2013 Nissan Pathfinder
2013 Nissan Pathfinder
2013 Mazda CX-9
2013 Mazda CX-9
2013 Nissan Pathfinder vs 2013 Mazda CX-9. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Haney Louka

Let’s get on the same page from the get-go: before you start wondering why other entries in this popular segment were not included in the comparison, let me exercise full disclosure. I found myself behind the wheel of these full-size crossovers on back-to-back weeks and, while this was not an organized comparison test, they were just begging for a head-to-head battle. So it was a serendipitous situation, rather than weeks of careful planning and coordinated group photo shoots, that has allowed me to assemble this comparison.

It also turns out that during the two weeks these vehicles were in my driveway, we had house guests that my wife was driving around in numbers that exceeded the individual capacities of our two vehicles, so they were subjected to the same conditions and routines.

First up was the all-new Pathfinder. With this fourth-gen redesign, Nissan has taken a drastic change in direction moving from a truck-based body-on-frame design to a more van-like unibody layout. If you feel like you’re experiencing a bit of déjà vu, you should know that this has happened before. The original Pathfinder was built on the same ladder frame as Nissan’s pickups, but the second generation was a unibody design. The third generation, sold until last year, went back to Nissan’s truck roots with body-on-frame construction and a torquey V8 for some serious capability (and serious fuel consumption).

But, since Nissan has quite the selection of people movers, the Armada and Xterra are left fulfilling truck duties, while the Pathfinder has chosen the path more travelled: highways, byways, and yes, soccer practice. A vannabe, to be sure.

The incumbent in this heads-up match is Mazda’s CX-9. The CX-9 has been one of my favourites in this class because it injects a bit of driving fun into the van-ternative experience. And that’s great, but it should not come at the expense of utility in this competitive segment.

The CX-9 is familiar, having been on the scene since 2007, and on the whole it hasn’t changed much during its tenure. But incremental improvements over the years mean that Mazda has been able to keep pace with the performance and technology requirements dictated by the new car market. Significantly, the original 3.5L V-6 was replaced with a 3.7L unit that has more power and a lower fuel consumption rating. More power, more efficient: there’s a move in the right direction.

Of likely more importance to consumers is whether Mazda has been able to keep the CX-9 current, both in terms of looks and features. 2013 has seen a facelift to keep the big ute’s looks consistent with Mazda’s current “Kodo” design language used on the 3, 6, and CX-5; all models that are at most two years old. On the inside, a new 5.8-inch display acts as a user interface for the CX-9’s new tech features.

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