Pathfinder, Nissan engineers also put it on a diet, trimming several hundred pounds, which translates into even more savings at the pump.
Speaking of which, fuel efficiency for the redesigned Pathfinder is estimated at 10.5 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 7.7L/100 km on the highway for the front-wheel-drive version.
For the all-wheel-drive version, the numbers are 10.8 in the city and 7.9 on the highway.
When you opt for a 4WD version, you get to control the system via the “All-Mode 4x4-i” knob in the centre console, allowing you to select between 2WD, 4WD lock or auto mode.
And since many people will be using the Pathfinder for trips to the cottage or for hauling gear, the vehicle has a standard towing capacity of 5,000 pounds.
That is on top of a maximum cargo volume of 79.8 cubic feet.
The SUV has grown in just about every way possible, from a wider wheelbase to a longer overall vehicle and more interior volume.
The 2013 Pathfinder is, however, a full three inches lower than the outgoing model, so getting in and out is a little bit easier.
The new Pathfinder is not only utilitarian, it is also stylish.
The design is now much more aerodynamic than that of the previous generation, thanks to more rounded edges.
The front end has a fair bit of chrome and a variant of the new Nissan front end, which I like. The silhouette is now much less boxy, with flowing lines and a more modern approach to the SUV’s design.
The exterior look is completed with new wheel designs that range from 18-inches on the S trim, to 20-inches on the Platinum level.
The interior wasn’t spared when designers rethought the layout, and the result is a nice cabin that has an upscale feel and appearance.
The centre stack is chock full of buttons and knobs, but everything is pretty easy to decipher and operate.
Some models see the controls topped with an eight-inch touch screen that doubles in use for the navigation system or any number of other driver-selectable systems and settings.
In many vehicles with room for seven, getting into the third row can sometimes be a challenge.
But the Pathfinder makes that task easier thanks to rear large door openings and the EZ Flex Seating system, which sees the second-row seat slide forward up to 5½ inches for easier egress to the third row.
If you have a child seat strapped into the second row, that’s not a problem. The Latch and Glide system still allows the second-row seat to move forward so your passenger can get into the back seat.
Pricing for the Pathfinder starts at $29,998 for the S 2WD model, and goes all the way up to $42,098 for the Platinum 4WD model.
Standard features include keyless entry with push-button ignition, power windows and doors, vehicle dynamic control and a tire-pressure monitoring system with easy-fill tire alert.
With the new design, engine and CVT, as well as good fuel economy and versatility, the Pathfinder is ready, now more than ever, to take on the competition in a very tough segment.
Read more: Montreal Auto Show: Nissan Pathfinder gets redesign