Redesigned from the ground-up for 2013, the new Pathfinder drives a lot like a lifted Nissan Altima. We get the feeling that is exactly what Nissan intended.
You have to wonder, though, how much more money would be in Nissan's coffers if they had introduced a three-row version of the Murano back in 2005? Instead, that year brought the previous Pathfinder, based on a truck platform. Sure, it competed head-on with its traditional rival, the Toyota 4Runner. Problem is, the 4Runner was on its way to becoming a niche player with a loyal following. Instead, the big sales went to unibody "car-based" three-row SUVs like the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander.
Fast-forward eight long model years. Nissan is now launching what is essentially a three-row Murano. No question that the Pathfinder loses some rugged off-road capability and several thousand pounds of towing capacity from the previous generation. But most buyers weren't using those attributes, anyway. Instead, the new Pathfinder gains better handling, an improved ride, easier access, nicer accommodations, and boosted fuel economy—things that matter more to family SUV buyers.
We borrowed a near-production 2013 Pathfinder from Nissan. Our first impression is that Nissan has produced a very competent all-arounder. It's not exciting or even particularly sporty to drive; quite a few competitors have it beat for agility and steering feel. But it should be easy to live with. For some, it could be considered a minivan alternative for those drivers who can't picture themselves in such.
We'll see how the Pathfinder stacks up when we buy one soon to test here at the Consumer Reports test track. The Pathfinder goes on sale late October, starting at $28,270 for two-wheel drive. Pricing ranges up to $40,770 for the Platinum trim level with four-wheel drive.