2013 Nissan Pathfinder

Despite our tendency as enthusiasts to clamor for things like wagons and hot hatchbacks, it's hard to argue with the buying public's increasing demand for functional crossovers. In fact, the great SUV craze of the late-1990s has all but faded in favor of the easier-driving, better-packaged, more-efficient crossover. That's even true at the larger end of the market – just look at what happened when Ford redesigned its body-on-frame Explorer into a stylish and well-equipped CUV. And now look at the similar success Nissan has had in repurposing its rugged Pathfinder sport-ute as an appealing crossover.

But happily, we report the following line: out of every long-term vehicle Autoblog has ever tested, not a single one has been as in-demand as the 2013 Pathfinder Platinum you see here. After 13 months of solid use, we added 24,372 miles to the Pfinder's odometer – and that's without the vehicle ever leaving the hands of our Detroit-based team (sorry, West Coasters).

There's good reason for that high-demand usage, too. After spending a little over a year with our Mocha Stone tester (a color that earned this Nissan the nickname "Sweet Brown") we came to appreciate its vast versatility, comfort, all-weather prowess, and the way it absolutely ate up the miles on long trips. We drove it all over the United States, in all four seasons, filling it with our families, friends, and occasionally using its capacious cabin for sleeping on the road. Through good and bad, the Pathfinder was a trusty friend. But like any good friendship, that wasn't without a couple of fights.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder
2013 Nissan Pathfinder2013 Nissan Pathfinder

Our long-term Pathfinder was a loaded-to-the-gills Platinum 4x4 model, with an as-tested price of $44,670.

Before we get into our actual impressions, let's recap a bit. Our long-term Pathfinder was a loaded-to-the-gills Platinum 4x4 model, with an as-tested price of $44,670. Nestled under the hood was Nissan's ubiquitous 3.5-liter V6, producing 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque, sending power to all four wheels via a continuously variable transmission.

This Platinum model came fitted with niceties like carpeted floor mats ($200), roof rail cross bars ($300), illuminated kick plates ($275), and more importantly, the Platinum Premium Package ($2,300) that wraps in amenities like a tri-zone entertainment system and the well-liked panoramic moonroof. Other goodies like a full suite of navigation/infotainment technology, an upgraded Bose audio system, leather seats (heated and cooled up front, heated in the second row), and handsome 20-inch alloy wheels. Loaded, indeed – and its as-tested price was right in line with the competitive, three-row set.

The Pathfinder's honeymoon phase was spent with former Editor-In-Chief John Neff, who quickly learned just how simple and effortless it was to use the Nissan for daily-driving tasks. With no kids to strap into the second or third rows, Neff found the Nissan's V6 plentiful with power for city and highway cruising, though notes suggest that the Pathfinder started to feel bogged down when loaded to the gills with well-fed Autoblog team members during the vehicle's stint as the official mobile office for our staff during the 2013 Detroit Auto Show.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder2013 Nissan Pathfinder
2013 Nissan Pathfinder2013 Nissan Pathfinder

Our Pathfinder didn't have a single self-induced problem during its 13-month stay in the Autoblog Garage.

Following the show, the Pathfinder landed in the hands of Senior Editor Seyth Miersma. Miersma's experience was a true winter test, as he encountered two of our notoriously nasty Michigan winter storms during a trek from Ann Arbor, MI to Platteville, WI. Miersma noted that he was worried about the all-season rubber on our test car, but still safely returned home praising the goodness of Sweet Brown. "With the exception of a few intentional dabs of the brakes to test out the road surface, and one or two meandering seconds when changing lanes in drifting snow, the Pathfinder was sure-footed through both storms."

Sadly, Miersma also experienced the downfall of our rough winters – particularly, the choppy road surfaces. Blowing a tire and damaging a wheel caused our Nissan to head out of service for a couple days, where we paid $253.75 out of pocket for a new Bridgestone Dueler Sport all-season tire and $813.55 for a 20-inch Platinum-spec alloy wheel. Ouch. That said, aside from this one Miersma-induced issue, our Pathfinder didn't have a single problem during its 13-month stay in the Autoblog Garage. Routine maintenance was a breeze, the friendly folks at our local Nissan dealerships taking great care of us the whole time.

