2013 Nissan Pathfinder

2013 Nissan Pathfinder drops the frame, maintains the capability (first drive)

Conventional wisdom used to be that, for towing and off-roading, you needed a truck or SUV built in body-on-frame style. Nissan pretty soundly blows that wisdom out of the water with its 2013 Pathfinder.

The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder represents a radical reengineering of the model, going from the previous generation's body-on-frame construction to a unibody with independent suspension. At the same time, the new Pathfinder retains the seven-passenger capacity of the previous generation, sheds 500 pounds, and rates a 5,000-pound towing capacity.

The new platform changes a lot of technical details on the Pathfinder. Its 3.5-liter V-6 engine sits sidesaddle and it biases toward front-wheel drive, something that will make off-road fans scoff. However, Nissan fits it with a four-wheel-drive system that lets the driver choose, by turning a dial on the console, between front-wheel drive, automatic torque distribution, which pushes drive to the rear wheels when the front ones slip, and four-wheel-drive lock, maintaining 50/50 torque distribution between front and rear wheels.

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