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Mudfest 2013: Tom's Hardware Helps Test 23 SUVs

Nissan Pathfinder

Out of all the cars submitted by manufacturers for Mudfest, Nissan took the cake with the one that didn't belong. It sent over a 2013 Pathfinder SL. Although previous generations were known for their off-road prowess, the latest version sheds the truck-based platform in favor of a software car platform, shared with the Murano and JX35 we reviewed in 2013 Infiniti JX35: Getting Us One Step Closer To A Driverless Car. The Pathfinder we tested didn't even have all-wheel drive. Nissan rubbed more salt in the wound by sending a front-wheel drive model to an on- and off-road competition. Mini’s two-door Cooper S Paceman ALL4 made more sense.

Opening the door reveals an interior nearly identical to the Infiniti JX35, but with lesser-quality materials. The infotainment system consists of a seven-inch center display with an awful QVGA resolution, and the usual CD player, radio, and Sirius satellite radio. Why Nissan bothered to install an antiquated display in a vehicle it charges $35,000 for is beyond comprehension. The text and graphics come out pixelated and aren't anti-aliased at all. I've seen better quality from VHS tapes. This just isn't acceptable for the price.

On the plus side, the fourth-gen iPad with its Lightning connector had no trouble playing music back through the Pathfinder's infotainment system. But because the Bluetooth module is completely separate from the infotainment system, it required annoying voice commands to get paired up, disappointingly.

The Pathfinder features Nissan's corporate 3.5-liter V6 paired with a CVT. The powertrain is smooth, but the motor does have to move a heavy vehicle, so this doesn't end up being a very quick vehicle. Driving the Pathfinder was fairly boring; the soft-roader doesn’t have a single athletic bone in its body. We were hesitant to push it too hard on the road or dirt courses due to a lack of rear traction and the natural tendency to understeer.

The Pathfinder is handsome-looking with its clean, subtle lines. There’s not much aggression in the front end, but it should appeal to the soccer mom contingent.

Vehicle Specifications
Vehicle2013 Nissan Pathfinder
Trim levelSL
Engine3.5 L V6 (VQ35)
TransmissionCVT
DrivetrainFront-wheel drive
InfotainmentSeven-inch information display center
Notable featuresRear-view camera
Fuel economy20 city, 26 highway, 22 combined
MSRP$35,650
  • Super_Nova
    Very slow newsweek
    Reply
  • flong777
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.
    Reply
  • Johnny_C13
    Well, at least the Grand Cherokee can (literally) run (on) Crysis... but I wonder if it starts faster with an SSD?
    Reply
  • MU_Engineer
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10968917 said:
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.

    Its a great offroad vehicle for the price. The other two are capable vehicles, but the buyer demographic will never take them offroad.

    10969315 said:
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.

    Mechanical technology has its uses but the WWII Era vehicles are awful for comfort and driving feel. Not going to lie though, the G-wagen is one sexy beast IMO. The Wrangler is only a 6-speed auto iirc, but there's a company that offers HEMI conversions :D.

    10969432 said:
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.

    Toyota didn't submit any vehicles, disappointingly. Was hoping the 5th Gen 4Runner and new RAV4 would be there :(.
    Reply
  • joe gamer
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10969918 said:
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.

    Nothing wrong with an old Isuzu, before GM raped and pillaged them :(. Cars are so expensive nowadays, you're about as poor as I am, but add in two kids and a wife. The WRX has a nice manual because its a performance vehicle. Manuals in economy cars are usually sloppy. long throws and not very exciting, which is why I hate to say to get the auto in economy cars. But, the XV Crosstrek could probably be fixed with a short throw shifter, that usually does wonders.

    Reply
  • JPNpower
    Why are you using SUVs in the mud!!! These things belong in parking lots at the mall!
    Reply