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Nissan's modernized Pathfinder takes to the trail (pictures)

At a press event, CNET drove the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder along paved highways and over mountains on dirt roads, showing it has some off-road capability.

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Wayne_Cunningham.jpg
Wayne Cunningham
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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Nissan lined up these 2013 Pathfinders, mostly SL and Platinum trim models, at the break of dawn, ready for a day of highway cruising and trail breaking.
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The Pathfinder exhibited enough clearance to cross a dry creek bed, pulling up an easy dirt trail in front-wheel-drive mode.
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As the track got steeper, we went to automatic mode, in which the drive system pushed torque to the rear wheels when the front wheels slipped.
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Making this descent in four-wheel drive, I would have appreciated a descent control mode in the Pathfinder.
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Nissan's new Pathfinder represents a radical update, going from body-on-frame construction to a modern unibody design, which should make for a more comfortable ride.
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For this update, Nissan changed the styling substantially, going from the previous-generation vehicle's boxy look to a body more resembling the Xterra.
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Nissan fits the new Pathfinder with the same engine across all trims, a 3.5-liter V-6 from Nissan's very successful VQ series of engines. In this application, it makes 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque.
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Nissan maintained seven-passenger seating in three rows with the new Pathfinder. The roofline drops very little toward the back so that third-row headroom is not compromised.
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The Pathfinder uses a fixed suspension that delivers a comfortable ride. It's available in front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.
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The cargo area is not large with the third-row seats up. However, both third- and second-row seats fold down, maximizing cargo space.
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The middle-row seating slides 5 inches, allowing relatively easy access to the rear seats.
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The Pathfinder gets the same cabin tech interface found in other Nissan models for the past few years. This interface is very easy to use.
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Infotainment includes the usual options: navigation, digital audio, and a Bluetooth hands-free phone system. Nissan should update this system with more connected features.
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The surround-view camera system is a useful option for negotiating both parking garages and off-road terrain.

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