If you’re like most Americans, you either drive an SUV or want one. Don’t believe me? One in three vehicles sold on our shores in the past 12 months was an SUV or crossover, despite skyrocketing fuel prices. Of course, those fuel prices mean the demographic of the SUV smorgasbord has shifted from gas-guzzling truck-based off-roaders to unibody “crossovers.” Although Nissan is a little late to the soft-road party, they are countering their tardiness by doubling down on standard towing and fuel economy. What’s the reality and what’s it like to drive? Click through the jump and find out as we go off-roading and tow an Airstream.
2013 Nissan Pathfinder Drive Review - YouTube
Despite having made the transition to unibody construction in 1996 (and back to body-on-frame in 2005) Pathfinders were recognizable as Pathfinders. The 2013 model on the other hand is instantly recognizable as a Nissan, but the Pathfinder lineage is far less obvious. The reason for this of course is that the 2013 model is a clean-sheet design that was penned at the same time as its close cousin the Infiniti JX. Nissan’s first unibody design was an attempt to compete with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the fourth generation Pathfinder has Ford’s Explorer and the GM Lambda triplets in its crosshairs. Mission accomplished.
The outgoing Pathfinder shared its interior with the Frontier and as a result had a more rugged, lower-rent truck-like interior. The 2013 Pathfinder’s transformation is much like GM’s GMT360 to Lambda transformation. The new Pathfinder has an upscale interior with near-luxury fit and finish and a more sedan-like cockpit. Parts sharing with the Infiniti JX35 is high with air vents, switch gear, seat frames and LCD shared between the two. This top-down parts sharing is good for Pathfinder shoppers, but only time will tell if there is enough differentiation between the Pathfinder and JX to make Infiniti shoppers happy.
For Pathfinder duty, Nissan lifted their corporate infotainment systems without much change. The base $28,270 Pathfinder S combines a 6-speaker audio system and in-dash 6-CD changer. The base model’s glaring omissions include the lack of: Bluetooth, AUX input and a USB/iPod interface. Stepping up one trim-level (to the $31,530 SV) gets the driver a 7-inch LCD, Bluetooth, AUX input and a USB/iPod interface at the cost of the 6-disc changer (all other models get a single disc MP3/CD player.) Hopping up to the SL Premium (Nissan hasn’t released pricing on this one) gets the buyer the same 13-speaker Bose sound system as the mid-level trims of Infiniti JX35, right down to the Bose subwoofer. As long as you don’t need your bass to rattle your windows, the system is impressive.
Should navigation be on your short list, you’ll need to jump up to the $39,170 Platinum. Doing so gets you an 8-inch high-resolution touch-screen display pared with the Bose system and an in-dash DVD player. This Nissan system is one of the more responsive and intuitive systems on the market providing easy iPod/USB integration and an interesting novelty in the automotive world: a navigation joystick/wheel, steering wheel navigation controls and a touchscreen. This allows you to choose whether you enter data on the steering wheel, use the joystick/wheel device or just touch the screen.
Nissan has set the starting price for the Pathfinder S (FWD) at $28,270, undercutting all the primary competition. As with most CUVs, beware, prices build quickly. Due to the way Nissan has structured the options list, the minimum point of entry for navigation is $39,170, nearly $4,000 more than an Explorer but only about $1,000 more than a Traverse. Most of the models we had on hand to test were well equipped SL models around $38,000 or fully loaded Platinum models around $44,000.