2013 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum Road Test Review

Jennifer Hofmann - CAP staff
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I have to admit, I was being a bit of a snob. Not the "servants are basically slaves" kind of snobbery, but more of an "I'm Scottish, and I'm thrifty" kind of way. The 2013 Pathfinder Platinum is full of luxury and technology that I wasn't sure I wanted to accept. I mean, do I really need all these features? Well, after spending just a few days with it, my answer is a resounding (if somewhat humbled) YES!

Before I get into the features, I need to talk about the roomy interior. I'd read that the new Pathfinder had been awarded best in class for passenger volume, but I wasn't expecting such a spacious and luxurious feel. It seats seven quite comfortably with room for 450-plus litres of gear in behind. The cargo volume becomes even more impressive with 2,260 litres available when the second and third rows are folded down and a little over 1,200 litres behind the second row. Cargo aside, my son who has recently achieved front seat status, actually wanted to sit in the second row. It was so comfortable and roomy that he and my daughter wanted to watch a DVD (dual adjustable screens integrated into the backs of the front headrests with headphones included), which they never do, and then complained about having to get out when we got there. Ok, I could get used to that. My nine-year-old daughter, not to be left out, was thrilled with the second-row heated seats. She no longer requires a booster seat, so she can actually feel the heat coming through the cushions. And while my Platinum trimmed test model's seats were upholstered in leather, rear seat heaters are also available in lesser models with cloth.

The most exciting feature about the new Pathfinder's passenger capacity is the new EZ Flex "latch and glide" system for the second row. I wouldn't want to do without this feature if considering a seven-occupant crossover as it allows such easy access to the third row. Third-row passengers (usually little boys with muddy boots) are no longer forced to climb over a folded second row or awkwardly wiggle through the narrow space behind the seatback, as the innovative seat system provides more than enough room. You can even move the seats forward with a full size baby seat in place! Where you put the baby while helping passengers into the third row I'll leave to your discretion.

Talking practicalities, the Pathfinder's fuel economy humbled my snobbery further. It's best in class at a claimed 7.7 L/100km highway and 10.5 city on regular gas. That's a whopping 25-percent better than the previous model! This is partly due to its significant weight loss of about 270 kilos (500 lbs). The new unibody design is responsible for 48 kg (105 lbs) alone. With the ever-changing prices at the pump, this may be a deciding factor.

The Pathfinder's new chassis design might not be as rugged as the outgoing version's body-on-frame setup, but it's still meant for the outdoors inclined. The four-wheel drive system offers 2WD, 4WD, and Auto settings. Auto is probably best when heading up the ski hill or in inclement weather, whereas 4WD is ideal for towing the kayak out of the water, trudging through a muddy campsite after a summer rain or, more in season with the current winter reality, climbing up and over a snowy embankment after the plough goes by, but really this truck is not meant for the kind of serious off-roading the old Pathfinder was capable of.

What it is meant for is hauling family, friends and a full load of their stuff in total comfort thanks to a smooth ride and quiet cabin. It's so big and airy inside, particularly with the sun shining through the massive panoramic sunroof that came with my Platinum tester, that you'd think it would be noisier. Truly, the drivetrain is almost too quiet. You can hear the 3.5-litre V6 when you put your foot to the floor as all 260-horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque make a nice sound, but during regular driving it's eerily silent. Maybe it's the transmission. It shifts quickly when pushed hard, but hardly seemed to shift at all when cruising around town. After doing a little research to prepare this review I found out why "shifts" were so ridiculously smooth at slower speeds: the Pathfinder uses a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). That basically means it's a pulley-like single-gear system that doesn't need to shift. Nissan has simply added artificial intervals to make it feel more like the automatic transmissions we know and love, but its lower friction CVT design allows for greater fuel efficiency. Nicely done, Nissan, I'm impressed.

I was equally impressed with its tow rating. CTVs aren't known for pulling capacity, but the new Pathfinder is able to tow up to 2,267 kilos (5,000 lbs) of weight. This should allow you to tow said kayak, bikes, or perhaps a small camper. I never had opportunity to tug anything along behind to see how it felt under weight, but without dragging anything behind the big crossover handles beautifully, taking to corners with the feel of a smaller more agile vehicle.

Perhaps before you head off camping I should fill you in on the technology I mentioned at the beginning of this review. While I was a bit reluctant to get to know all of its complexities, I found myself becoming more and more reliant on its many gadgets throughout the week. For instance, we had a power outage in the neighbourhood so I used the remote starter to guide us across the parking lot by the glow of the headlights. On another occasion I got lost on the way to a community centre that's a fair distance from my house and was able to use the voice activated navigation system to get directions instead of pulling over to use my cellphone. I already mentioned the DVD player that was extremely useful on this early morning outing. And I don't think I'll ever stop being grateful for Bluetooth hands-free. In general, I realized that there is a reason most people would be willing to feel "a wee nip in the change purse" (as my Scottish Nana might say) in order to gain a lot of these useful features.

Of course, even in base trim the Pathfinder gets the usual powered convenience features along with some nice standard additions like a six-disc CD player, pushbutton start and tri-zone automatic climate control, plus a full load of safety gear, all for $31,718 including destination fees. My Pathfinder Platinum was priced at $43,818 including destination and I've already listed most of the options except for the powered rear liftgate, always a handy item, and impressive sounding 13-speaker Bose audio system with satellite radio.

Although it might cost more, the luxury and convenience features of the Platinum are worth every nickel if you can step up to take advantage. Either way I'm sold on the new 2014 Pathfinder, and my praise doesn't come easily.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, SUV, Nissan, 2013, Pathfinder, $30,000 - $39,999, $40,000 - $49,999, Full-size,

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