You can define crossovers by what they are (outsize station wagons that government regulations incentivize manufacturers to build) or you can define them by what they are not (passé minivans, excessive SUVs). They attempt to cover all the bases — to drive like cars, to accommodate kids and friends, to haul stuff, to occasionally go off-road or tow a rowboat. They’re even supposed to look stylish.
Nissan’s fourth-generation Pathfinder addresses most of these points, but in doing so, serves none of them outstandingly.
The original 1980s Pathfinder was a rugged, body-on-frame SUV. Despite skyrocketing sport-utility sales in the mid-’90s, the second-gen Pathfinder was a unibody. By the time gen three came along in 2005, while SUV sales were diving, Nissan oddly went back to BOF construction. With the fourth generation, the 2013 Pathfinder is once again a unibody and back in step with the market.
That market includes large and mid-size crossovers like the Toyota Highlander, Chevy Traverse, Honda Pilot, and Ford Explorer, all of which were kicking the previous Pathfinder’s butt in sales. Nissan’s new crossover should do better in the showroom, though. It is longer, wider and 60 percent more rigid than the previous Pathfinder, and comes with eight cubic feet of additional interior volume. It’s also 500 pounds lighter with 30 percent better fuel economy, which, at 26 mpg combined in front-wheel drive guise, is class-leading.
Hints of the last Pathfinder’s styling remain in the front-fascia configuration and subtler wheel arches. Character lines originating above the grille and aft of the headlights eliminate some of its predecessor’s slab-sidedness. But one can see enough styling similarities with the Lexus RS, Buick Enclave, Chevy Traverse, and Mazda CX-9 to label Nissan’s crossover as fairly generic.
The interior is a brighter place to be, particularly if you opt for the dual-panorama moonroof. The Pathfinder’s seven-seat, 173.8 cubic foot interior is substantial if not as generous as the CX-9 or Traverse. The third row is better than the usual rumble seat.
Accessing it is made easier by Nissan’s “Latch and Glide” seating system, which allows second row seatbacks to fold down and seat cushions to fold up whilst the row travels forward in one motion, even with a child car seat attached. Second row seats are comfortable-ish while the front buckets are appropriately plush. Folding the second and third rows flat to maximize cargo capacity (79.8 cubic feet) is easy so long as one remembers to put down the third row headrests.
Back-seaters also enjoy their own optional headrest video displays (independently playable) and seat heating as well as temperature control. The driver’s view of the Costco parking lot is good through a highly raked windshield, but rearward visibility is limited by the Pathfinder’s length and headrests. Four exterior cameras offering rear, side and bird’s-eye views alleviate the problem, but maneuvering the Nissan in tight spaces is a chore. The exterior video plays on an eight-inch display centered on the dash — which also renders the expected navigation, audio, climate, phone and vehicle info.