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Nissan Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2013 Nissan Pathfinder

As we reported in our First Drive, the redesigned 2013 Nissan Pathfinder has traded in its previous truck-like, body-on-frame construction for a new unit body design that saves weight, improves body rigidity and cabin quietness, and helps fuel economy.   The new body type enabled Nissan to make the Pathfinder both bigger and lighter:  it’s 24 mm longer, 90 mm wider, and approximately 200 kg lighter than the last Pathfinder, making it slightly larger than the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot but smaller than the Chevrolet Traverse.

Based on the 2013 Infiniti JX introduced last Spring, the new Pathfinder comes with a single powertrain: Nissan’s 3.5L DOHC V6 engine mated to a new continuously variable transmission (CVT), which replaces the previous 4.0L DOHC V6 and five-speed automatic combo.  Horsepower and torque are down slightly, but so is the curb weight:  the 3.5L V6 pumps out 260 hp at 6,400 rpm (previously 266 at 5,600) and 240 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm (previously 288 lb-ft at 3,400).  Zero to 60 mph goes by in 8 seconds, according to tests conducted by Edmunds.com, and in our freeway entrance sprints, we found the new CVT is remarkably restrained under full throttle without the excessive droning that often accompanies it.

Test Drive: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD car test drives nissan
2013 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD. Click image to enlarge

Compared to the previous Pathfinder, the maximum towing capacity has decreased from 2,722 to 2,268 kg to (6,000 to 5,000 lb.), but that’s still competitive in this class, and probably a milestone for a CVT-equipped vehicle.  To compensate for the extra weight of a trailer, the Pathfinder includes a push-button “Tow mode” that recalibrates the CVT to provide for revised gearing when descending or ascending steep hills.  A Class 3 tow hitch and wiring harness is standard on upper trim levels and optional on lower trims.

The combination of a lighter curb weight and the new V6/CVT combo enables the Pathfinder to claim best-in-class fuel economy (not including hybrid crossovers):  NRCan rates the Pathfinder 2WD model at 10.5/7.7 city/hwy and the 4WD at 10.8/7.9, a big improvement over the 2012 Pathfinder’s 14.9/10.3 city/hwy rating.   Thanks to the CVT’s gearing, engine revs are very low at freeway speeds: we recorded just 1,600 rpm at 100 km/h on a level road.  Still, real-world fuel consumption appears to be considerably higher than official figures: our vehicle’s fuel consumption display was showing 12 to 15 L/100 km on average in predominantly urban driving.

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