Gee, I remember when the Nissan Pathfinder was, like, a super-desirable, chic import SUV. Now it’s just one competent SUV in a huge class of them.
Powertrain refinement is this vehicle’s biggest downfall. Nissan just cannot seem to engineer its V-6 so it’s not noisy and coarse. There’s sufficient power and torque here, but this vehicle weighs nearly 5000 pounds, and I was driving it with just my 180-lb self and my 8-lb briefcase on board.
The most delightful thing about our Pathfinder was that it was equipped with a heated steering wheel! This was nice to find on a cold winter’s night. I stumbled across the switch for it when I was searching for a way to turn up the instrument panel lighting, which someone had set to the dimmest setting. I had to consult the owners manual to figure that one out.
Don’t get me wrong; the Nissan Pathfinder is a nice mid-size SUV with a real, live four-wheel-drive system with automatic mode and low range, and its third-row seat increases capacity to the all-important seven. If you’re in the market for a vehicle in this class, the Pathfinder is certainly worth considering alongside the Toyota 4Runner, the Ford Explorer, and the Jeep Commander.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
I like this chassis (sans independent rear suspension) and engine in the Frontier pickup (and its Suzuki Equator twin), but I’m not sold on them in the Pathfinder LE. The F-Alpha frame and 4.0-liter V-6 feel at home in the truck, but here-where the interior is packed with an odd array of luxuries and a price tag above forty grand-they come off feeling a bit too stiff and coarse.
Still, it’s not a bad SUV. Overall, it drives fairly well for a body-on-frame sport-utility.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
Despite all its luxury amenities – including a nav system, heated seats, and heated steering wheel – the Pathfinder is an SUV that, with its available low-range four-wheel-drive mode, is capable of going farther off-road than the unpaved parking lot at the cider mill and can help you plow through two-foot snow drifts when winter’s wrath strikes. On the other hand, it’s heavy (almost 5000 pounds) and expensive ($40,000-plus) and doesn’t get great mileage (16 mpg combined fuel economy rating), and if you only want a seven-passenger vehicle because you need to haul your family to church and school and the shopping mall, there are many vehicles that will fill the bill as well as (or better than) the Pathfinder. It’s not as refined as many of its crossover rivals, but the Pathfinder is still a solid entry in its class, a vehicle that would be easy to live with as an everyday driver.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
I win! I win! I bagged the Pathfinder the night all hell broke loose, weatherwise. And then, being the boss, I refused to give it back until the sun broke through and a Nissan guy was sitting in ambush in our lobby, waiting to take the Pathfinder away.
First night was the huge storm that began at 4 a.m. and snowed all the way through the day into night. Nothing like a fat blanket of snow on the road to completely eliminate chassis roughness and ride noise. All that you need/care/want is traction. The Pathfinder’s four-wheel drive is available with a twist of a dash-mounted switch to the right of the steering wheel. I flipped from 2WD through AUTO into 4H to punch through the snowbank across my driveway and carry on down my snowy rural road. It was still early morning, so the worst was to come. But it was bad enough that the interstate’s high-speed lane was still snowbound, which left it open for me to tootle along in. At one point, three cars were spinning in front of me (all three landed in the ditch) as the Pathfinder tracked dead ahead.
The next day brought another big storm on top of the six inches of newly fallen snow and now I had to twist through to 4L, easily accomplished without shifting to Neutral – you just push the twist knob in and go another clockwise click, and you’ve got it.
The other important points noted during this horrendous weekend (yesterday it was -11 F without the wind chill factored in, and today it was 0 degrees) were:
-heater quick to warm the cabin, and adjustable in one-degree increments
-large-capacity washer fluid reservoir
-rear wiper/washer big enough to actually afford a view
And that all-important, way-too-rare steering wheel heater that gets so warm, you actually have to turn it off!
Call me shallow, but you try living here when it’s so cold, you consider retraining your dog to go on a paper after she’s fully grown. When it snows for four straight days, a Nissan Pathfinder has a very good shot at being my own personal Automobile of those Four Days.
Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief
Like Joe, I remember when a Pathfinder was considered a perfect upper-middle-class accessory. Our neighbors had one in the mid-90s, and as I recall, it was THE choice ride in the carpool circuit (much better than my mom’s ’93 Bonneville and its oft-failing alternator).
Standing next to our Pathfinder, I was immediately taken by how small it seemed. This is partially a credit to the Xterra-like exterior, which draws the sheetmetal in as tightly as the skin on Joan Rivers’s face. More important, though, I realized I’ve become accustomed to the notion that all real SUVs must be enormous, supersized affairs. In fact, the Pathfinder’s size suits it well. I found it much more tractable than the Ford Expedition or the Toyota Land Cruiser in parking lot maneuvers (a real issue for me, as those who’ve read my blog would know), and yet when the snowing got tough, it was practically undefeatable. I, too, am weary of Nissan’s rough V-6 engines, but to be honest, I hardly noticed it in this application. The rear seats appeared a bit tight-those with large families should probably look to one of the full-sizers or large crossovers-but up front it was definitely comfortable, refined, and, thank God, very warm (even though I didn’t discover the vaunted steering wheel heater). I should note that I’ve sat in four Nissan/Infiniti cockpits in the past few weeks, and have liked them all.
Nowadays, the Pathfinder and most other mid-size SUVs seem to fall through the cracks as automakers focus on crossovers. But those looking for real truck capabilities in a manageable package would be remiss not to consider the Pathfinder.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
2009 Nissan Pathfinder LE 4×4
Base Price (with destination): $39,225
Price as tested: $41,260
Floor Mats – $155
HDD Navigation Package – $1,850
14 / 20 / 16 (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 4.0L V6
HP: 266 HP @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 288 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Safety Ratings (in stars, 1-5):
-Frontal Crash Driver: 4
-Frontal Crash Passenger: 4
-Side Crash Front Seat: NR
-Side Crash Rear Seat: NR
Transmission: 5-Speed Automatic
Weight: 4,934 lbs
– 18″ aluminum-alloy wheels (size)
– P265/60R18 BFGoodrich® tires