Nissan's redesigned Pathfinder claims mpg crown in segment
The 2013 Pathfinder has dropped 500 pounds to deliver fuel economy of 20 mpg city/26 highway and 22 combined as a front-wheel-drive model, and 19/25/21 in all-wheel-drive.
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NASHVILLE — Nissan Motor Co. is throwing down the gauntlet for Honda and Toyota in North America, claiming that its next-generation Pathfinder will deliver the best fuel economy in the mid-sized SUV-crossover segment.
The 2013 Pathfinder has dropped 500 pounds to deliver fuel economy of 20 mpg city/26 highway and 22 combined as a front-wheel-drive model, and 19/25/21 in its all-wheel-drive version, Nissan says.
It is scheduled to go on sale in mid-fall with a base price of just over $28,000, Nissan said today.
The 2013 Pathfinder's fuel-economy figures, up 30 percent from the 2012 model, have been submitted to the EPA but have not been certified.
The Pathfinder's two closest competitors for fuel economy in the mid-sized SUV segment are the fwd Honda Pilot, at 18/25/21, and the Ford Explorer, at 18/25/20. The Toyota Highlander has a fuel economy rating of 18/24/20.
Ford also offers a 2.0-liter EcoBoost I-4 engine on the Explorer that delivers 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway.
Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. are scheduled to bring out remodeled versions of the Pilot and the Highlander next year, and the Pathfinder's fuel economy claim is sure to become a target.
"We have a year before Honda and Toyota come out," acknowledges Ken Kcomt, the Nissan North America product planning director responsible for the new Pathfinder.
An advantage of 1 or 2 mpg might be negligible for most shoppers. But that edge will be a crowing point in Pathfinder marketing later this year and next.
Nissan already is making advertising hay out of its redesigned Altima sedan, telling consumers that the car leads the mid-sized segment in fuel economy.
Nissan made radical changes to the redesigned Pathfinder, both to enhance fuel economy and to make the nameplate more attractive to shoppers.
Engineers have shifted it from a body-on-frame light truck to a unibody construction, based on a platform it shares with the new Infiniti JX.
Abandoning the truck frame made it possible for the vehicle to become 500 pounds lighter than with the 2012 model. Another factor in the weight loss is a smaller engine, a 3.5-liter V-6 that replaces the previous model's 4.0 V-6, and the switch to a more fuel-efficient continuously variable transmission.
Despite a slightly smaller fuel tank, the new model will have an increased driving range, Kcomt says.
More important for marketing the model, the unibody construction has allowed Nissan to redesign the Pathfinder's interior with three ample rows of seats and an increase of 8 cubic feet.
"This moves us into exactly what customers want in this segment," says Tom Smith, chief marketing officer for the Pathfinder. "It's more interior space, more comfort for seven passengers, better fuel economy and still the characteristics of SUV performance and styling."
Nissan expects the new Pathfinder to better challenge the sales leaders in the segment -- particularly Explorer, Highlander and Pilot. The Explorer led the segment last year with sales of 135,704, followed by the Jeep Grand Cherokee (127,744), Pilot (116,297), Chevrolet Traverse (107,131) and Highlander (101,252).
Pathfinder sales last year rose 21 percent to 25,935 units.
In the first seven months of this year, the Pathfinder averaged sales of about 2,500 units a month, up 23 percent from the same period last year. Nissan executives expect the re-engineered model to sell two to three times that volume.
David Phillips contributed to this report
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