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The Essentials

Class: SUV & CUV

Manufacturer: Nissan

Year: 2013

MSRP (as tested): Platinum Edition - $47,053 Base model - $29,998

Fuel Efficiency (City): 10.5 L/100 KM or 22.4 MPG - 2WD 10.8 L/100 KM or 21.7 MPG - 4WD

Fuel Efficiency (Hwy): 7.7 L/100 KM or 30.5 MPG - 2WD 7.9 L/100 KM or 29.8 MPG - 4WD

Average Fuel Cost: Unknown (New Model)

Carbon Emissions: Unknown (New Model)

:Attractive styling; improvements to fuel efficiency; flexibility as a family vehicle

:Lack of visibility of video monitors for those seated in 3rd row; not quite as versatile as a minivan

I’ve always believed that to gauge the progress of an automaker at adapting its product line up to the reality of today’s more intelligent and eco-conscious consumers, you should select a model with several generations of history behind it and compare it from where it started to where it is today. A great example of this would be with the evolution of the Nissan Pathfinder.

The 2013 model year marks the debut of the 4th generation of the Pathfinder and it shows a dramatic transformation from a 2 door, 5 passenger SUV which was built to compete against the Blazers, Broncos and Cherokees of the day into a more refined Crossover vehicle with 4 doors and designed to seat seven. As a father of four who views a 3rd row as standard for family hauling, I was only too happy to take one out for its paces as part of another Enviro Dad Test Drive.

AT FIRST GLANCE

The new Pathfinder has a more refined overall appearance than any of its previous incarnations. Exterior lines show a more sculpted, aerodynamic and less bulky design. Built on the same platform as its upscale cousin, the Infiniti JX35, the Pathfinder has moved away from a rugged adventure type vehicle to one of a more refined family hauler.

Inside the Pathfinder the transformation is more obvious as 3 dedicated rows with plenty of comfort and convenience features built in confirm that Nissan knew the future of the Pathfinder was based in more urban everyday life confines as opposed to rugged weekends at the fishing lodge.

A big part of the shift in the new Pathfinder is in its return to a unibody design which it had in its second generation (1996-2004), from the body-on-frame design which was part of its original and then most recent 3rd generation design. The continuous shift between platforms is a bit concerning, for it shows that even Nissan isn’t sure where the placement of this vehicle belongs. If my vote means anything to them, I’d say stick to where you’ve just come back to.

BEHIND THE WHEEL

When driving a family hauler such as the new Pathfinder has become, the driving experience becomes less about pure performance and more about proficiency. To that extent the new Pathfinder delivers quite well. While some would fear that with the loss of its V8 engine, the new Pathfinder would become underpowered, the new 3.5L V6 produces 260 hp compared to the previous 266, and torque remains very close as well.

The repositioning as a family hauler is enhanced by such niceties as both front and second row heated seats, more engaging and informative displays, and even a heated steering wheel which is available on all but the baseline S model. A significant available panoramic sunroof offers a nice touch of civility as well.

The new Pathfinder is capable of towing up to 5,000 lbs and while I didn’t get a chance to drive it hitched up, my sense is that this vehicle is more than capable of meeting any towing needs associated with most families.

THE GREEN FACTOR

Seven passenger vehicles, by their very nature to this point are not especially fuel efficient and are typically where I penalize when it comes to doing eco-focused reviews. That said, the Pathfinder has undergone some significant changes that make some ardent strides towards being more fuel efficient.

Most significant of course is the fact that all Pathfinders are now powered by a V6 instead of a V8. The matted Xtronic CVT transmission while not loved by all, is nonetheless very good at maximizing fuel efficiency and does well on the Pathfinder. Also worth noting is that even though the new Pathfinder is longer than its previous generation it’s significantly lighter than its predecessor – by as much as 500lbs.

When all of the above factors are combined, Nissan boasts the new Pathfinder offers the best in class fuel efficiency that is rated at 7.7L/100km Highway; 10.5L/100km City and 9.3L/100km Combined for the 2WD model and 7.9L/100km Highway; 10.8/L/100km City and 9.5L/100 km Combined for the 4WD model.

By no means should we be comparing the Pathfinder to a Prius V or Ford C-Max, but certainly these numbers are a step in the right direction.

THE FAMILY FACTOR

Perhaps where the new Pathfinder makes the biggest strides, both good and bad, is in the area of family-friendly attributes.

Most seven-seat capable SUV’s offer a 3rd row that is rather punitive and hard to access. By comparison, the new Pathfinder offers 3 full rows and, thanks to its EZ Flex seating system, makes getting into and out of the 3rd row a breeze. Basically the 2nd row now has 5.5 inches of travel, which allows for the second row to tilt forward and allow access to the 3rd row even if a child safety seat is installed. This is the same system found on the Infiniti JX35 and works very well.

Also on the plus side are the bevy of cup (8) and bottle (6) holders and a tri zone entertainment system designed to keep everyone happy with entertainment options for long drives. That said, the tri zone system is responsible for one of the Pathfinder’s biggest faults.

Optional on the Platinum package are 2 DVD monitor screens that are embedded into the front row headrests. This to me is a big problem since anyone needing a seven seat vehicle is likely to have kids seated in the 3rd row and the two monitors are completely obstructed for anyone sitting in the back. This has the potential for a host of problems and arguments with regards to who gets to see the video and who doesn’t. I truly believe that until the day comes where every seatback can have a monitor such as they have on airplanes, they need to stay as a drop down feature from the roof. If you are thinking about the Pathfinder and you have a need for a 3rd row, DO NOT go for the video package.

Going back to the positive is the fact that the Pathfinder, while getting smaller still has plenty of cargo capacity. With 3 rows in use, the new Pathfinder offers 16 cubic feet of storage space. With the 3rd row down it offers more than 47 cubic feet and with both 2nd and 3rd rows down it provides almost 80 cubic feet of impressive cargo space. This proved very handy to me during my week long test as I needed to pick up 24 boxes of laminate flooring which was soon to be installed at home and I managed to fit it all in with even a bit of room to spare.

FOR THE TECHIES

There are plenty of technological features in the new Pathfinder to keep most techie folks happy. Most impressive is the Around View Monitor system. Using four cameras, it creates a composite image of the Pathfinder from above and displays it on the touch-screen display. This helps visually confirm the vehicle’s position relative to the lines around parking spaces and adjacent objects, allowing the driver to maneuver into parking spots with more ease. I first tried it on the Infiniti JX35 and loved it, so I was delighted to see it on the Pathfinder as well.

Also worth noting is the Easy-Fill Tire Alert system which lights up a simple icon on the dash when they’re low, and then gives you a short beep of the horn when you’ve filled them to the correct pressure.

Beyond that, the touchscreen monitor is easy to use and the earlier mentioned heated steering wheel as well as heated and cooled front seats plus heated rear seats offer a sense of refinement not previously found in earlier Pathfinder incarnations.

SUMMARY

Over a span of more than 25 years, the Nissan Pathfinder has continued to evolve from a rugged sport-ute to what is today a mid-to-high-end crossover vehicle, well suited for the needs of most families. With advances in engineering and engine technology, it has also progressed from a gas guzzler to one that leads others in its category.

While no Crossover or SUV will ever match the true practicality of a minivan for families, those who prefer not be seen in one of the few remaining available minivans would find their needs sufficiently met here. While there are some poor design and optional changes included, overall the Pathfinder seems well positioned in its new life for easy adaptation into the busy lives of most North American families.

TEST DRIVE: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder | DadditudesDadditudes
 
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