Nissan shows off 2013 Pathfinder

2013 Nissan PathfinderThe 2013 Nissan Pathfinder made its debut as a concept car at the 2012 Detroit auto show, but it certainly looked ready to hit the road. There was nothing especially radical about this midsize SUV. In fact, the production version of the 2013 Pathfinder, which was unveiled on Facebook today, is virtually identical to the concept.

The Pathfinder’s styling is a break from the past, but that makes it more like other SUVs and crossovers of today. The Pathfinder name has always been synonymous with off-road ability, so Pathfinders have always been boxy, no-nonsense trucks. In contrast, the 2013 model eschews the hard edges for some curves.

Like the Ford Explorer, the Pathfinder is making the transition from go-anywhere off-roader to school bus. Most SUVs spend their lives on pavement, and Nissan’s designers are finally admitting that. The Pathfinder’s rounded edges borrow a little from platform-mate Infiniti JX35, while Nissan’s traditional rectangular truck grille remains front and center.

The result is an SUV that looks very different from the current Pathfinder, but not is also similar to the rest of the mainstream competition. A few years ago, even car-based “soft-roaders” had butch, Hummer-like styling, but now midsize SUVs like the Explorer and Toyota Highlander don’t write checks their chassis and suspensions can’t cash.

The new styling reflects Nissan’s effort to redesign the Pathfinder for suburbia. The SUV switches from a body-on-frame to a more car-like unibody chassis. It’s V6 engine (purportedly 25 percent more efficient) is mated to a continuously variable transmission and electronic all-wheel drive. It will also come with navigation, Bluetooth, and other electronic goodies.

Despite showing the 2013 Pathfinder in production-ready form, Nissan was mum on technical details. It shares a platform with the Infiniti JX35, so it will probably use the JX’s 3.5-liter V6, which makes 265 horsepower. Given the 2013 model’s emphasis on fuel economy, the V8 option will probably go away.

The 2013 Pathfinder is set to go on sale this fall and, with its refined chassis, and more fuel efficient engine, it should be the right car for the times. An SUV designed for on-road driving is the more sensible choice, but that doesn’t mean the old Pathfinder won’t be missed.

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