When we first saw the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, it was in Manhattan, as in Manhattan, New York, not Manhattan, Kansas, though truth be known, more Pathfinders have been sold to folks in urban and suburban areas than in rural areas. If for no other reason, that’s because there are more people in urbanized areas than in the boonies.
Of course, no one owns a car in Manhattan itself, at least a not car that isn’t taxicab yellow. But downtown Manhattan was an upscale place to show its Pathfinder in a static reveal, so that’s where we went. We still looked forward to an opportunity to drive the Pathfinder on our home turf, to experience it on a day-to-day basis, and see what kind of fuel economy Nissan’s big crossover SUV turned in.
As we noted from the Manhattan reveal, Nissan essentially picked up the Pathfinder name and slid a new vehicle in under it. The old Pathfinder, expiring after the 2012 model year, had exemplified a large SUV rugged character, with heavy-duty body-on-frame construction and a big, heavy-duty V-8 or V-6 engine choice, heavy-duty off-road ability and a heavy-duty tow rating.
The problem is, most people hadn’t used near the heavy-duty capabilities of the Pathfinder, and those heavy-duty capabilities had come with a substantial cost in fuel economy—which wasn’t good for owners or Nissan’s corporate fleet fuel economy rating—as well as a more sophisticated and quiet ride.
Hence the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, built on a unit body structure. It gives up 2,000 lbs of tow rating—from 7,000 lbs to 5,000 lbs—but that will be missed by few Pathfinder owners. However, fuel economy takes a giant leap, thanks in part from improved aerodynamics and also from as much as 500 lbs weight savings. The best of the 2012 Pathfinderwas the rear-wheel drive 4.0-liter 6-cylinder model with and EPA rating of 15/20 mpg city/highway and worst, the four-wheel drive 5.6-liter V-8, at 13/18 mpg. Compare that to the 2013 Pathfinder. The front-wheel drive 3.5-V-6 has a 20/26 mpg rating and the all-wheel drive 19/25 mpg. Like we said, a whole new vehicle. For the record, we recorded 21.2 mpg in mixed driving, which is pretty darn good for a seven-passenger all-wheel drive vehicle, especially considering our test venue includes hills, which we’ve found don’t do anything good for gas mileage.
Passenger configuration for the Pathfinder is a 2/3/2 layout. The second row slides fore-and-aft by five inches, depending on who gets to have the most leg room. But even with the second row all the way forward, its occupants still plenty of room for their legs. The third row is, well, the third row. It’s amenable to adults though the seat bottom isn’t high off the floor, so fully-grown people will ride somewhat knees up.
Despite the all-wheel drive system, the floor is flat, sure to be appreciated by that person in the middle of the second row, who won’t spend any trip staring at his or her knees or otherwise finding a place for feet.
A nifty when accessing the third row is the ability for the second row to be tipped forward without removing a child seat to do so. The min-person must still be taken out of the seat, but it’s better than the rigamarole required to take the seat out.
What’s more, even with the third row in place, there’s room in the cargo area for a modicum of sports equipment or week’s worth of food for the family, teenage boys excluded. There’s also a secret—don’t tell anyone—bin under the rear cargo floor, though with the Bose audio system, a third of it is taken up by the woofer system.
The front seats are thrones. Long drives? Piece of cake. The ride has no remnant of truck-like heavy-framed ride, too, nor truck-like road noise. We hate to invoke the overused description “car-like,” but there you go.