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Nissan Pathfinder brings minivan comfort to SUV (pictures)

A new, radical update to Nissan's Pathfinder turns it into a comfortable family hauler with a good tow rating and a flexible four-wheel-drive system.

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Wayne Cunningham
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1 of 20 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
With an almost 30-year history, the Pathfinder has undergone more changes than most car models, going back and forth between body-on-frame and unibody construction. The latest iteration leaves behind the truck frame and adopts a modern crossover style.
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Losing its trucklike styling, the new Pathfinder looks more like a minivan, especially at the front fenders. As a crossover, it combines a range of capabilities that should make it suitable for large families.
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Nissan's engine is pretty standard stuff from the previous decade, a 3.5-liter V-6 making 260 horsepower. Its saving grace is the continuously variable transmission tying it to the wheels, which makes that power more usable than in many fixed-gear vehicles.
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The Pathfinder uses a fixed suspension, but Nissan did an excellent job tuning it for comfort and handling.
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With the third-row seating up, the cargo space is still expansive, although probably not large enough to hold weekend luggage for seven people.
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Cargo room increases substantially with the third row folded down.
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Fold the third and middle rows down, and the Pathfinder boasts almost 80 cubic feet of cargo space.
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In Platinum trim, the Pathfinder gains a very nicely appointed cabin. The front seats, power-adjustable and covered in leather, also feature heating and cooling.
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The middle row offers some manual adjustment for the convenience of passengers.
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The middle row slides forward, actually making it possible to step into the third row, rather than climb over.
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The navigation system is not available in any trim except Platinum.
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The turning radius in the Pathfinder is about average, but the boost is very good from the electrohydraulic power-steering system.
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This dial controls the four-wheel-drive system. It takes the Pathfinder from economical two-wheel drive all the way to a differential-locked four-wheel drive.
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In the automatic all-wheel-drive mode, this display shows which axles have torque.
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The navigation system shows maps with good detail, but they could use a style refresh.
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Weather information comes in courtesy of satellite radio.
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This file and folder interface shows up when you plug a USB drive into the car. For music from the Pathfinder's own hard drive or an iOS device, it would show music categorized by album, artist, and genre.
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The now-playing screen shows full track information, plus album art.
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At the rear of the console, middle-row passengers can control climate and access auxiliary ports for the rear-seat entertainment system.
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The headrest monitors seem a little quaint in this age of tablets.

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