The Pathfinder was one of the first SUVs on the market back in the mid-’80s. Although it has been redesigned (more than once) since then, the Pathfinder retains the genuine off-road capability that once was considered requisite in this market, with a fully boxed frame and chassis components that permit off-road excursions. The standard 4.0-liter V-6 produces 266 hp and 288 lb-ft of torque; the optional the 5.6-liter V-8 cranks out 310 hp and 388 lb-ft. All-wheel drive is optional on all six-cylinder models and standard with the V-8; LE models even get a proper low-range mode. The maximum towing capacity is impressive. Unfortunately, the V-8-powered Pathfinder guzzles gas like a full-size SUV, and the V-6 isn’t much better. The Pathfinder’s heavy-duty underpinnings mean it isn’t as refined as many of its competitors–the ride can be harsh and bouncy, and the driving experience is rather trucklike. Two rows of bench seats make the Pathfinder a legitimate family hauler, although you have to climb up high to get inside. If you’re using all the seats, cargo space is modest, but the rear seats can fold flat into the floor, creating a large cargo hold. Nissan has attempted to dress up the Pathfinder’s interior in recent years, so gizmos like touch-screen navigation, Bluetooth, a backup camera, a Bose sound system, and a rear-seat DVD player are all available to placate occupants. However, unless you really need the off-road and towing capabilities of this sturdy SUV, you may find that today’s more modern crossovers will serve you better.

Drive: Rear-wheel, 4-wheel

Trim levels: S, SV, Silver, LE

Body style: SUV, 7-passenger

Engines: 4.0L V-6, 266 hp, 288 lb-ft
5.6L V-8, 310 hp, 388 lb-ft

Transmission: 5-speed automatic

Passenger volume: 149.4 cu ft

Capacities: Towing 6000-7000 lb; cargo
(behind third/middle/front seats) 16.5/49.2/79.2 cu ft

For 2012, a moonroof and a DVD player are standard on the Silver model, as is navigation on the LE. Brilliant silver replaces silver lightning as an exterior paint color.

Front, side, and side curtain air bags are standard, as are stability control, traction control, ABS with brake assist, and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

All: 13-15 mpg city/ 18-22 mpg highway

  • Seating for seven
  • Impressive towing capacity
  • Genuine off-road ability
  • Less refined than rivals
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Noisy and coarse engine

An old-fashioned mid-size SUV.

  • Chevrolet Tahoe
  • Honda Pilot
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Toyota 4Runner
  • Toyota Venza

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