Long before the existence of “Crossovers”, the Murano, Rogue or even the Xterra, Nissan started making the Pathfinder. It has been over 20 years now since the first rolled out of Japan, and while it has grown increasingly larger with age and may lack on-the-road handling and refinement of other vehicles, it is still a solidly capable SUV with legitimate off-road abilities.
For the most part, the most competent and “real” SUVs share many of the same attributes that are present in trucks. The Pathfinder is no different. Using the same fully boxed frame as the full-size Armada SUV and an independent suspension, the Pathfinder is exceptionally rugged and possesses the ability to tow a 7,000 pound trailer. The base engine in the S model is the same that is in the 350z, a 266-horsepower 4.0-liter V6, while the SE and LE models come with an optional 310-horsepower 5.6-liter V8. Both engine options use a five-speed automatic with the SE offered with a manual-shift feature. According to the EPA, the 2WD Pathfinder achieves 15/22 mpg city/highway with the six-cylinder engine and 13/19 with the V8. The 4WD model achieves 14/20 with the six-cylinder and 13/18 with the V8. there’s seating for seven. 2WD versions are capable of 0-60 mph in slightly less than 8 seconds. A part-time “Shift-on-the-fly” switch-operated two-speed transfer case is available on the S, SE and SE Off Road trims, while a full-time “All-Mode” system with two-speed transfer case is available only on the LE and SE V8 models.
From a design standpoint the ’09 Pathfinder contains more “truck-like” qualities with squared-off visage that looks similar to the Titan and Frontier pickups, as well as the Armada and Xterra. Inside and larger than previous models, the Pathfinder seats seven, though testers complain that both the middle and rear seats are on the cramped side. A strange criticism given it has 16.5 cubic feet of cargo volume with all seats in use, 49.2 with the third row folded flat, and 79.2 with both the second and third rows folded flat. Nevertheless, Nissan prides itself on the Pathfinder’s utility and flexibility, even employing utility hooks in the rear and further storage areas under the rear seats. Nissan says there are 64 different seating/cargo configurations. These are available through a fold-down front passenger’s seat (on all models but the S and LE), a second-row 40/20/40-split fold-flat bench seat, and a third-row 50/50-split fold-flat bench seat. Interior quality as a whole is good, though hard plastic seems to be the overwhelming material of choice. The base S includes air conditioning, an in-cabin microfilter, power door locks and windows, remote keyless entry, cruise control with steering-wheel-mounted controls, a tilt steering column, a rear intermittent wiper, an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat with manual lumbar, cloth seat trim, and eight cup holders. The Pathfinder starts at just over $27,000 for the base model, though to enjoy all of the off-road goodies described above the price stretches closer to the $40,000 mark for the V8-equipped LE.