During our initial few months with the Pathfinder, we had the chance to drive it alongside several like-minded, three-row crossovers, and easily found the Nissan to be near the top of its class (if not the star pupil). Back-to-back with a Chevy Traverse, Neff wrote, "The Traverse felt old in many ways, from its choice of cabin materials, infotainment and safety technology, to the way it handled, which was considerably softer and floatier feeling than the Nissan. The Pathfinder, in contrast, looks fresh, feels well-built and offers truly advanced technology, all while handling confidently and riding comfortably."

2013 Nissan Pathfinder
2013 Nissan Pathfinder2013 Nissan Pathfinder

"I prefer the Nissan's interior – it feels more airy, not to mention somewhat better furnished." – Chris Paukert

Chris Paukert also had praise for the Nissan. Back in 2012, our Executive Editor drove from Detroit, MI to the Outer Banks of North Carolina – his annual family summer vacation – in a loaded Ford Explorer. In 2013, he repeated the trip, this time taking the keys to our Pathfinder. Upon returning, Paukert wrote, "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."

As Paukert's sentiments echo, Nissan's AroundView Monitor was a feature that we all really enjoyed. "AVM makes parking the Pathfinder as easy as maneuvering a car of half the size, and provides an extra bit of reassurance when backing out of driveways," wrote Multimedia Director Adam Morath. "The only downside to AVM is the temptation to look solely at the screen, rather than also relying on mirrors and an over-the-shoulder check. Piloting the car using the system is a bit like playing a video game, which feels innovative, if a bit disconnected from reality."

The added functionality of AroundView was just one of the reasons why our staff enjoyed spending time with the Pathfinder. Many of us have families, and since the vast majority of Pathfinder buyers will use this thing as a people-schlepper above all, it was important for us to see how the Nissan handled these day-to-day, mommy-and-daddy tasks.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder2013 Nissan Pathfinder
2013 Nissan Pathfinder2013 Nissan Pathfinder

"For a parent, there was great room for maneuvering when installing and removing car seats." – Pete Bigelow

"Terrific amount of room in the second-row seating area," wrote AOL Autos Associate Editor Pete Bigelow. "For adults, this would amount to great legroom. For a parent, there was great room for maneuvering when installing and removing car seats, as well as buckling the kids in." With three small children in his household, car seats are something Bigelow is quite familiar with, adding, "I really liked the ability to put three car seats across the second row. In most cars, and in many CUVs, there's not enough room to do that. I also liked the option for multiple configurations. If we were theoretically doing a road trip, I would put one of the third row seats up and spread the kids out. Or possibly put both third-row seats up, with a parent in the rear. To sum, Bigelow noted that our Pathfinder "would be a fine vehicle for someone who wanted a family hauler, but not a minivan."

Editor-In-Chief Sharon Carty also had notes about family-hauling, she and her brood completing two back-and-forth trips between Ann Arbor and New Jersey during the summer. But since her kids are slightly older, her focus was more on keeping the little buggers entertained during the long trip. Thank goodness, then, for our tester's dual-screen rear entertainment system – a great thing to have, for sure, but not without some fault.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder2013 Nissan Pathfinder

McGraw packed the Nissan full of camping gear and headed to Glacier National Park, covering over 4,000 miles in the process.

"The screens are mounted into the back of the front seats, which quickly posed a problem: The third-row passengers couldn't see the screen," Carty noted. "My 13-year-old daughter removed the headrests from the second row of seats, and that made the situation better. But not perfect. Instead of hearing peaceful bliss while they watched the movie, I heard a lot of, 'James! Move your head!' Or 'James! I can't see!'"

Long road trips like Paukert's and Carty's were nearly perfect in the Pathfinder. But it was Associate Multimedia Producer Chris McGraw who wins the award for most miles driven during our year with the Nissan. Following the bosses' summer family hauls, McGraw and his friend packed the Nissan full of camping gear and headed from Detroit to Glacier National Park in northern Montana, covering over 4,000 miles in the process. Rather than putting his thoughts down in text, McGraw made a video of the whole experience. (That's what we pay him for, after all.) Check it out, below.

