A fixture in Nissan’s product lineup for more than 25 years, the fourth generation Pathfinder has evolved from the cheeky adolescent Hardbody of 1986 to the mature parental unit of 2013. It’s a maturation process that has entailed several zigs and zags. Like so many of the vehicles that came along in the mid-’80s SUV boom, that first generation was a body-on-frame design based on Nissan’s compact pickup truck. The next iteration (1996) was a unitbody (frame rails integrated with the body shell), but Nissan reverted to body-on-frame for generation three (2005).
As a result, the transition to the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, generation four, is a major course change for this most persistently popular of all Nissan SUVs. The third generation was conceived for the possibility, however remote, of serious off-road use, hence lots of ground clearance and body-on-frame construction, a prescription for enduring the pounding that goes with rugged terrain.
Generation four represents an about-face. Concluding that the large SUV segment is increasingly composed of buyers whose priorities don’t include off-road adventure, Nissan has retuned the 2013 Pathfinder around family values: roominess, comfort, and, paramount among today’s vehicle attributes, fuel economy.
The result is that the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder is bigger than the gen three Pathfinder, with more room, sharply reduced curb weights, and dramatically improved fuel economy ratings.
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