2013 Nissan Pathfinder ReviewFebruary 8, 2013
- Solid road manners
- Adult-accessible/friendly 3rd row
- Roomy interior
- Competitive fuel economy
- Bland acceleration
- Stock tires’ winter performance
- Slow cornering
- Limited visibility over corners of hood
No longer a tough SUV, the Pathfinder struck me at first as average—power, handling, cargo space, price, feel—but left me duly impressed with its real-world practicality.
It was hard for me to get over the fact that the Pathfinder had gone from the boxy, tough 4×4 SUV of my youth to a stretched out family vehicle, made worse by the fact that my test version came with front-wheel drive (there is an AWD version).
However, the interior on the SL model I tested was a serious upgrade: the cockpit felt like I was at the helm of a spacecraft from Star Trek (sleek, low-profile, everything within easy reach). The seats were supportive with plenty of shoulder and hip room. Even the second- and third-row seats were friendly to six-footers like me.
Nissan’s installed an simple yet ingenious second row seat that slides forward and offers easy access to the third row. It’s so well done that I think the 3rd row will see regular use, a la minivan, instead of being an afterthought or reserved for rambunctious kids only.
The Pathfinder’s cargo space with the seats down is comparable to the other seven-passenger crossovers at 80 feet of cargo space, but there are gaps between the 2nd and 3rd row seats that will easily swallow smaller bits of gear—you’ll want to spread a large blanket over them to catch anything.
In the rear cargo area, a lid in the floor behind the 3rd row uncovers a hidden storage space that can hold two 12-packs of bottled beer, a wetsuit, or your muddy gear from canyoneering. It also nicely bumps up the Pathfinder’s luggage hauling capacity with space for small packs, handbags, or sleeping bags.
On the Road
The Pathfinder is big. It’s long. Those two things make for a solid and pleasingly stable ride for an SUV with 6.5 inches of ground clearance (By comparison, the Subaru Outback has better than 8 inches).
The 260-hp V6 engine is mated to a continuously variable transmission that’s always searching for the ideal gear ratio. This helps squeeze as much fuel economy as possible from the engine, but it makes the Pathfinder a bit slow from a stop. Once up to speed, the transmission gets the most out of the V6 and returns an EPA 20 city/26 hwy. On my trips around town, I notched around 20-22 mpg.
In terms of handling, the vehicle’s length and the forward placement of the front wheels relative to the driver’s seat made me feel as if I was piloting a boat; the car seemed to be turning ahead of me, not with me. It took some getting used to, but for the first day, driving into parking lots or parallel parking took more thought than I’m used to. Not helping was the blind spot caused by the bulbous front quarter panels, which house the headlamps, and made it difficult to gauge how close I was getting to fire hydrants. Off-road this could make tight, forested or canyon tracks more nerve-wracking than expected.
A snowstorm and sub-freezing temps left the streets with ice patches that overmatched the Pathfinder’s stock all-season tires and caused the vehicle’s traction control system to work overtime, especially when stopping suddenly. This isn’t a knock against the car, just Nissan’s choice in tires. Just know that you’ll want snow tires on this baby if you live in snow and ice country.