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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL

      Transformation from rough and tough to family friendly.

    William Maley

    Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com

    October 30, 2013

    The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder caused quite the ruckus when it was introduced at the 2012 New York Auto Show. Nissan announced that the new Pathfinder was leaving its off-road roots that it had for the majority of its life and was turning into a crossover. Of course, most everyone in the automotive world went mad and complained that Nissan was tarnishing the good name of the Pathfinder by going the crossover route.

    However, Nissan is having the last laugh as sales of the new Pathfinder are booming. In 2011, Nissan moved 25,935 Pathfinders. So far this year, Nissan has more than double that with 63,826 Pathfinders finding a good home. But there comes a question; with this transformation, has Nissan been able to make a crossover that deserves the Pathfinder name?

    2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4WD 2

    When I first saw pictures of the 2013 Pathfinder, I thought it looked awkward. In person, it still looks awkward to my eyes. I think it's due to Nissan trying to mesh two design philosophies into one vehicle. Up front is the design language that Nissan uses for its trucks and SUVs. You have a trapezoidal grille and massive headlights that are surrounded with chrome trim. The side profile and back end are more reminiscent of Nissan's passenger sedans with flowing lines and a large greenhouse.

    The Pathfinder's interior is your standard Nissan fare with a plain looking design. Material quality ranges from soft-touch on the interior's touch points to hard materials along the bottom of the dashboard. There is wood trim along the center stack and console that adds a nice touch.

    2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4WD 13

    Taking center stage on the center stack is a seven-inch screen. At first, I thought it was touchscreen that was broken since it wasn't responding. Then I realized Nissan pulled a bit of a bait and switch. If you want a touchscreen on your Pathfinder, you have to step up to the Platinum model which costs an extra $5,000 over the SL model. To move around the system, you have a set of buttons and a large knob below the screen. Once you get the hang of how to work the system, it becomes somewhat easier. But in the back of my head, I'm wondering why Nissan just doesn't go ahead with a touchscreen for the SL.

    That's not the only problem with the Pathfinder SL's tech. The other one is with the Bluetooth system. To start, you can only make phone calls with the system and not stream any audio from your phone or audio device. Nissan has rectified this with the 2014 SL by making it an option, but I think this should be standard across the Pathfinder lineup. Also trying to pair my phone was a pain in the butt ordeal. Whereas most systems have you go into the settings menu to pair your phone, the Pathfinder has you use the voice button on the steering wheel to setup your phone. The only way you know this is by either looking in the owners manual or accidentally hitting the voice button. The setup process is thankfully painless, as is answering phone calls. Trying to make a call is another story. Nissan's voice system couldn't figure out what name I was trying to say and would ask me to repeat. I just found it easier to say the number or dial from my phone and send it to the vehicle.

    2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4WD 11

    Click images to enlarge

    The Pathfinder SL comes with seating for seven people. Comfort varies on where you're sitting in the vehicle. Up front, passengers will find plush seats with good support and adjustments. The second-row offers passengers an abundance of head and legroom. Sadly, I didn't find the seats as comfortable because there isn't enough seat padding and I found the second-row isn't set as high like in the GMC Acadia. The third-row is easy to get to thanks to Nissan's EZ Flex Seating System which flips up the bottom cushion and tilts the back cushion to make the seat more compact and easier to move. This system also allows the seat to be moved if there is an infant seat by only tilting the back cushion. Space in the third row is tight for legroom, while headroom is decent.

    For Powertrain and Ride Impressions, See The Next Page.

    Powering all Pathfinders is the well-known 3.5L VQ V6 with 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet torque paired with Nissan's XTronic CVT. You have the choice of either front-wheel or ALL-MODE 4x4-i. In my notes for the Pathfinder, the power delivery feels like the vehicle is climbing a hill while struggling to keep the speed prior to reaching an rpm where the power delivery becomes more immediate. The engine doesn't feel as powerful on the lower end as it does on the higher end. I'm not sure if this is an issue with the engine's computer or the CVT. Speaking of the CVT, it does a excellent job of keeping the 3.5L V6 quiet, except when you accelerate and the prolonged drone enters the cabin. The EPA rates the 2013 Pathfinder at 19 City/25 Highway/21 Combined. During my week, I saw an average of 22.1 MPG.

    2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4WD 8

    My test Pathfinder came equipped with Nissan's ALL-MODE 4x4-i and it offers three different models via a knob in the center stack,
    • 2WD: Leaves the Pathfinder in front-wheel drive
    • Auto: All-Wheel Drive system kicks in if the system detects a loss of traction
    • Lock: All-Wheel Drive System stays on for a certain amount of time and at certain speed before switching back to Auto.

    I mostly left the system in 2WD, but I switched into Auto when a nasty storm rolled through and dumped a lot of rain. The system did its job and I got to my destination safely.

    2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4WD 1

    As for ride and handling, the Pathfinder is one of the more plush riding crossovers on sale. The suspension isolates bumps and road imperfections from passengers. Steering is light and doesn't really have that much feel, the two traits that are common in the class and are acceptable. One disappointment was how much wind noise the Pathfinder exhibited, especially around the a-pillars.

    The Pathfinder's transformation of being a rough and tough SUV to family friendly crossover has mostly worked out. Nissan got most of the basics right with a comfortable ride, plush interior, high fuel economy numbers, and some clever features. However, some odd decisions made with the infotainment unit, a horrid bluetooth system, and the odd behavior of the powertrain rob the Pathfinder of the best-in-class crown. If Nissan can address these problems in the near future, then we might have a real competitor to GM's Lambda family.

    2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4WD 4

    Click image to enlarge

    Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Pathfinder SL, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas.

    Year: 2013

    Make: Nissan

    Model: Pathfinder

    Trim: SL i-4X4

    Engine: 3.5L VQ V6

    Driveline: All-Wheel Drive, CVT

    Horsepower @ RPM: 260 @ 6400

    Torque @ RPM: 240 @ 4400

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/25/21

    Curb Weight: 4,312 lbs

    Location of Manufacture: Smyrna, TN

    Base Price: $36,070

    As Tested Price: $40,470 (Includes $825.00 Destination Charge)


    SL Premium Package - $2,650.00

    Roof Rail Cross Bars - $300.00

    Illuminated Kick Plates - $275.00

    Carpeted Floor Mats - $200.00

    Splash Guards - $175.00

    William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at [email protected]or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.

    User Feedback

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    I have to say that while I know this CUV will be successful for them and the fit and finish looks solid, I do not like the look. Very plain, generic and just jelly bean shape ugly. The interior will appeal to those that like a plain simplistic dash and layout in my opinion.

    Great Write up Bill, nice job. :)

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