• Image Credit: Copyright 2013 Chris Paukert / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2013 Chris Paukert / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2013 Chris Paukert / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2013 Chris Paukert / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2013 Chris Paukert / AOL

This Nissan is the most in-demand long-term vehicle we've ever had.

They may not readily fall into the sweet spot of driving enthusiasts, but our year-long test of this Nissan is proving to be an object lesson in why crossovers are so popular – especially large ones like our three-row Pathfinder. In fact, it's been so busy that it's hardly been at a standstill long enough to pen an update, which is why this one is late. Simply put, this Nissan is the most in-demand long-term vehicle we've ever had, racking up more miles and more long-distance trips than any LT vehicle in the Autoblog stable.

Much of that high demand stems from the inherent versatility of a three-row CUV, of course, but the Pathfinder is still a good representative of the breed. We should know – we've been piling on serious miles in our Mocha Stone and we've learned a lot. In the main, this is an accomplished freeway cruiser – not only does it deliver a refined ride thanks to that long, 114.2-inch wheelbase and pleasant suspension tuning, the interior of our top-rung Platinum model is downright luxurious.

Just as I did last year with its Ford Explorer arch rival, I drove our Pathfinder from the Greater Detroit area to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and even if the drives were a year apart, memories and a full sheaf of notes revealed some interesting differences between these two competitors. Long-term 2013 Nissan Pathfinder with Wright Bros. plane replica

For one thing, I prefer the Nissan's interior – it feels more airy, not to mention somewhat better furnished. With its tan interior and massive panoramic moonroof, the openness is to be expected, but it also feels like there's more seating space inside. The Pathfinder's navigation and infotainment system is familiar fare, and while it lacks some of the bells and whistles of MyFord Touch, it's much easier to use and live with on a daily basis, and the always-excellent AroundView Monitor is particularly helpful in a vehicle of this size. That said, I do wish the screen and controls were an inch or two closer to the driver's seat.

Over the first 100 miles in zero traffic, we averaged 73 mph and 24.3 mpg according to the gauge cluster.

The continuously variable transmission, which I'm still not in love with, grates less on the interstate, too, as once you accelerate hard up the onramp to freeway speeds, you don't have to hear it momentarily engage in the 'stretched rubberband' sound that CVTs are notorious for. The CVT's raison d'être is clearly fuel economy, and in that regard, the Nissan's performs admirably. My trip only involved three adults, but we folded the remaining seats and packed the Pfinder to the roof with beach clutter, and we still netted handsome numbers. We even had a fast start – over the first 100 miles in zero traffic, we averaged 73 mph and 24.3 mpg according to the gauge cluster (we've found the latter to be surprisingly accurate against our own calculations). That strikes us as hugely impressive for a 4,500-pound, all-wheel-drive crossover. The CVT's wide ratio bandwidth means that at 70 mph, the 3.5-liter V6 just loafs along at turning under 2,000 revs.

Thanks to a few traffic snags and the usual battery of fuel, food and bio breaks, our average speed plummeted to a still-respectable 56 mph, but even so, we racked up an impressive 23 mpg over 875 miles. That's two mpg under the EPA's highway rating, but in light of the fact that we were fully loaded, lead-footed, hit traffic and travelled through the mountains of Pennsylvania, the 25 mpg window sticker rating strikes us as eminently achievable. Given that the Pathfinder also has a larger fuel tank than the Explorer (19.5 gallons), a cruising range of 500 miles should be within reach.

Long-term 2013 Nissan Pathfinder in OBX with Wright Bros. monument

I put over 1,800 miles on our Pathfinder in eight days, and I'd happily do it all over again.

On the less flattering side of the ledger, our long day's journey into night allowed us to uncover a few sore spots. Most importantly, the long-distance comfort of the seats was the subject of some debate, with some feeling they were fine while others wished for more lower back support. Secondly, I wish the CVT had some sort of manual gate with pre-selected ratios for engine braking and towing scenarios – as it is, on long, steep downhill grades, you have little recourse beyond knocking the overdrive switch. Satellite radio reception also left something to be desired in the aforementioned mountains of the Keystone State. We've done this same drive with satellite radio at least a half-dozen times, and we don't recall having intermittent reception issues quite so frequently (weather wasn't an issue). Finally – and this is admittedly a niggle – at freeway speeds, the climate control system's lowest setting isn't quite low enough. One can always redirect air to the footwells and windshield, but it's nice refreshing to have a bit of a cool breeze without drying out one's contact lenses. For whatever it's worth, I don't recall ever having this issue in a vehicle before.

