I was hoping to blaze more trails and find new paths with our 2013 Platinum Edition Nissan Pathfinder during its yearlong stay with us, but sadly that didn’t happen. I was hoping to validate the proud name still emblazoned on the swollen and softened SUV and show that despite its closer relation to the Altima, the Pathfinder could still pull some Xterra-like moves when so inclined. While I didn’t get to kick up any dust on the Rubicon Trail, I did exhaust the Pathfinder in its real-world environment: the suburban jungle.

The 260 hp from the 3.5-liter V-6 never felt inadequate. The most strenuous task burdened upon the Arctic Blue sport-ute was trudging up some mountain roads full of photo and video equipment. Though wringing out a CVT in its highest “gear” will never be pleasant, the engine and tranny combination took this worst-case combination in stride and made for quiet, smooth driving the 95 percent of the time we were otherwise just putzing around the boulevard.

The Pathfinder’s strengths really shone through it even departed on an adventure with spacious packaging from first row to third. The second- and third-row seats were incredibly easy to fold down for loading gear, and the Auto Entry/Exit that moved the steering wheel up and the pilot’s seat back was a welcome feature to tired, achy muscles after a long day shooting on location. It didn’t take long for the Pathfinder to become the lunch limo of choice at the office thanks to a sliding and reclining second row and a third row perfectly fine for two adults to occupy for short distances. The merit of the spacious passenger compartment was made all the more apparent in comparison to fellow long-term fleet seven-seater the Mitsubishi Outlander, which lacks the adjustability of the Pathfinder’s second row and the legroom of the third.

While the large space inside the Pathfinder was welcome, its exterior bulk proved to be troublesome -- and even expensive -- for some fellow staffers. By my measure the Pathfinder should be impossible to harm in low-speed parking lot situations thanks to idiot-proof technologies such as Rear Sonar, and Rearview Camera, and AroundView Monitor, and Front Camera and good old-fashioned mirrors. But some unnamed staffers still managed to knock off part of the rear bumper surrounding the trailer hitch, and also part of the driver’s side mirror that houses one of the four AroundView Cameras.

I feared the bumper would be the more expensive fix, but it actually came in at a relatively reasonable $107 for the new part, and a less reasonable $277 for labor. Overall $384 wasn’t too painful for such a significant part of the vehicle. What was painful was the almost $450 for the cracked side-mirror housing. The aesthetic blemish was almost worth living with instead of shelling out $299 for the part and $130 to put it on.

Other than cosmetic repairs, maintaining the Pathfinder wasn’t terribly costly. Oil changes every 7000 miles or so were about $40 at the local Nissan dealership. The 15,000-mile checkup came in at $306 and the 30,000-mile at just over $600. That’s a bit steep for one year of maintenance, but most drivers won’t be putting 30,000 miles on the odometer in a span of 12 months.

Overall the Pathfinder stood up to our abuses well. The light-colored interior fought discoloration from the spills I know happened in my presence and my absence. No obnoxious squeaks or rattles from the interior or exterior crept their way into the vehicle’s soundtrack.

The Pathfinder’s shortcomings include the lack of an opening window on the tailgate like on the 4Runner or big GMs. This is more specific to my role as photographer, as it would be massively convenient to shoot out of, but it would also be handy for quickly loading groceries or a gym bag. The overall exterior design is an easy target for criticism. While I didn’t find the new swoopy lines as hideous as some skeptics did, the bulbous curves and oversized headlights won’t stand the test of time the same way the simple geometric presence of the previous generation did.

Even though we didn’t traverse any shallow rivers or brave any polar vortex snowdrifts, we put the Pathfinder through much more strenuous paces than most car-based SUVs will face. It’s no less disappointing the market has dictated these vehicles that used to beg for adventure and taking the road less traveled be softened up for trips to school and Christmas shopping, but for the segment it competes in the Pathfinder is a success on all accounts.


Our Car
SERVICE LIFE 12 mo / 30,817 mi
BASE PRICE $41,595
OPTIONS Platinum Premium Package ($2300: tri-zone DVD entertainment system, panoramic moonroof), roof rail cross bars ($300), carpeted floormats ($200)
PRICE AS TESTED $44,395
AVG ECON/CO2 20.6 mpg / 0.94 lb/mi
PROBLEM AREAS Fading paint on roof, fuel cap tether
MAINTENANCE COST $397.89 (4-oil change, inspection; 1-engine-air filter, rotate tires, brake system flush)
NORMAL-WEAR COST $652.19 (replace front/rear brake pads, resurface front/rear discs)
3-YEAR RESIDUAL VALUE* $20,866
RECALLS ABS software, CVT oil cooler, front brake torque member, front passenger airbag
*Automotive Lease Guide data