Returning to the lot, two cars are parked perilously close to my unblemished new Nissan Pathfinder SUV. But once I’ve wedged myself inside and put the 2013 Pathfinder in reverse, it’s easy to extricate. Just watch the center stack monitor. The 8-inch LCD displays a bird’s-eye view of the car from above, and the traditional rear backing view. It’s almost impossible for a sober driver to ding the Pathfinder in tight spaces if you have the four-camera Around View system. Around View goes far beyond the pending federal mandate that cars manufactured in 2014 have a backup camera system to protect children walking behind the car when it’s reversing.
Nissan and sibling Infiniti are one of the leaders in surround camera systems. Some high-end Infinitis have offered them since 2007. Now they’re filtering into the mainstream Nissan models. It’s hard to put a price tag on Around View because it’s typically in a package. The four-camera system adds an estimated $500-$1,000 in costs to the buyer, more than twice what a backup camera costs. But Nissan requires you buy a Pathfinder $11,000 pricier than the base model to get Around View and other desirable technology.
How it works
Around View employs four cameras. The traditional backup camera is mounted above the rear license plate, a second in the front grille, and two ultra-wide-angle cameras are in the side mirrors, facing down. Stitching software blends the four images and wraps it around an illustration of the vehicle from overhead. What you see looks like you’re floating 20 feet over the center of the car. There is considerable distortion on the sides because cameras are less than 4 feet off the ground and have to cover more than 16 feet of car (the Pathfinder is 197 inches (5m) long). As you roll past the other car, its wheels are oblongs that look a football rolling end to end. If the other car is parked more than 3-4 feet away, you may not see it; if you can, you’ll only see it from the wheel arches down. You can always see the parking lanes which may be all you need to steer out accurately.
Around View is also a boon when pulling exactly into the middle of a parking spot and then telling how close you are to hitting the front wall in a garage, or the concrete berm/curb that endangers some low-slung undersides. Infiniti and Nissan are best-known but others have surround view camera systems including Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota. The automakers benefit from work by third-party chipmakers such as Freescale Semiconductor who craft solutions that can be customized to work with individual automakers’ hardware.
$11,000 bump for the Pathfinder tech you want
The 2013 Pathfinder starts at $28,270 plus $825 freight. To get the Around View Monitor system –- and if you see Around View in action, you’ll want it –- you’ll need to bypass the S, SV, SL and SL Premium trim lines (i.e. model variant) for the $39,170 Platinum edition, leaving only the Platinum Premium line above. Nissan and upscale sibling Infiniti are restrictive on what model variants get what options. Bluetooth and a USB jack can’t be had on the entry Pathfinder, but that’s not uncommon, just silly because an antiquated CD player comes standard and hands-free cellular calling is the law in many states.
The second Pathfinder trim line gets USB, a 7-inch color display, rear camera and rear sonar. This SV model ($32,355 list) is where Nissan starts to gets serious with tech. Only on the Platinum can you get the Around View Monitor, navigation, streaming Bluetooth audio, and an 8-inch monitor. Navigation isn’t even an option on lower trim lines. Compare that to Ford and GM with $795 navigation options, or Hyundai with free navigation on its $30,000 Azera.
Want more tech? Go shop the Infiniti JX
The 2013 Pathfinder shares a common platform with the equally new Infiniti JX luxury SUV (base price $40,650). On the JX, but not the Pathfinder, you find lane departure warning and blind spot detection, part of a $3,300 Technology Package that also includes stop-and-go adaptive cruise control and lane departure prevention (lane keep assist) plus back-up collision intervention (BCI). Infiniti BCI is unique to the market, for now. It takes cross-traffic alert (Ford has it as well) that warns of traffic as you pull out of a parking space and adds (the Infiniti-exclusive part) automatic braking.