2009 Nissan Pathfinder LE 4x4

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

New Car Research

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