We (wife and I) are looking to replace her 2007 Maxima with a new vehicle in the coming few months. We both love the Maxima but its lack of space and miserable MPG (I get better in the GTO) is really starting to get to us. We started to look at 7-8 passenger SUVs as we are planning for a family in the next few years and want this to be her last vehicle for a while yet.
Now, there was a lot of bah humbugging around the new generation Pathfinder. The move from BOF construction to unibody is always seen as a way to destroy a vehicle. Here, it works 100%. I've been in the last generation Pathfinder, a 2011, and while capable of pulling and going off road the interior space was cramped and I couldnt even sit in the second row because of the lower door shape wouldnt allow my size 14 shoe to fit in. It was a good off roader but sales have literally jumped off the cliff in the last five years for the whole segment.
The first thing that stands out is the interior. It does have some plastics but they neither look or feel cheap and they are pretty well minimalized throughout the cabin. The cloth seats are a mix of microfiber and some other type of fabric but it works great as a base seat instead of cheap leatherette. The interior is well laid out and the center stack is easy to use. The only concern is trying to adjust your mirrors as the adjustment is located way towards the front of the vehicle on the drivers armrest. It was a stretch for me to reach it and Im 6'5". The best feature about the whole interior is the sliding second row. It has almost 8" of adjustment and can even be put almost all the way back with the third row laid down. The other very nifty thing about the second row is the ability to egress and ingress the third row without removing a car or booster seat. Why havent automakers made this standard in everything??
The exterior loses its bulky look but the Pathfinder still has very good stance and shall I say even a little sporty looking. It wont win any awards but it certainly wont shun buyers with an outrageous look.
After getting myself familiarized with the controls we took it out for a quick 10 minute drive. The first thing I noticed was the immensely improved CVT. There is no torque steer, no weird noise and even though it kept the RPMs down on the whole drive it never felt like I was lacking for power. Even though the Pathfinder is no small vehicle it drove almost exactly like our Maxima. It didnt feel large like many of the competitors that I have driven. One of the most noticeable things about the whole drive was how quiet the new Pathfinder is. I usually do all my test drives with the radio off to see if I can notice anything out of the norm and it certainly excelled to me. Despite being down on power compared to all other 8 passenger vehicles, it is certainly not the slowest. Nissan worked the magic here with a large cross over that weighs in at much less than anything else. It helps with the MPG, feel and overall driving ability of the large vehicle.
Nissan really got it right here. When compared to others in the segment the SL ($34,850) level we are looking at comes in 4-5k cheaper than the Acadia SLE2 ($41,200), Traverse LTZ ($40,205) and Explorer Limited ($38,100). If you add the SL premium package you get dual sunroofs and an upgraded 10 speaker Bose system and it still comes in under the Acadia and Traverse. Why does the middle trim level have to compete with the top from GM? Well, we HAVE to have memory seats in this vehicle. With me being 6'5 and the wife being 5'9 our driving positions are just too different. GM doesnt even off it except on the top of the line models. Why is that? Another thing that is great is the intellikey. GM doesnt have that either. What also is crazy is that the Enclave, Acadia and Traverse are all within $2k of each other when equipped nearly the same.
*Photos are from the dealer. Who takes a picture with half the vehicle in the shade? Also, I have no driven the new 2013 GM crossovers as inventory is still really low in my area.