All-in, I put over 1,800 miles on our Pathfinder in eight days, and I'd happily do it all over again. It may not be the type of vehicle that sets our hearts aflame, but it's hugely useful, gets excellent fuel economy and is downright Infiniti posh in highline trim. As far as Griswoldian family vacation cruisers go, our long-term Pathfinder is right up there with the very best.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 33 Comments
      BB79826
      • 1 Year Ago
      "This Nissan is the most in-demand long-term vehicle we've ever had." So is this because you don't often test anything that can seat 7, or is the Autoblog staff just that clueless? There are WIDESPREAD problems with the CVT in this vehicle, and dynamically, it handles worse than pretty much everything in its class.
        Chris Paukert
        • 1 Year Ago
        @BB79826
        BB79826, I appreciate you taking the time to respond. Autoblog actually tests pretty well all of the crossovers on the market, in every segment (we certainly try to). Personally, I believe I have spent a good amount of time behind the wheel of every single three-row CUV in the Pathfinder's class. Please reread my update – and where you quoted me – All I was stating is that this is the most in-demand long-term vehicle we've ever had. That's a fact made clear by the number of miles we are racking up on the vehicle, it's not saying it's the best in class in any way, shape, or form. I have indeed heard of the CVT issue you and some other commenters have raised, but we have not experienced any such issues with our LT Pathfinder. As far as dynamics go, I would firstly say that the Pathfinder is hardly the worst in class, but it's also not the best, I'd readily agree. If you're focusing on handling, I really didn't touch on that at all in my update (we've done that in other LT updates, and my experience this go-round was primarily as a long-distance cruiser). In my experience, I'd say it's certainly competent and class-competitive in this regard, but there are better vehicles by that yardstick, as well. I'd also argue that at the end of the day, dynamic handling isn't exactly a top priority among three-row crossover shoppers.
        leo
        • 1 Year Ago
        @BB79826
        Have you even driven one.. it's about 400-500lbs less than anything in it's class, it's handling is about on par with that of the Murano... my wife is on her 3rd murano and the only reason we did not get the Path is because she felt it was a bit large, but it would have been nice to carry more than our kids during traveling. i drove them all for her and came to the conclusion that this felt lighter and more nimble than anything out of Gm (Traverse and cousins) and though the explorer felt more sporty the extra weight penalty it carries and the interior left the Pathfinder as pretty much the best option.... and the CVT is her favorite feature..never had one issue with any of the three Muranos ('07, '10 and now '13)
          BB79826
          • 1 Year Ago
          @leo
          "it's handling is about on par with that of the Murano... " Leo, you're drunk, go home.
        Blizzard_Esq
        • 1 Year Ago
        @BB79826
        Its because this website is a shill for advertising for vehicles. Of course every long term "test" shows how fantastic they think the car is. If they weren't a shill for the auto company they wouldn't get the test vehicle. Hence why consumer reports is the only honest review out there.
      zool
      • 1 Year Ago
      Its still ugly.
      4gasem
      • 1 Year Ago
      Agreed, I've seen these in person and they do NOTHING for me. IMO, it's an outdated design.
        BG
        • 1 Year Ago
        @4gasem
        Suburban American women seem to love these things.
      Arizonarelax
      • 1 Year Ago
      Really? "This Nissan is the most in-demand long-term vehicle we've ever had." I am guessing those that wished to use this product from Nissan didn't mind the ambient temperature air conditioning, delayed acceleration and very small entry and exit - not to mentioned lack of head room. The idea was good for the Pathfinder, three row seats, with no disrespect intended, for only those individuals not over 5'8" tall. I have to ask, what other vehicles in your test fleet were comparable Chris for you to make such an editorial statement above?
        Chris Paukert
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Arizonarelax
