First Look: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder Loses Weight, Gains Fuel Economy

By Keith Buglewicz | August 03, 2012
After dribbling out information for months on the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, the Japanese manufacturer has finally spilled the beans on its all-new crossover. Yes, we said crossover. Long a body-on-frame truck, the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder eschews its SUV roots and jumps into the same soft-roader pool as the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and the new Ford Explorer, which made a similar change with its most recent edition. Rather than a shrunken version of the Nissan Armada, the Pathfinder is now an elongated version of the Nissan Murano, which itself is based on the Nissan Altima. What does it mean to you? More space, less weight, and better fuel economy for starters. The Pathfinder loses some of its off-road ability, but we—and Nissan—are pretty confident that few people will notice, or even care.
What's New about everything? The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder shares its name with its predecessor, and not much else. Dropping the off-road gear also dropped 500 pounds off the body, which directly contributes to what Nissan says is best-in-class fuel economy of 20 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined for front-wheel drive models (all-wheel drive gets 19/25/21). However, Nissan says that the Pathfinder still is off-road capable, although we're assuming that means well-established dirt trails. However, it does have a standard towing capacity of 5,000 pounds, meaning that you can still tow a small boat or trailer on your camping excursions.
The new Pathfinder's styling hews to the Nissan truck philosophy of bold and brash. The huge chrome grille and the Pathfinder's silhouette could be mistaken for any of Nissan's bigger trucks. However, the surface details are telling. The new Pathfinder's fenders bulge with toughness, but with smooth curves, not harsh boxes. The taillights flow into the rear fenders and tailgate, looking much more minivan than tough-truck. The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder also sits lower, with a much more car-like stance than previous versions.
The same is true inside the Pathfinder. Gone are any references to truckness. Instead, the Pathfinder's interior is an elegant and sweeping assembly of curves, materials, and textures that look more luxury than layman. If you've driven an Infiniti or Nissan in the past five years, you'll feel right at home. Engines and Drivetrains There's one engine choice for the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder: a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that puts out 260 horsepower. That's a smaller engine than the previous generation, and its default setting is to drive the front wheels, not the rear, thanks to the new chassis. However, all-wheel drive is available as an option, with driver-selectable front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, or an automatic mode that will make the decision for you based on available traction. No matter whether the front or all four wheels are getting power from the engine, it's routed through a continuously variable automatic transmission. Nissan has committed to CVT's, and subsequently done better with them than any other manufacturer. However, considering that CVTs are rarely used in the rugged world of off-roading, its use here is clearest signal of all that the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder has given up its brush-beating heritage.
Safety and Technology While exact specifics on safety equipment haven't been released, it's safe to assume that Nissan will at least make available all the latest gadgetry. Nissan's Around View monitor will be available, which gives you a birds-eye view of your surroundings in tight parking spots; it's really handy. And, of course, expect lots of airbags, things like backup sensors, probably blind spot detection, and other electronic goodies designed to keep pace with the competition.
One area Nissan is bragging about is its EZ Flex Seating System with LATCH AND GLIDE (and that's the last time we're going all-caps with that...sorry, Nissan). LATCH and Glide is designed to accommodate a child safety seat in the second row, but still allow you to fold and slide the seat without having to remove Junior's booster, although removing Junior himself is still a good idea. It's a big nod to convenience for parents, and we look forward to trying it out in the real world. Our Thoughts While the previous-generation Pathfinder was a perfectly good off-road vehicle, few people actually used that ability to the fullest. In the meantime, that trucky Pathfinder was widely criticized for its lack of interior room, poor fuel economy, and truck-like ride and handling when compared to its largely crossover competition. Nissan still offers up a good variety of off-road vehicles for the dirty-tires set—the Xterra and Armada are both full off-road capable—but the Pathfinder's transition to a crossover fills a hole in the company's lineup. Our hunch is that, like the new Ford Explorer, the new Pathfinder is going to find no shortage of takers.
Leisa Judge
Leisa Judge

Very disappointed in you guys. What a disgrace. I thought about trading in my 2006 for a newer model of my tough girl. Guess i'll buy a TOYOTA.