Review by Tom Sedens, photos by Tom Sedens and courtesy Toyota

2013 Chevrolet Traverse vs 2013 Nissan Pathfinder vs 2013 Toyota Highlander

I spent two weeks driving, comparing and contrasting three different three-row crossovers. The competitors, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder and the Chevrolet Traverse, cover quite a spread in age.

The Highlander is the old fogey here – this generation debuted in 2008 and remains available in showrooms. Of note, the 2014 looks to up the ante in virtually every department, and was unveiled at the New York Auto Show while I was reviewing the 2013. The Pathfinder is all new for this model year. And the Traverse, while also a number of years old, was recently refreshed.

I had a nearly base version of the Highlander – the 4WD V6. The four-cylinder version is the only way to move down from this one. The Pathfinder SL is second from the top of the line – only the Platinum trumps it. And the Traverse is in the same boat – the 2LT I had is only topped by the LTZ trim level.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder 2013 Toyota Highlander 2013 Chevrolet Traverse
Nissan Pathfinder, 2013 Toyota Highlander & Chevrolet Traverse. Click image to enlarge

The Highlander’s exterior sure made an impression – a few years ago when it came out. It’s certainly aging and it no longer turns heads (did it ever?) but the smooth design, bumped-out fenders and somewhat aggressive front-end still look good. I continued to be surprised by its size up close – the Highlander isn’t a small SUV.

Nissan completely restyled the Nissan, and it continues along the path of honesty and simplicity with its exterior. Occasionally, and from a couple of angles (especially in some pictures), it looks aggressive but in person, it’s a laid-back look – unifying and integrating elements, coming across as mostly a city-friendly design and making it clear that Nissan wanted to knock some of those truck-based edges off its burly Pathfinder of yore.

The Traverse doesn’t win any awards here either. The styling is pretty plain. The front-end components are merged together cleanly. The side greenhouse pinches together toward the rear and those back flanks flare out, adding a touch of muscle from certain angles. The Traverse is a straightforward looking, big, bulky crossover with significant overhangs at the front and the back.

The Highlander gets Toyota’s 3.5L V6. Nothing we haven’t seen before. It puts out 270 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 248 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm and routes it through a five-speed automatic, which felt like a bit of a slap in the face by today’s standards.

In this class, the Highlander is the featherweight, weighing only 1,895 kg (4,178 lb).

The rated fuel economy is 12.6 L/100 km in the city and 8.7 L/100 km on the highway. My average was 14.5 L/100 km.

During my week with it, I commuted in the city, often driving with a heavy foot and through a fresh, heavy snowfall over the course of a few days, and made it onto the freeway a couple of times – I faced the same environmental challenges, and drove the same way for the other two vehicles.

Nissan puts its 3.5L V6 under the Pathfinder’s hood. Cranking out 260 hp at 6,400 rpm and 240 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm, it looks comparable to the Highlander on paper. It weighs in at 1,987 kg (4,381 lb).

Nissan’s CVT shows up here, instead of a traditional automatic transmission.

2013 Toyota Highlander2013 Nissan Pathfinder2013 Chevrolet Traverse
2013 Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder & Chevrolet Traverse. Click image to enlarge

The Pathfinder’s fuel economy is rated at 10.8 L/100 km in the city, and 7.9 L/100 km on the highway. I averaged 13.4 L/100 km, which turned out to be the best of the three competitors.

The Traverse is the bruiser of the bunch, getting some slightly higher numbers from its direct-injection 3.6L V6. Its 281 hp at 6300 rpm and 266 lb-ft of torque at 3,400 rpm make their way through a six-speed automatic transmission. It’s also the clear candidate here for The Biggest Loser, shaking its 2,197 kg (4,844 lb) booty all over the place.

The fuel economy is rated at 13.0 L/100 km in the city and 8.6 L/100 km on the highway. My average for the week came in at 16.9 L/100 km, which sucks. A lot.

All three contenders guzzle regular grade fuel. The Highlander and the Pathfinder have nearly identical fuel tanks at 72.5 and 73 L respectively. The Traverse’s holds 83.3 L – a blessing considering the step down in fuel economy.

All of these crossovers use front-wheel-drive-based all-wheel-drive systems.

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