The Nissan Pathfinder has been around since the earliest days of the SUV craze. Designed originally as a two door Utility on a truck chassis, it’s gone back and forth between a frame and a unibody and through significant size variations as well over its life cycle.
Now fully restyled for 2013, the new Pathfinder finds itself as a full size crossover on a FWD unibody platform shared with the Murano and Quest. The only thing familiar is the name and that’s a bit misleading now, the only paths I can see it following are paved ones. Past owners may not be interested any more, but it turns out that the new version has a lot to offer in the full sized crossover segment.
It’s large. That’s all I could really say when they dropped it off. The styling cues include square edges and a very upright greenhouse, so it seems even larger than it really is. I started singing the “Canyonero” theme song and double checked the badge to see if they had delivered an Armada by mistake. But when I parked it next to a new GMC Acadia (GM’s Lambda crossover and- along with the Ford Explorer- one of its closest competitors) it was actually a little bit smaller. Turns out the Pathfinder is about five inches shorter, an inch narrower, and slightly taller than the Lambda, so maybe it’s not quite the behemoth that it first seems to be.
It comes in no fewer than six versions, as Nissan like to call them- all the way from the spartan S to the Platinum Premium. My SL 4X2 ($34,470 base) was in the upper range and featured a nicely trimmed leather interior, power liftgate and remote starting - and the SL Premium package got me dual panorama sunroofs and Bose audio.But there was still lots of room for upward mobility- Platinum ($39,550) would add 20” wheels, navigation, and All Around Monitor, and the top of the line a Platinum Premium ($41,850) features a tri zone entertainment system.
I didn’t even turn on the optional dual DVD package ($1850) in my test car, and I would have gladly swapped it for Nissan’s excellent navigation system. All told, my car listed for $40,720, including splash guards ($150), cross roof bars ($200), floor mats ($200), illuminated kick plates ($275) and the aforementioned SL Premium package ($2650 after a $400 special discount.) Add the destination charge ($825) and you’re just over forty grand.
You expect a nicely appointed car for that, and the Pathfinder did not disappoint. The interior was quite nicely finished- a notch below what I would expect from Infiniti but consistent overall. From the dash graining to the square weave carpeting on the floor mats, it all had a nice and consistent look. The seats were quite supportive and comfortable and my only regret really was the lack of navigation.
It goes without saying that when someone gives you a car this big, the only rational thing to do is to take it on a road trip- so of course I did- a 300 mile weekender over to Burbank to check out the legendary Bob’s Big Boy Friday Cruise Night and get to know the Pathfinder. My first observation was that the interior looked ridiculously empty with only me and my overnight bag in a car that was clearly designed to take the Brady Bunch to the Grand Canyon, but once I got over the guilt I found the car quite capable and comfortable on the road.
The ride and handling were both smooth and carlike, and the leather seating quite comfortable on the road. The Pathfinder held its position in traffic with confidence- pretty impervious to crosswinds, the 3.5 liter engine (in 260 hp tune) was more than up to the task, and the CVT transmission all but imperceptible. But the biggest surprise of all was fuel economy- the Pathfinder 4X2 is rated at 20 city, 26 highway- which sounds pretty good for a beast of this size- but I actually averaged 29.5 on the way to LA and broke the 30 barrier on the way back with 30.5. For a vehicle of this size, I was duly impressed. It’s a most capable highway cruiser. City mileage was around 22- and that’s certainly no disappointment for a vehicle of this size.
I came away from my week with the Pathfinder much more impressed than I expected to be. It’s no enthusiast’s dream, but it’s well finished inside and out and quite capable of gobbling up long stretches of highway. It’s too big for my needs, but if your household has more little Bradys than mine does and you’re taking them to the Grand Canyon this summer, then the Pathfinder shoots to the top of the consideration list.