2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4×4

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For those of you who don’t ‘get’ the whole car ‘thing’ and just want somebody to tell you what 7-passenger 4-wheel drive CUV to buy, this is what you need to know.  The redesigned 2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4×4 is my new, favourite, affordable CUV.  It’s well-priced with an MSRP of $37,698, loaded with everything you need (except Nav), comes prepped for trailer towing with a hitch receiver and wiring, it can tow up to 5,000 lbs., has best fuel economy in its segment, and its smooth, powerful 3.5-litre V6 engine is a gem (making Ward’s AutoWorld Magazine Ten Best Engines list five years in a row.)

Our test vehicle SL 4×4 (one model down from the top of the range Platinum) comes with an impressive array of standard features – heated steering wheel, heated front and second row seats, power liftgate, backup camera, two panoramic moonroofs, rear sonar system, remote starter, and  tow hitch receiver and trailer wiring to name a few.

Everything is new about the Pathfinder this year.  It’s lighter, significantly more fuel efficient, and much more civilized than the last generation.  This is the fourth generation of Pathfinder, and Nissan has shifted this CUV’s design philosophy to broaden its appeal.  The outgoing Pathfinder was a true SUV, having a body on ladder frame construction typical of pickup trucks.  The new Pathfinder with unibody frame construction has become Jenny Craig svelte, dropping a claimed 500 lbs. from last year’s model.  Less weight means better performance, but most importantly these days, superior fuel economy.

Replacing the archaic 5-speed automatic transmission is a love it or hate it (I love it for the superb fuel economy) CVT transmission, which Nissan claims helps achieve a whopping 25-percent improvement in fuel economy.  At 10.8 and 7.9 l/100 km (city/highway), the 260 horsepower 3.5-litre V6 boasts the best fuel economy rating in its class.

The new Pathfinder is a looker.  Gone is the blocky, slab-sided, macho off-road design of the old model.  The new look is sleek and aerodynamic, elegantly proclaiming the Pathfinder’s new mission – looking stylish while storming through the adventures of everyday life – hauling kids to soccer, loading up a month’s worth of supplies at Costco, or towing a boat to the lake.

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One of the main selling features of the Pathfinder is its 7-passenger seating, and accessing the third row is child’s play – simply lift the lightly sprung lever on the side of the second row seat and the seatback plops down and the entire section slides forward – all in one effortless motion.  A folding handgrip is mounted above the rear door frames to assist passengers exiting the third row – a seemingly commonsense feature that was noticeably missing on the competing 7-passenger 3-row Chevrolet Traverse.

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CUVs are popular because they’re roomy, flexible haulers, and the Pathfinder performs this role superbly.  With the second and third row seats stowed, the nearly flat cargo hold is a capacious 2260 litres (80 cu. Ft.)  There’s plenty of room to carry a mountain bike, cases of fresh B.C. peaches from the Okanagan or a stack of Ikea flat-pack bookshelves.  Eight cargo tie-downs are strategically located to ensure your cargo can be safely secured.  A convenient under floor storage space opens up to contain loose items like those pesky overstuffed supermarket shopping bags that always topple over.

Nissan has raised their corporate bar on interior quality in recent years.  The style and quality of cabin materials have been significantly upgraded.  For too long, many Nissan interiors screamed “Rental Car!”  No more.  We were impressed with the Pathfinder’s interior with soft to the touch materials, and the cheap, shiny plastic coverings nowhere to be seen.  Nissan’s interior design specialists have penned an interior that’s a pleasing environment with a nicely legible instrument cluster and audio/HVAC controls that don’t require a Ph.D. in Computer Science to change the cabin temperature.

With its ground-up new design, the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4×4 is where the smart money ought to be heading for 7-passenger CUV buyers.  This family-friendly hauler is stylish, has an award-winning V6 engine, and boasts best in class fuel economy.  Easy to handle and a cushy ride are icing on the cake.  The new Pathfinder is a winner and highly recommended.

The Specs

2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4×4

Type of vehicle:  7-passenger 3-row CUV

Engine: 3.5-litre V6

Power: 260 horsepower at 6,400 r.p.m; 240 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 r.p.m.

Transmission: CVT continuously-variable transmission

Brakes: Front ventilated disc brakes, rear disc brakes. ABS with brake assist, electronic brake force distribution (EBD)

Tires: 235/65R18, temporary spare

Price: $29,998;  As-tested:  $37,698

Transport Canada fuel economy (L/100 km): 10.8 city, 7.9 highway (regular unleaded)

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