During my college days, there was a certain kind of boy that was messily preppy and had a penchant for the outdoors, good music and good times; this guy almost always seemed to drive a Nissan Pathfinder. Today, their days are spent at the office, at their kids' sporting events and yes, even driving carpool and going to the grocery store. Times have changed. Thankfully, the Pathfinder has also changed.
The redesigned 2013 Nissan Pathfinder is now much more a family-oriented crossover than it is a college boy's rugged SUV.
The Pathfinder is now built on the same unibody structure as its lauded cousin, the Infiniti JX35. It comes standard with comfortable seating for seven and is filled with thoughtful storage spaces. Family needs weren't overlooked in the redesign: The second-row seats can slide and tip forward with a forward-facing child-safety seat installed in them.
But like those college boys, the Pathfinder retains some of its spirit. For a family car, it's pretty fun to drive. With its 3.5-liter V-6 engine, it has some pickup, handles the stop-and-go traffic on city streets well and makes easy work of passing slower cars on the highway.
The 2013 Pathfinder has a starting price of $29,495, including an $845 destination charge. I tested a midlevel SL trim with front-wheel drive that cost $35,695.
The 2013 Pathfinder trades its boxy looks for curves that help improve its aerodynamics and fuel economy, and I think they give it a generally more feminine aesthetic. This rounder styling is like a man bag or murse: women will laud it for its practicality and style while men might take some time to warm up to it since it doesn't roar with testosterone.
Thanks to the new unibody platform, the Pathfinder's step-in height is passable for small children, and the doors are within reach for most school-aged children. The doors are also reasonably lightweight, making them easy to open and close.
Eighteen-inch aluminum alloy wheels, fog lights and heated power side mirrors are standard on the SL trim. An SL Premium Package ($2,650) adds a panoramic moonroof among other things, and a Trailer Tow Package ($400) is also available, allowing the Pathfinder to tow up to 5,000 pounds. That's less than the previous-generation Pathfinder but probably more than enough given the target market for this crossover.
A power liftgate is standard on the Pathfinder SL. Rear cargo space isn't great with all three rows in use -- it rarely is -- but the addition of a deep under-floor compartment adds to the cargo area's usability. Bonus: It comes in handy for stashing gifts away from the prying eyes of excited children. The Pathfinder's total cargo volume behind the third row is 16 cubic feet. With the second and third rows folded flat -- something that's easily accomplished thanks to the quick pull of a few straps -- it bumps up to nearly 80 cubic feet.
The 2013 Pathfinder has a standard 3.5-liter V-6 engine that makes 260 horsepower. It has a continuously variable automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is available. It gets an EPA-estimated 20/26 mpg city/highway with front-wheel drive and 19/25 mpg with all-wheel drive. It uses regular unleaded fuel.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
The Pathfinder's interior is quite attractive, comfortable and well-equipped. The cabin materials used appear upscale, and the SL trim featured some faux-wood trim, comfortable seating and an intuitive center stack that houses a 7-inch color monitor.
Available features include a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, and a dual-screen DVD entertainment system. The SL Premium Package also includes an upgraded Bose audio system.
Interior storage is impressive with eight cupholders plus six bottleholders for a grand total of 14 beverage holders. That's two beverage slots per passenger in a packed car for those of you doing the math. There is a decent-sized center console that couldn't fit my purse but could hold some snacks, a cellphone and a few other small items. The large glove box with organizational pockets might fit a small handbag -- ahem, or man bag -- and tiered seatback pockets are great for holding kids' books.
Seating for seven is standard and third-row access is great. Thanks to the new Pathfinder's use of the Infiniti JX's technology, the second-row seats slide fore and aft about 5 inches, and they can tilt forward and slide with a forward-facing child-safety seat installed in the second row, which creates third-row access. It's a huge boon for parents of small children. Furthermore, the third row can fit an average-sized adult male, and it reclines for added comfort. The second row has a 60/40 split and the third row is split 50/50.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The Pathfinder has two sets of lower Latch anchors in the second row's outboard seats. They're easy to get to thanks to pliable cushioning. Three top tether anchors are located midway down the second-row seatbacks. The third row doesn't have any lower Latch anchors (I wish it did), but it does have a tether anchor. Seat belt buckles are on stable bases, making it possible for older children to strap themselves in independently. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has given the 2013 Pathfinder an overall safety score of four stars of five. It earned four stars in the frontal crash test and rollover-resistance test. It received five stars in the side-impact crash test.
The Pathfinder SL has standard front-wheel drive, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with traction control, a backup camera with rear parking sensors and six airbags, including side curtains for all three rows. The standard Easy Fill Tire Alert system includes an individual tire pressure display, which is something I find useful because I detest having to figure out which tire is giving me trouble.
All-wheel drive is optional.