First drive: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder in the UAE

First drive: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder in the UAE

2013 Nissan Pathfinder 3
The Nissan Pathfinder has never had a consistent heritage. The first one arrived in 1986 as a 3-door compact 4×4 on a body-on-frame pickup chassis. The 5-door version only arrived in 1990, still a compact. The second-generation model in 1996 moved up to the midsize category with a unibody frame as well as independent suspension, and people complained that it lost its heritage. In 2006, the third-generation moved back to a body-on-frame construction, retained its independent suspension and grew in size to accommodate a cramped 3rd-row seat, and people complained again that it lost its heritage. Now the 2013 model has gone back to a unibody, ditching its offroad credentials to become a proper three-row crossover to compete with other crossover SUVs that sell better. And people are again complaining that it’s lost its heritage. What heritage?

While we’ve never been in support of SUVs losing their offroad capabilities, the business case for the new Pathfinder is hard to argue against. The Ford Explorer has gone ahead and led the way, giving offroaders the finger and becoming a sales success as a result. And Nissan has the benefit of offering real offroaders like the Nissan Xterra and the Nissan Patrol on either end of the market, or even the Armada, so it didn’t make sense to keep the compromised old Pathfinder around. They needed a big crossover to tap an unexplored market, and they chose to use the Pathfinder name, instead of just killing it off.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder 7

After an adventurous sea-plane ride as part of the launch event, we landed in Khor Fakkan waters in time to see our press cars ready on the beach. The plan was to drive up to Musandam, and then drive back all the way to Dubai.

An interesting factoid is that the American-built 2013 Nissan Pathfinder is a direct reskinned relative of the recently-launched Infiniti JX35. But there are key differences. Aside from the conservatively-handsome exterior styling, the interior looks almost the same as the one in the Infiniti. It’s only when you start touching stuff that things seem a bit off.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder 4

The leathery-looking dash on the Pathfinder is entirely hard-plastic. At least it looks good, and there’s soft-touch padding on the upper front doors, as well as padded inserts and armrests on all doors.

Space inside is excellent, with a second-row seat that can either be set for limo-like legroom, or slid forward to give the third-row occupants more breathing room. The third row offers just about enough space for adults, and the seat-back can even be reclined, although this leaves precious-little cargo room, which is cavernous once the third row is folded flat.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder 9

The tech is more than enough, at least on the top model. You get everything from a touchscreen navigation setup to a top-view four-camera parking system. Of course, when you go for the base model, you lose some of it, as it doesn’t even come with fog-lamps, although you still get to have the standard 3-zone a/c, hard-drive and smart-key start. It’s also relatively cheap, even compared to the Americans.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder 11

The Pathfinder is powered by a 254 hp 3.5-litre V6, with either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. The engine is mated to a new-generation CVT automatic, apparently newer than the one even in its Infiniti cousin. While it still makes the engine wail at full throttle, it isn’t really noticeable in casual city driving, and it keeps the revs very low on the highway.

Power is adequate, for the most part, though you’ll never feel a rush of acceleration when you suddenly pound on the pedal. The engine is decently muffled, at least as well as the Infiniti, as is wind/road noise. The Pathfinder rides smoothly enough with only the occasional shunt on rough surfaces, even with 20-inch alloys, so we assume the base model with 18-inchers will be even more buttery.

The Pathfinder handles corners like a tall car, which is a good thing. In the moderate-speed driving we did, we never felt any real body roll on small roundabouts and such. The driving position is great, as is visibility, with pillars that aren’t as thick as the ones on the Ford Explorer.

The steering is light, but not overly so, and even offers the tiniest bit of feel. Even the brake pedal is linear, with acceptable stopping power. There really is nothing to complain about in this comfortable family cruiser, at least in terms of drive.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder 12

We took the Pathfinder on gravel as well, on the treacherous uphill-downhill mountain-road entrance to the Zighy Bay resort in Musandam, Oman for lunch. The Nissan managed the steep stone/gravel inclines just fine with the all-wheel-drive set to “auto”, while the downhills were managed more with the brake-pedal rather than engine-braking, as the CVT’s “L” mode only makes a minor difference. It has neither the low-range gearing nor the ground clearance for actual dune-bashing.

As people continue to clamour for minivans that look like 4x4s, with no intention to go offroad, the Pathfinder is guaranteed to see a boost in sales. It does everything we expected it to do, and more. Pick the 4WD model, and you’ll even manage to hang out on beaches and mild wadis without issues. It wasn’t the best of offroaders in its last iteration anyway, and a very poor people-carrier as well, so a shift in focus to become an uncompromising comfort-cruiser is the best path to take for the Pathfinder, even if enthusiasts like us will never agree.

