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IntroductionAdapt or die. This Darwinian adage applies to birds, business and, well, family SUVs. And so the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder adapts to the needs of consumers by breaking away from its trucklike, off-road-ready roots to become a more comfortable, car-based, family-ready crossover SUV.
The previous Pathfinder was a heavy, rugged truck adept at off-road adventures and towing. But its downsides included cramped quarters for second- and third-row passengers, a trucklike driving demeanor and mediocre fuel mileage. Nissan figured that on a daily basis most folks would prefer a comfortable cabin and good fuel economy to infrequently used extreme capabilities.
That's why the redesigned 2013 Pathfinder is built on a unibody structure shared with the equally new Infiniti JX crossover. It adopts a 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 matched to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The vehicle is 500 pounds lighter than the one it replaces, one factor in fuel economy estimates of 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 22 combined, which make the Pathfinder one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles in a class that includes the Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot.
Yes, the lighter and more efficient new Pathfinder gives up some towing capacity to its forebear, but it can still tow up to 5,000 pounds. That's a strong number for a midsize, seven-passenger crossover whose duties probably won't stray far from pulling a pair of jet skis to the lake or carting the kids to sports and dance practices. Like the Infiniti JX, the Pathfinder offers a sliding second-row seat that can tilt and fold forward even with a child seat in place, making access to the adult-friendly third row much easier.
Still a Pathfinder, but it needs a path
What Nissan hasn't kept as much of is the Pathfinder's off-road ability. The 2013 model, if you order 4WD over the base front-wheel drive, has no low range, no skid plates, no hill descent control, or any other indication of serious intent. But it does have a 4WD Lock mode, which you may be limited to use anyhow as there's just 6.5 inches of ground clearance—less than a Subaru Outback. In all fairness, it's likely that more Outback owners than Pathfinder owners would actually take their vehicles off the pavement.
The new Pathfinder seems to apologize profusely for past Pathfinder inadequacies with handling that's near the head of the class among large three-row SUVs, as well as relatively precise, well-weighted electro-hydraulic steering. Nissan has cut up to 500 pounds versus the previous Pathfinder, and it drives like one of the lighter three-row vehicles (it is). Don't get us wrong; this isn't an enthusiast's drive, and the ride quality is soft and absorbent. It could be more capable and fun, but the grip was so limited from the low-rolling-resistance Continental Cross Contact tires on the Pathfinder SL test vehicle we spent the most time with, that unless you're okay shrieking the tires around your subdivision's streets and accidentally peeling out on a regular basis, we'd go so far as to recommend a new set.
Powertrains and PerformanceThe 2013 Nissan Pathfinder is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 good for 260 hp and 240 pound-feet of torque. A CVT and front-wheel drive are standard. An optional all-wheel-drive system automatically apportions power between the front and rear axles as needed or allows the driver to lock in a 50/50 ratio.
In Edmunds performance testing, a four-wheel-drive Pathfinder went from zero to 60 mph in 8.0 seconds, which is a little better than average. EPA fuel economy estimates are 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 19/25/21 with 4WD. Properly equipped, the Pathfinder can tow 5,000 pounds.
Great mileage for such a big vehicle
The reason for those tires is likely that they enable some rounding-up for mileage; the 2013 Pathfinder includes near-best-in-class EPA fuel economy ratings of up to 20 mpg city, 26 highway with front-wheel drive. With a 19.5-gallon fuel tank, that's a driving range of around 500 miles, and in driving over about 150 miles that included mostly two-lane backroads, with a heavy right foot, we saw the trip computer settle to an average of about 21 mpg—great for such a big vehicle.
Driving ImpressionsAlthough Nissan likely makes the best CVT in the business, acceleration off the mark is a bit sluggish, though it pulls nicely once underway (hence the competitive 0-60 time). Overall performance is smooth and more than adequate, especially in light of the promising fuel economy figures. Although the brake pedal feels a bit spongy, the brakes themselves are strong enough, with shorter than average stopping ability.
The priority of the chassis engineers was clearly achieving a comfortable, quiet ride over broken pavement and when cruising on the highway. The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder's handling, however, is rather tepid, with lazy turn-in response and noticeable body roll when pushed. If you want to feel more connected to the road, we suggest opting for the Mazda CX-9 or Nissan's five-passenger Murano.source:edmund.com,thecarconnection.com
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