Detroit 2012: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder Concept Closely Previews Production Model

The Nissan Pathfinder concept, revealed today at the Detroit auto show, demonstrates the possibility for a lighter, more aerodynamic version of Nissan’s midsize three-row SUV. The concept uses unibody construction, rather than the body-on-frame setup of the current Pathfinder -- which is hardly new to the model, as the second-generation Pathfinder also was built on a unibody chassis.

Nissan executive vice president Andy Palmer admits that although it is labeled a concept, the Pathfinder on display here in Detroit is very close to the production car. He says the 2013 Pathfinder will be as much as 500 pounds lighter than the current model, due in part to the switch to unibody construction.

Whereas the Pathfinder has traditionally been one of Nissan's tough, burly off-road-capable machines, the new model is designed almost exclusively for on-road use. Nissan has found that most customers don't actually use their SUVs for serious-duty performance, but simply enjoy high ground clearance and rugged styling. Instead, Nissan Design America vice president Alfonso Albaisa says customers really want fuel efficiency and a comfortable ride.

"The role of an SUV doesn't really fit the customer," Albaisa said. "I think we have a sort of fantasy about rock-hopping."

Even so, Palmer and Albaisa say the new Pathfinder's towing and payload capacities should be on par with those of the current model, likely with a tow rating around 5000 pounds. The new SUV should still be able to manage "light" off-roading -- think rural or snowy trails, rather than rock-hopping adventures.

The new design creates a notably big and airy greenhouse, thanks to a low beltline, relatively skinny pillars, and a big panoramic glass roof. By virtue of the switch to unibody construction, Nissan says the Pathfinder’s interior offers more and more-usable space. The dashboard layout is fairly familiar from other current Nissan SUVs, and the concept car’s three-row, seven-seat interior shows features like touch-screen navigation and rear-seat DVD players. Outside, chrome is used to dress-up the door handles, front grille, and roof rails.

As to what is under the new metal, Nissan has said only that the Pathfinder concept has an “advanced” V-6 engine and continuously variable transmission. That combination is said to provide about 25-percent better fuel economy than the current Pathfinder. Despite the svelte, more curvaceous design, the concept is promised to retain the same sort of towing and off-road performance that has been offered by the Pathfinder model since it first launched in 1986. It goes without saying that all-wheel drive will be available.

The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder will go on sale in fall 2012.

For more on the Nissan Pathfinder concept, check out our First Look here. For more on the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, including videos, the latest photos, and more information, click here to visit our Detroit Show homepage.

Marcus Bryant
I will own this vehicle as soon as it is available. I owned a pathfinder previously while stationed in NY before a drunk driver saw fit to send it halfway down the block (luckily I wasn't in it). The toughest terrain I have been on is Daytona Beach and there was on problem. I do anticipate any problems with this model either. Love the new design. This will be my third Nissan SUV (had an Xterra too) and when the new Altima is available, it will be my fifth.
Michel Fortin
I'm an Xterra owner than off-roads with many old and current Pathfinder owners. Even the old R50 was stiill a good off-road vehicle and the R51 brought back what made the Pathfinder great and was hoping some day, when I need something bigger than my Xterra, that the next step was going to be a Pathfinder, but it won't be a 2013. If Nissan is going to make such drastic changes, just drop the Pathfinder name, leave it die off as a hardcore SUV's and give it a name since this new Pathfinder won't be "finding any paths" with it's new design. The old R50 still a unibody did well, but the major thing that the 2013 will miss is the part-time 4WD, RWD-based drivetrain for a FWD/AWD system, which I would say definitely doesn't deserve the Pathfinder nameplate for that alone. Ya fuel efficiency is nice, and tend to curse when I full up my Xterra since I've been hit quite badly with these bad times as well, but one thing I can trust is that my trusty steed will get me everywhere and do everything that I need her to. Nissan says in the article that "towing and payload capacities should be on par with those of the current model", 5000lbs isn't the 6000 or 7000 of the R51, nor will it "retain the same sort of [...] off-road performance" with it's FWD/AWD setup are both false exaggerated statements, Nissan should be ashamed of saying such things.
i had a 2009 pathfinder and now i got a 2011 one and the new nissan pathfinder is not what i was expacting it looks like the end of 4 wheel driving i think the new nissan patrol should have been the new pathfinder because the new patrol has the looks of the pathfinder
I own a Pathfinder 2009 that I use to tow a RV trailer. I liked the rugged, square look of the Pathfinder and its high ground clearance. Its truck frame also inspires confidence when towing high loads. I can't say I'm very much convinced with this new generation. The design is sleek, but it just looks like any other standard crossover-style SUV, with rounded edges, lower roofline, lower ground clearance, large wheels and lower-profile tires. It's somewhat like a bigger version of its brother, the Nissan Murano. The better fuel economy is great, but I'm pretty sure the new Pathfinder won't be able to tow the 6,000 lbs (V6) or 7,000 lbs (V8) the current one is towing. That is definitely unfortunate.

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