What do you think?



  1. Mom butt station wagon

    -Bath finder-

  2. Perfect family car. It delivers what most ppl are looking for. They will sell this alot.

  3. Murano’s big brother.

  4. Murano’s uglier brother 😉

    fully agree and clear why this thing looks the way it looks. still, for being a real 4×4 fan, this comes obviously as a huge disappointment..

  5. you did not mention the prices…

  6. A good looking that clearly does not deserve the Pathfinder name. Pathfinder our supposed to look rough and rugged not like minivans. This would have been a great Quest though.

  7. No really, WTF is that ? It sure looks very cheap in white color. Other colors might work on it. 2 out of 5. And the 2 goes for the interior, especially the nice dashboard area.

  8. i still own the 2005 pathfinder.. was expecting something better than the current model.. but this 2013 model exterior disappoints me!

  9. Prices from 109K to 180K (today’s wheel mag) – what is their target market?

  10. What about fuel economy? Any news about improvements?
    The previous models were always fuel thirsty!

  11. very good & good for family

  12. wanted it to be a tough off-roader suv. :/ but this is still good for a crossover.

  13. Received my mid-options Pathfinder yesterday! Beautiful car, loaded with features, smooth ride, very quiet on the highway. I initially thought the new shape was a disaster but once you see the car in real life, it’s definitely an improvement over the previous generation. A lot more cabin space in all 3 rows and better comfort. I’d recommend it!

    • Hi, can you share some feedback related t the car driving experience especially related to the transmission – I have heard there are many issues reported regarding the cvt transmission and there is a recall for the airbag issue. Appreciate it

    • No problems related to cvt’s are exaggerated by people, just read all the forums, manual, automatics, ignition coils, ride quality, battery, electronics you will find complaints in every car and every model, on the other hand there will be people in consumer reviews very much happy with the same car without any concern related to same problems.

    • The complaints about CVT have been exaggerated as v6turbo says. Smooth ride, quiet cabin. I haven’t heard of any recall so far.

  14. this car is good for fat people

  15. yeah great! thanks for your valuable input indian hero.

    KcB how long did it take for the car to arrive? Have nissan been in touch with you in regard to to recall?

    • It took about 2 weeks, more or less, for the car to arrive. We got the first shipment. No, I haven’t heard of any recall so far.

  16. Can the author elaborate on “CVT dull Drive”.
    is it a technical heckup, or just feeling about it.
    i’m trying to make a decision for acar.
    so far still comparing between honda pilor, ford explorer and nissan pathfinder.
    would appreicate an advise.


  17. Hi KCB;

    Kindly give us a hint on fuel economy.earlier pathfinder was not at all fuel economical.

    • I drive mostly on highways and I average out at 13.4L/100km according to the trip computer (driving at mostly 120km/h with a lot of overtaking)

  18. how much for SV model?

  19. Hi, do you know the dealer in uae who has the SV module available now?
    How much the price?

  20. There is a waiting period of 1 month for pathfinder in Dubai. Prices are 125/145/165 for the 3 variations.

  21. 165k for top range is a good price for this segment.

  22. Hi,
    I have posted a question to the author, but didn’t get response.
    is it possible to benefit from their expertise.

  23. Hi again,
    What is really not clear to me, is how Nissan compromised the safety for this family car by only providing canopy airbages to the upper trim. It should be at least to the SV and SL models similar to the Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer.

  24. My first impresssion was that it was a soccer mom van. But after driving it on a US rental for a week, I think its better than what it looks like. 2 row is very spacious, it drives better than the CX9, and the entertainment system is quite good

  25. What Pathfinder? it is a MallFinder

  26. I am having the SV model. All seems perfect from interior to fuel economy. The CVT gives bit pick up problem intial n goes to smooth drive later.only negative is that it is bit lenghty to park in normal place. Same dimension as mazda CX9. I wish all will b ok once use to it.dims of explorer is more comparw to pathfinder. so trying to be happy…..

  27. “The pathfinder is guaranteed to see boost in sales” lol 😀

    • interesting point actually: i hardly see the new pathfinder on the roads. would be interesting to see the actual sales numbers in comparison since inception..

  28. hmm,,, I won’t say hardly. One can see an average no. of Pathfinders on road and also the Infinity version, there is a lot to choose from crossovers these days, you need to be really exceptional to sell a particular model or price should be very competitive for e.g. A Pajero does most of the things right, although most of the people who buy it don’t venture offroad, they know its a tough ride compared to crossovers of modern era, but they would still buy it for the image.

  29. Can a 2015 Pathfinder 4×4 go to desert

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