        Arizonarelax, Hi, thanks for reaching out. Again, as I've said to other commenters, please do not confuse "most in-demand long-term vehicle we've ever had" with "best" – that's not what I said, nor what I intended. As far as your other concerns go, I can only speak to my experience with our LT Pathfinder – I experienced nothing in the way of tepid HVAC, and I took it to North Carolina in the summer sun. Seat coolers help here, too. As far as "delayed acceleration" goes, I'll agree that there's some initial low-speed sluggishness, likely a combination of throttle and CVT tuning, but actual 0-60 acceleration times and such are on par for the class. And headroom? I'm admittedly not the tallest at 5'9", but I did not feel clausterphobic, and apparently neither did 6'6" reader Chalango. I think the more objective measurement on headroom is to use the specs and compare: http://tinyurl.com/o9ubrjw – According to this, the Pathfinder actually has *more* first-row head- and legroom than competitors like the Ford Explorer, GMC Acadia and Dodge Durango. Where it falls down is in cargo space. Hope this helps answer your questions.
        leo
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Arizonarelax
        how tall are you, lack of headroom? shows you have not even driven one...
        Chalango
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Arizonarelax
        I'm 6'6 and have had no issues with headroom. In fact, it was best in class among those I tested.
      merlot066
      • 1 Year Ago
      "This Nissan is the most in-demand long-term vehicle we've ever had." Way to try and grant huge praise for such an ugly underwhelming vehicle. There have only been seven other long-term vehicles in Autoblog's possession, and none of them have been three-row crossovers. People love big SUVs/Crossovers and the versatility they offer, that's why they sell in such huge numbers. However, since the Pathfinder came out I've been scratching my head to figure out what the point was (and why you would buy one for your long-term fleet).
        Chris Paukert
        • 1 Year Ago
        @merlot066
        Merlot066, Thanks for taking the time to comment. The statement of mine you quote above is simply intended as a statement of fact – not a value judgment – the Pathfinder is the long-term vehicle that we've accrued more miles in than any other. And yes, part of that is because it's so versatile and spacious – I said as much in the piece: "Much of that high demand stems from the inherent versatility of a three-row CUV." As far as the point of getting a long-term example goes, this is an important new vehicle in a key vehicle segment of the market, and that was our prevailing thought in getting one. Also, as a staff, I'd say we're generally predisposed to smaller, lighter, more enthusiast-oriented vehicles, so living with a large three-row crossover for a year would be a good test to find out why these things are so darn popular. The Pathfinder has shown why that can be a compelling formula. Are there better drivers' vehicles in the class? Certainly, I don't think anyone on staff would debate that – but that's also not what this segment is about. But as an overall package – drive + space + fuel economy, it's a nice vehicle that's in demand on our staff.
          carlotta
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Chris Paukert
          It's easy to see why the staff preferred it over the Explorer, especially the superior interior.
      Mike Cornell
      • 1 Year Ago
      It may work from a plush interior, comfortable hassle-free ride point of view, but like the others here, I can't get past its looks. Grille is way too overstated and the rear-end is droopy. The new Rogue/X-Trail looks way better.
      Teleny411
      • 1 Year Ago
      Even if it is a car, I'd prefer it to look more truck ish. This looks like a bloated warthog.
      breitling65
      • 1 Year Ago
      ugliness with cvt and fwd
      trail66
      • 1 Year Ago
      Personally I just purchased a Ford Explorer Limited over the Nissan Pathfinder. The Nissan felt cheap to me, you could feel how poorly the plastic panels on the steering wheel fit together every time you drove it. It has less space behind the thirdrow, the seats are down right terrible the bells and whistles are lacking and your paying the same money as an infinity so why buy the Nissan?
      RWD.Master
      • 1 Year Ago
      The proportions of this vehicle are so wrong and that big chromed grille, "lipstick on a pig" comes to my mind
      Scooter
      • 1 Year Ago
      I suppose if I went blind, and also didn't care about long term quality, I'd definitely buy a Nissan.
      Mercennarius
      • 1 Year Ago
      Pathfinder > Explorer
    • Load More Comments
    Share This Photo X