Beyond a frame with fully boxed rails, stability control, and ABS brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake force Distribution, the Pathfinder offers standard "smart" front airbags, "active" front-seat headrests, and three-point seatbelts for all occupants. Side and side-curtain airbags are LE standards, XE/SE options.
For '05 Pathfinder duty, Nissan's ubiquitous VQ V-6 has been punched out to 4.0 liters, a boost that pumped horsepower from 240 to a stout 270 and torque from 265 to 291 lb-ft. The twist force now peaks at a slightly loftier 4,000 rpm, but thanks to variable valve timing, at least 80 percent of the torque is available from just 2,000 rpm. That ever-present enthusiasm dovetails well with the Pathfinder's sole transmission, a smooth-shifting, five-speed automatic. The duo delivers 0-60-mph times well below eight seconds, regardless of the number of driven wheels. The optional 4WD is a part-time, shift-on-the-fly system with a dual-range transfer case and an "Auto" mode on LE models. All Pathfinders have standard stability control, and can tow up to 6,000 pounds.
With fully independent suspension and shock damping that materially softens impact harshness, the Pathfinder feels both comfortable and confident in basic cruising mode, though it's somewhat less at ease on rough or twisty pavement. The former tends to elicit a bit of chassis dance, while the compromised grip of the all-terrain tires mitigates cornering enthusiasm, and gives the stability control a regular workout. Close-quarters maneuvering took a modest hit, as well, with the wheelbase stretch increasing the Pathfinder's turning circle from 37.4 to 39.2 feet.
The expansion program also raised curb weights by about 500 pounds. However, the added size and strength of the enhanced V-6 and the efficient autoshifter pretty well offsets the impact of that extra mass. Net result: the Pathfinder still feels energetic, both off the line and in the passing lane. Despite a soft pedal and the move from disc/disc to disc/drum brakes, the ABS binders deliver straight, drama-free stops.