This is our last goodbye to the Pathfinder, at least in the form we've known it for decades. Since 1986, the Pathfinder has always shared its body-on-frame architecture with Nissan's compact pickups. That's still the case today, but the automaker has already announced the next Pathfinder will instead be based off the unibody Murano crossover.
Despite its old-school construction, I was pleasantly surprised at how civilized the Pathfinder feels. It still rides a bit like a truck, but the ride quality is far better than its Frontier pickup and Xterra siblings, largely because it trades the leaf-sprung solid-axle rear suspension for an independent design. Interior is plain but still attractive, and boasts a fair amount of passenger space - at least for the front two rows. The only thing that truly feels ancient is the engine. The 4.0-liter V-6 is thirsty and it also feels surprisingly thrashy when pushed hard. The noise is a bit jarring, especially when it comes from an SUV whose window sticker eclipses the $42,000 mark.
I suspect the Pathfinder's transformation into a crossover will be a little less controversial than that of the Ford Explorer. Ford's stalwart SUV was still beloved by a number of owners who did venture off the paved trail and appreciated the capability of the body-on-frame construction. For those buyers, Nissan still has the Xterra: a body-on-frame mid-size SUV that's almost identical to today's Pathfinder, but with an "active lifestyle" twist. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out, but I suspect this move will give Nissan a well-rounded SUV/crossover portfolio.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
The Pathfinder hasn't been seriously updated since 2005, and it definitely shows its age. But aside from the coarse growling of the engine from about 3000 rpm, I didn't really mind the Pathfinder's rawness. After all, this isn't supposed to be some Lexus or Infiniti luxury SUV but rather an alternative to a proper Jeep. In fact, the Pathfinder is a much better Jeep Commander than the actual Commander ever was. The Nissan offers a usable third row of seats (suitable for adults for short trips, although ingress and egress is tricky); enough space for a few pieces of roll-aboard luggage behind the third row; off-roading fun for the whole family; and a heated steering wheel for the driver. If you think of it that way, it's actually pretty cool. Just don't try to pretend it's a sporty luxury sedan or a superfancy Range Rover.
The next Pathfinder will probably ditch the genuine off-road ability, but, as Evan points out, consumers likely won't mind.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Given the Pathfinder's age and power to weight ratio, it is surprisingly peppy. That said, it's hard to compete with all of the car-based SUVs on today's market with the now-almost-10-year-old Frontier pickup platform. No wonder the all-new 2013 Pathfinder is making the jump to the Murano's Altima-based platform. That car debuted in concept form earlier this year and will essentially be a long-wheelbase version of the Murano; better for Nissan, it will help amortize the cost across not just the Murano and 2013 Pathfinder, but also with the new Infiniti JX35 that dresses up the new Pathfinder with luxury trimmings and Infiniti badges.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor