There was plenty of "Mallfinder" cackling about the Pathfinder during the off-road evaluation section of our Sport/Utility of the Year testing last August. Nissan made the unpopular-among-enthusiasts and hugely-popular-among-people-who-actually-buy-new-SUVs decision to leave the truck-based body-on-frame configuration behind for the softer Altima-based unibody setup, making the 2013 Pathfinder a polarizing update to one of the automaker's most important nameplates.

Nevertheless, our humble photo department was lacking in spacious workhorses to haul our gear from shoot to shoot, so we invited a Pathfinder to spend a year with us traversing the Golden State on- and off-road.

While the editors jump in and out of different cars during our tests, the support crew stays in one car at the back of the pack, so that vehicle might as well be loaded. We ordered a $40,770 top-trim Platinum 4x4, which comes standard with heated/cooled leather seats, Bose audio, remote engine start, hard-drive-based nav, and Nissan's brilliant Around View Monitor system. With such ample accoutrements standard, the only box to check on the options list was the $2300 Platinum Premium Package that adds Tri-Zone Entertainment (screens in the headrests) and a Dual Panorama Moonroof.

Moving all this along is the only engine available, Nissan's ubiquitous VQ-series V-6 in 3.5-liter guise, down 0.5 liter from the 4.0-liter that powered the previous-gen Pathfinder for almost a decade. The CVT makes optimal use of the VQ's 260 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque, earning a 5000-pound towing capacity and an EPA-rated combined 21 mpg. While FWD can be locked in for highway cruising, 4WD and 4WD Auto modes can be selected from a dial cozied up by the gear select.

We look forward to reporting how the Pathfinder does as our photo vehicle for the year.


2013 Nissan Pathfinder 4WD Platinum
BASE PRICE $41,595
PRICE AS TESTED $44,395
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 3.5L/260-hp/240-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION -speed cont. variable auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4517 lb (53/47%)
WHEELBASE 114.2 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 197.2 x 77.2 x 69.9 in
0-60 MPH 7.5 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.7 sec @ 90.9 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 117 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.76 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.7 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 19/25 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 177/135 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.91 lb/mile