Road Trip With a Nissan Pathfinder

"For the most part, it's a smooth, quiet and easy ride, but I found it to be surprisingly susceptible to wind gusts, especially at freeway speeds." – Michael Zak

Journeys like these are a big part of how we put nearly 25,000 miles on the Nissan during its 13-months in our fleet. But so often, we found the Pathfinder better suited for daily commutes, weekend getaways, and hauling large items. When it came time for Associate Editor Brandon Turkus to move into his new apartment, it was the Nissan he asked for. And whenever Consumer Editor Michael Zak came back to Detroit from his normal post in San Francisco, his request would simply be, "Pathfinder, please."

"The interior is superb," Zak wrote. "It has been a while since I've been in the Infiniti JX (QX60), but I'm pretty sure that even that interior was not as good as this Pathfinder Platinum. All of the touch points are great, there is tons of room, the seats are comfy and it is super quiet. Plus, with that tan color scheme, it looks fantastic. There is, however, one issue... So. Many. Buttons. Looking at the center console and steering wheel for the first time is overwhelming and trying to find the correct button for climate control or the navigation menu while you're driving is downright distracting if you haven't taken the time to familiarize yourself with the layout. This really needs to get simplified to improve both the aesthetics and the ergonomics of the cabin."

Zak also says of his time in the Nissan, "As far as driving the Pathfinder goes, I would rate it at 'okay.' It's a heavy car and its 3.5-liter V6 really has to work to get it up to speed on onramps or passing other cars on two-lane roads. For the most part, it's a smooth, quiet and easy ride, but I found it to be surprisingly susceptible to wind gusts, especially at freeway speeds. It didn't seem to take much of a breeze to knock the Pathfinder off its line, causing a pretty regular need to readjust within the lane, which, on a four-hour road trip, became exhausting."

2013 Nissan Pathfinder
2013 Nissan Pathfinder2013 Nissan Pathfinder

But all-in, our complaints about the Pathfinder were few and far between. At the end of our 13-month test, we still found the Nissan to be just as trusty, handy, and competent as we did on Day One. The interior still looked fantastic (aside from a couple of crayon stains on the rear seat – thanks again, Carty kids), the engine, transmission, and brakes felt strong as ever, and there were no squeaks or rattles to speak of – not even during our just-completed Worst Winter Of All Time.

Nissan has clearly made the right move in having its once-rugged Pathfinder cross over to the land of the CUV.

Looking back at the logbook, our average fuel economy over 24,372 miles came in at 21.2 miles per gallon. The EPA rates the 2013 Pathfinder at 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, so we'll rate our observed number as "good." We commonly saw numbers above 25 mpg during highway cruising, but during city commutes, we often struggled to keep the Pathfinder above 17 mpg.

If our year with Sweet Brown taught us anything, it's that Nissan has clearly made the right move in having its once-rugged Pathfinder cross over to the land of the CUV. No, it's not as capable off-road as it once was, but on-road, it's a significantly more refined vehicle, able to handle daily duties and long trips with ease. It's an incredibly versatile vehicle, and because the Nissan had no issues handling nearly every task we threw at it, it's easy to see why our staffers eagerly grabbed the keys to our long-termer right up until the end.

Sales numbers would seem to agree with our thoughts, as Nissan has enjoyed hearty Pathfinder purchases since the vehicle went on sale in late 2012. Last year, the company moved over 88,000 Pathfinders here in the United States – an increase of 108 percent versus 2012. Sure, that's a far cry from the 178,311 Explorers that Ford moved during the same period, but from our year behind the wheel of the Nissan, we think more folks would do well to add this well-liked Pathfinder to their CUV shopping lists.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder

Click here to read all of our Pathfinder updates.

Odometer at arrival: 333
Odometer at departure: 24,705

Scheduled maintenance visits: 4
Non-scheduled maintenance visits: 1
Days out of service: 3
Out-of-pocket repair/maintenance cost: $2,000 (est.)

Number of fuel fill-ups: 95
EPA estimated fuel economy: 19/25 mpg (city/highway)
Observed average fuel economy: 21.2 mpg
Best observed fuel economy: 30.7 mpg
Worst observed fuel economy: 14.4 mpg