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TEST DRIVE: The 2013 Pathfinder Is Nothing Like The SUV You Once Knew


nissan pathfinder 2013 review test drive

Since 1986, Nissan's Pathfinder has looked more or less the same, featuring the boxy frame that is the hallmark of the SUV. All that changes with 2013.

The fourth generation Pathfinder is not so much an SUV as it is a crossover. It's not so much utilitarian as it is aimed at "cool parents" who are involved in their kids lives, which means they spend a lot of time moving their kids around.

Jump to photos of the radically new Pathfinder >>

To capture that market, Nissan focused on making the new Pathfinder as roomy and luxurious as possible, while keeping fuel efficiency high and the price tag relatively low.

Last week, Nissan brought me to California, where I got the chance to drive the Pathfinder. Overall, I was impressed, even though it is not the sort of car that usually appeals to me.

A Revamped Family Vehicle

The first tip that Nissan is pitching the Pathfinder to families was the car seat installed in all the models provided me for test driving. The point was to show off how easy it is to get into and out of the car's back row of seats, even with the clunky seat installed in the second row.

It was indeed a breeze: The second row can be moved forward and pushed back into place with minimal effort.

With room for seven, the Pathfinder is quite spacious. As I sat in each row comfortably, children would have plenty of room.

It's packed with features to make driving, and being driven, easier and more pleasant. Screens built into the headrests of the driver and passenger seats can play different DVDs and be hooked up to video game systems to keep passengers in the second row entertained. There are no screens for the third row.

The Platinum edition, which I drove, comes with 13 Bose speakers. Unsurprisingly, the sound is great.

nissan pathfinder 2013 review test driveThe Drive

Nissan included two especially cool features I have not seen anywhere else. The first is the Around View Monitor, which cobbles together camera views from the front, rear, and sides of the vehicle to provide an overhead, 360 degree view of everything going on around the vehicle, a boon for safe driving while entering and leaving parking spaces.

Those cameras also make parallel parking a snap: Lines imposed on the center console screen show you when to cut the wheel. Following them exactly, I ended up perfectly straight and within a few inches of the curb.

The second feature is the Easy Fill Tire Alert, which eliminates the need for a pressure gauge when filling the tires by sounding the horn when the appropriate pressure is reached. (This is available in most 2013 Nissans.) It's not as cool as Goodyear's self-inflating tire, but it's not far off.

To improve fuel efficiency to 20 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, Nissan shed 500 pounds from the Pathfinder and dropped the drag coefficient to 0.34, both of which help explain the radical shift in body shape.

The 2012 Pathfinder's 4.0L V8 engine was ditched and replaced by an adequate 3.5L V6. The result is a smooth drive without a lot of pep, and fine acceleration. I did not try towing anything, so cannot speak to how it performs with real weight to pull. (Nissan advertises the towing capacity as a best in class at 5,000 pounds.)

Should You Buy One?

Not if you want a 2012 Pathfinder, or any kind of SUV. But if you want a car that will move your family in comfort, get better gas mileage than most cars its size, and won't break the bank, it's a good choice.

The 2013 Pathfinder starts at $28,270. The Platinum version, which I drove, runs for $39,995.

Disclosure: Nissan provided travel and lodging expenses for us to visit San Francisco and drive the 2013 Pathfinder.

SEE ALSO: Photos Of Our Test Drive In The 2013 Pathfinder >

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