The Nissan Pathfinder is an old-timer, having been around since 1987 when it became the company’s first sport-utility vehicle. Redesigning for 1996 increased its size, switching from body-on-frame construction to a unibody. Another redesign for 2005 made the midsize Pathfinder bigger yet, able to seat seven passengers instead of five.
Now, Nissan is preparing a new version of the Pathfinder, for release as a 2013 model. To whet the appetites of midsize crossover SUV fans, Nissan revealed, for the first time in the world, a concept version of the next Pathfinder at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show.
Quite a few SUV-producing automakers started off with a body-on-frame model, then switched to more carlike construction when the vehicle was redesigned. Nissan may be only one that went back to a separate frame again (in the third Pathfinder generation), and then reverted to the unibody configuration. That’s what’s happening for this fourth-generation Pathfinder.
For this new generation, “we’re about to re-invent Pathfinder again,” says Al Castignetti, vice-president and general manager of the Nissan Division. In addition to the revision in body/chassis configuration, Nissan has ignored the V-8 option in the previous model, and installed a smaller V-6 than the one used for the 2012 Pathfinder.
With the next-generation continuously variable transmission (CVT) working with that new V-6, Nissan expects a 25-percent boost in combined (city/highway) fuel economy, compared to the previous V-6 model. Nissan also advises that horsepower output will be nearly the same as the rating for that bigger V-6.
Aerodynamics is a principal theme of the Pathfinder Concept, which displays a wide chrome grille and large aero headlights. Windshield wipers are recessed. The panoramic dual-panel moonroof incorporates a sliding front panel and fixed rear panel. With its low beltline, front and rear spoilers, and thin windshield and “D” pillars, the fresh look is called “adventure-ready with wheel-oriented muscular fenders.”
Nissan promises “full-size” roominess in this latest Pathfinder, but in a “manageable” exterior size. Weight is expected to be “substantially less” than the prior body-on-frame design. As before, the Pathfinder Concept is set up with three rows of seats, to carry up to seven passengers.
Sales of the production Pathfinder will begin in fall 2012. Nissan vows to introduced 20 new or redesigned models over the next two years.
At the Detroit show, Nissan also is hosting the world debut an all-electric version of its new NV200 multi-usage vehicle, also in concept form. Yielding zero emissions, the e-NV200 Concept holds a laminated 24 kWh lithium-ion battery, under the floor. Range is said to be comparable to the Nissan Leaf electric passenger car.