I got off to a rocky start with the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder I recently test-drove for a week, but in all fairness, it wasn’t really the car’s fault.
See, it has one of those push-button ignitions, and when I went to take it for a spin, I guess I didn’t notice that the car wasn’t completely on. I had just gotten done selecting my radio station and connecting my phone via Bluetooth. Then I threw the car into reverse and started backing down my driveway. I soon realized that the car seemed sluggish, and it was hard to turn.
Finally, just as the car finished inching out of my driveway, it stopped and wouldn’t move anymore, no matter what I tried. In a panic, I called my husband (using my freshly paired phone and the car’s speakers). Even though the Pathfinder was now blocking my entire street and I had visions of someone plowing into this borrowed car, I did see the humor in the situation, and I half-laughed, half-cried to my husband, “The car is stuck! I need your help!”
It turns out my husband had been watching me from the window the whole time and couldn’t figure out why I had parked the car in the middle of the street. He came out, got in the car, started it up, and had it back in the driveway three seconds later.
“How did you do that?!” I demanded.
“You have to step on the brake while you press the button. Didn’t you notice the engine wasn’t on?”
“I thought it was just really quiet,” I answered sheepishly. In my defense, the last car I drove with a push-button ignition was a Prius, which is silent. “How did I get down the driveway, though?”
And so began my week. My husband was worried about letting me drive alone after that, but I assured him I’d be fine.
Despite the rough start, so to speak, I soon fell in love with the Pathfinder, as did the rest of the family.
I had the Platinum edition, which comes fully loaded with leather, navigation, DVD, heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel, etc. Obviously all that luxury helped a lot. But even without all the extras, we were very impressed with the Pathfinder, both in terms of driving and easily seating the kids.
The 2013 Pathfinder is redesigned, with a sleeker exterior and roomier interior. It’s less truck-like but still big enough for most people’s needs, and it gets better fuel mileage than the previous incarnation. It boasts a 5-star rating for side impacts, with 4-star ratings for frontal and rollover. The overall average from Safercar.gov is a 4-star crash rating. The IIHS has not yet completed its testing. So far, the 2013 Pathfinder has received the top “Good” ratings in both the moderate overlap frontal crash test and the IIHS side impact test.
You know how some people know a lot about wine, and they say things like, “This one is fruity, with oaky undertones”? I don’t know anything about wine, so I say things like, “Yeah, I like that,” or “Oh my god! It burns!!! It burns!!!”
You’ll have to forgive that I’m like that with cars, too. I’m not a car-person in the sense that I can discuss “suspension damping” or “throttle response” (I had to go read some Edmunds reviews just to come up with those terms). So how was the Pathfinder to drive? I liked it. (And it didn’t burn.)
To try to give a bit more description: I was nervous at first because it felt big, even though it’s comparable in size to the Honda Odyssey I drive now, and the Honda Pilot I drove previously. It handled very nicely, though, and I soon found I loved driving it. It had smooth, quick acceleration from a stop, and handled turns great. I discovered, upon having to make a u-turn on a narrow Chicago street, that it has a nice, tight turn radius.
The drive was very quiet, especially compared to the not-so-quiet Odyssey. I also found the brakes to be nice and responsive. (The Edmunds review described the brakes as “spongy.” Not being a wine/car person, I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but I didn’t experience anything I’d describe as sponginess. The day after I got the car, though, Nissan issued a recall for a brake issue on some Pathfinders, so maybe they got a dud?)
According to the car’s control panel, my gas mileage for the week was around 22 mpg, which is the combined city/highway fuel mileage estimated for the vehicle. I drove 207 miles and used about half a tank of gas. Not bad.
I wouldn’t normally include a section on parking, because…why? But this truly deserves its own section.
Confession: I’m a good driver, but a terrible parker. I’m not just talking parallel parking: I mean ANY parking. I always wind up too far over to one side or another, and I’m NEVER straight. It’s pretty embarrassing.
Anyway, when I was sitting there at a stop light on my virgin trip, I noticed a “camera” button and decided to push it. In Heather’s review of the Tesla S, she mentioned you could see out of the backup camera while driving, so I thought that might be the case here, too. Turns out that’s not quite what it did, but it might be even cooler. When I pressed the camera button, the screen changed to show the view from a forward camera and also a “birds-eye view” of the car that showed what was behind, in front of, and on both sides. Perfect for parking? Yes, especially for someone with such meager parking skills.
Once I started going above a couple miles per hour, the camera view turned off, but I turned it back on when I got to the parking lot at the grocery store. As I turned into my spot, the “overhead” camera showed me the lines in the pavement and also showed computerized lines marking the direction of my front wheels.
Using these tools, I effortlessly parked PERFECTLY, possibly for the first time in my life.
My car also came equipped with sensors that beep when you have obstacles (including people) behind you while you’re in reverse. Very handy, and a great safety feature for keeping kids safe around cars. Nissan calls this the “Around View Monitor System with Camera Aided Sonar.” I guess that describes it pretty well.
Overall, the Pathfinder was great for transporting kids. Typically, I much prefer minivans over SUVs for transporting more than two kids, mainly because of third-row access issues, but if I had to own an SUV, the Pathfinder would be high on my list specifically because of the great third-row access.
The Pathfinder has a feature that allows the second-row seats to fold slightly forward and move up, even with a child seat installed! Best of all, it’s easy enough for my child to do. (I’ve found a lot of second-row seats rather difficult to move, even for an adult).
There are limitations to this.