The engineers and designers at Nissan should be given a medal for their efforts with the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder. Although the revamped vehicle is larger than the model it replaces, it weighs up to 227 kilograms less than the last-generation vehicle.
The top-of-the-line Platinum model with four-wheel drive that I drove now tips the scales at 2,044 kilograms, or about 100 kg less than a Ford Explorer.
Perhaps the same engineers were responsible for the powertrain: a 3.5-litre V-6 mated to a CVT. On paper, the two don’t get the blood flowing. First, the engine, with 260 hp and 240 lb.-ft. of torque, produces less power than the outgoing powerplant. The five-speed automatic has been replaced with a CVT, which is great for fuel efficiency but can put an enthusiast into a stupor.
But the lower weight, smooth power band and re-mapped CVT come together to work as an efficient team to impress even a jaded journalist.
Those who do a lot of highway driving will quickly appreciate the new combo. At 100 km/h, the engine spins at only 1,600 r.p.m. With all the added sound insulation, the cabin of the Pathfinder is as quiet as a church on Thursdays.
Nissan claims the new Pathfinder is best-in-class for fuel economy for six-cylinder 4x4 vehicles, with 7.9 on the highway and 10.8 in the city.
The fourth-generation SUV/crossover now rides on a new platform, one it shares with the Infinity JX and Maxima, among others. You only have to sit in last year’s model to fully appreciate the spaciousness of the new cabin. My tester was fitted with dual sunroofs, which contributed further to the airy feel of the interior, even from the third-row seats.
That’s right. The Pathfinder is a true seven-passenger vehicle, with second-row seats that allow parents to slide them forward (for egress to the back seats) without needing to remove a child seat. We saw the same feature in last year’s Infiniti JX, as well. My tester was also equipped with entertainment screens built into the backs of the front-seat headrests and heated rear seats.
Cargo capacity with all seats up is 453 litres. With both rows of seats folded, cargo volume jumps to 2,260 litres. The Pathfinder is rated to tow up to 2,268 kg (5,000 pounds) with its Class-III hitch.
Designers were also busy remodelling the look and feel of the cabin. Gone is the truck-centric dash. In its place are controls on par with up-market offerings such as the JX.
Soft materials, leather, chrome and inlaid faux wood add to the upscale atmosphere of the cabin. In my tester, the front seats can be cooled (a fan draws air from the seat bottom) as well as heated. The controls are extensive, but surprisingly logical and intuitive.
The jewel in the crown is the liberal use of cameras. There are front, rear and side cameras, which gives drivers a bird’s-eye view when parking, which isn’t new. But now the cameras can be used independently.
For example, you can bring up the view of the right front tire at low speeds, which can be helpful for both parking and off-road travel (the Land Rover LR4 has a similar system). That extra level of visibility will be welcomed by all those who have damaged their (expensive) wheels on curbs. At low speeds, you can activate the front camera to give an extra set of eyes on the blind-spot area directly in front of the hood.
While many all-wheel-drive SUVs operate only when called upon, the Pathfinder stands out by allowing the driver to lock the axles in 4x4 mode. While it has hill-start assist (which helps prevent vehicle rollback when starting on an incline), it lacks a hill descent control.
On the blacktop, the Pathfinder’s ride with 235/55 tires on 20-inch wheels was smooth. The new unibody construction gives the vehicle a more car-like ride than the previous generation, which was based on a truck-like body-on-frame construction.
With best-in-class fuel economy from a revised powerplant, a significantly lighter body and an improved and spacious interior, the engineers at Nissan deserve kudos for the 2013. Competitors such as the Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer and others now have to work harder — or hire better engineers and designers.
© Copyright 2013