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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11
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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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Updated:Caption:Photo:Wayne Cunningham/CNET
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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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