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2013 Nissan Pathfinder Following the Trend

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2013 Nissan Pathfinder

By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

We had our first look at the all-new Nissan Pathfinder last week and a briefing by the folks responsible for the model’s development and marketing. It now joins Explorer, Durango and other former SUVs becoming transformed into a CUV. The difference, of course, is that the former are truck-based, body-on-frame vehicles and the latter generally car-based and of unit body construction. Just a few of the reasons for making this switch are reducing weight, improved mileage, more civilized car-like handling and a long-overdue recognition by both buyers and manufacturers that SUV owners seldom, if ever, need or use the off-road capabilities for which they had paid extra with those tough trucky things.

Pathfinder is a 3-row (7-passenger) family vehicle with front- and all-wheel drive putting it in the large CUV category. It was influenced heavily, admits the Nissan team, by focus groups, which is rapidly becoming a less-than-desirable way of designing an automobile, resulting in often a more homogenous product than would be the case if the engineers and designers were given free reign. Nissan has obviously opted for a conservative, though reasonably attractive style and design with this one.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

From the front you’ll not mistake it for anything other than a Nissan. It has the family face. From the rear and side views we see that homogenized character that could be just about anything else. Inside as well, the styling and design are attractive but undistinguished. Functionality was the emphasis here and that appears to be well done, though we’ll need more time with it for a full evaluation.

Powered by Nissan’s ubiquitous 3.5-liter (VQ35) V6, making 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque mated to the newest generation of CVT. The Nissan team claim “best-in-class” mpg at 20-city/26-highway/22-combined, but the Ford Explorer with EcoBoost 4-cylinder will do just a couple clicks better. The Nissan guys quickly explain they refer to the standard powertrain and the EcoBoost is an extra cost option. Contributing to this efficiency is an excellent .34 coefficient of drag and a curb weight of just 4,100 pounds.

In spite of going to a unit body and lightened throughout the Pathfinder still boasts a good 5,000 pound towing capacity.

Loosely based on the new platform underpinning the Infinity JX, launched recently to much acclaim, the Pathfinder is considerably less luxurious, though it offers features not usually seen in the mainstream, like heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, reclining seats in all three rows, heated steering wheel and headrest-mounted entertainment screens. These are options, of course, but the standard version is reasonably well equipped and competitive in the segment.

We were not able to get any road time with the new Pathfinder so can’t provide any driving impressions yet, but I can say the JX impressed with both it’s use of technology and its genteel road manners. Pathfinder, we expect, will be a step below the JX in price, content and road manners, but not as far below as some might expect.

The new Nissan Pathfinder goes on sale soon (fall of 2012) with a base price of about $28,000. Four trim levels will mirror those of the current Pathfinder and a loaded, top-of-the-line Platinum will run around 40 grand.

Watch for a full review closer to the launch date.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved