This ain't your daddy's Pathfinder. And that's exactly why we're welcoming one into the Autoblog long-term garage.

With the launch of the all-new 2013 Pathfinder, Nissan has ditched the trucky, body-on-frame architecture of the previous model for something substantially more refined and efficient, yet the automaker says this is still a capable machine. It's a move Nissan has used before (the second-generation Pathfinder, sold from 1996 to 2004, used unibody construction), but because of just how darn popular three-row crossovers are these days, the timing sure seems right for Nissan to, well, find a new path again.

Think about it: Ford made this exact move with the Explorer when its all-new model was introduced for 2011, and that vehicle has been a huge success for the Blue Oval, dominating the segment in terms of volume. Nissan is hoping to capture that same sort of magic – and make up a good deal of market share in the process – with this more-soft-road-than-off-road Pathfinder.

Does it work? Our brief stint behind the wheel of a 2013 model out in California gave us high hopes. But to really see if the three-row crossover-minded formula works behind that Pathfinder badge, we're embarking on a year-long test with the Smyrna, Tennessee-built Platinum 4x4 seen here.




Our fully loaded 2013 Pathfinder costs a cool $44,670.

It's only been a couple of weeks since this Mocha Stone Pathfinder landed in our hands and a few of us can't quite decide how we feel about its looks as a whole. The natural comparisons are to more rugged vehicles like the Explorer, but we've also been lining up the Pathfinder against its luxed-out sibling, the Infiniti QX60 JX35 and street-minded players like the refreshed Lambda crossovers from General Motors (read: Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia) and Dodge Durango. For the most part, we find the Nissan to be handsome, and friends and family who have seen the ute since its arrival have given its unadorned and clean design plenty of praise. We'll see how our feelings mature as the months go on.

We chose to spend our year with a fully loaded Platinum 4x4 model, which rides on 20-inch alloy wheels and comes equipped with a big ol' smattering of standard technology and comfort amenities. In fact, the only options found on our long-term model are the carpeted floor mats ($200), roof rail cross bars ($300), illuminated kick plates ($275), and the Platinum Premium Package ($2,300) that includes a tri-zone entertainment system and panoramic moonroof. All in, that brings our fully loaded 2013 Pathfinder to a cool $44,670, including $825 for destination.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder
2013 Nissan Pathfinder2013 Nissan Pathfinder2013 Nissan Pathfinder

In addition to those optional goodies, Platinum models come with fancy-shmancy things like a full navigation/infotainment setup, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, Nissan's nifty AroundView Monitor, brilliant Easy Fill tire pressure alert system, premium audio, Bluetooth, more safety features than you can shake a stick at and... well, check out the Monroney if you want to read the full list.

We've grown quite fond of the interior right off the bat.

It's a comfy thing, this Pathfinder, and we've grown quite fond of the interior right off the bat. Most of us prefer the darker leather upholstery also available on Platinum models, but the almond color scheme of our test car will not only be better to photograph, it'll more easily show wear, for better or worse (just ask our dearly departed long-term Hyundai Equus).

When it came to powertrain choices, we weren't given one. Nissan only employs its 3.5-liter V6 and Continuously Variable Transmission here in the Pathfinder, and while our distaste for CVTs is indeed well-known, we'll once again say that of all the companies currently using the rubber-band transmission tech, Nissan is doing it the best. Pathfinders are available with either front- or all-wheel drive, and because our Mocha Stone brute will spend a lot of its time in cold climates with inclement weather, we opted for AWD without a second thought.



Our first exposure to the 2013 Pathfinder took us down some particularly scenic stretches of the California coast, and while this isn't exactly your run-of-the-mill CUV-driving territory, we found the Nissan to be perfectly enjoyable out West. You'll have to stay tuned for updates about how the Pathfinder's dynamics are faring here in the crummy-weathered Midwest – we'll have our first update coming your way in about one month's time.

So here she is, folks – our brand spankin' new Pathfinder, ready for a year of work. Keep your eyes peeled to our long-term garage page to see all of the updates, and click on over to our Facebook and Twitter accounts to see our on-the-fly musings, as well.