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New Pathfinder has best fuel economy

| Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, 9:14 p.m.

For 2013, the Nissan Pathfinder sport utility vehicle is longer, wider and has a roomier interior than its predecessor. At the same time, this new Pathfinder is 500 pounds lighter. And with a 30 percent boost in fuel economy, it tops all other mid-size crossover SUVs in sipping gasoline.

How can a bigger SUV be lighter and more fuel efficient?

Nissan engineers built the redesigned, 2013 Pathfinder as a unibody, so the vehicle no longer uses a heavy truck frame. Secondly, all Pathfinders come with a fuel-efficient continuously variable transmission (CVT). And, the V-6 engine is bit smaller, at 3.5 liters instead of 4 liters, while a V-8 no longer is offered.

So, while towing capacity has dropped from 7,000 pounds in the 2012 Pathfinder to 5,000 pounds, the new Pathfinder proudly carries a government fuel economy rating of 20 miles per gallon in city driving and 26 mpg on the highway as a two-wheel drive model.

This rating is better than previous mileage standouts in the category — the Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer which, like the Pathfinder, have three rows of seats.

Another highlight: Starting retail prices for this fourth-generation Pathfinder are lower than that of its predecessor.

Specifically, starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $29,495 for a base 2013 Pathfinder S with 260-horsepower V-6 and two-wheel drive.

The 2013 Pathfinder's 3.5-liter, double overhead cam V-6 generates 260 horsepower instead of the 266 from last year's 4-liter V-6. Torque is reduced more, going from 288 foot-pounds at 4,000 rpm to 240 at 4,400 rpm.

But the test Pathfinder was responsive when accelerating and didn't lag, even when it carried a full load of seven passengers.

The CVT, which a driver operates like an automatic transmission, worked smoothly and in satisfying fashion, and the characteristic drone sound that was expected wasn't heard.

Better yet, the tester averaged 21.6 mpg in combined city/highway travel. This is nearly equal to the government's combined 22-mpg rating. The average mileage gave the test Pathfinder a 420-mile range on a single tank of regular gasoline.

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