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By Jim Mateja
April 8, 1990
The Jeep Cherokee once had the four-door utility vehicle market toitself. Now the field is getting crowded. Add the four-door Toyota 4Runner,Chevy S-10 Blazer, Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder for 1990, to name afew. We test drove the 1990
Pathfinder SE and quickly found that it`s onething to add a couple of doors, another to add two extra doors that make entryand exit easy. The problem with the Pathfinder is that the engineers need to come upwith a design that allows those rear
doors to open wider. It`s too narrow afit as it stands, making it unduly difficult to enter or exit the rear seat. Because the four-door model was aimed at satisfying families, Nissandefeats the purpose. The rear doors seem to be an
afterthought. It`s noteworthy that the wheelbase and length of the two- and four-doorPathfinder models are the same. The four-door version wasn`t stretched toaccommodate those rear doors. So the rear door opens over the wheel well with the
well and rear tireobstructing easy entry. To get into or out of the Pathfinder, our test vehicle had a step railrather than a more conventional running board. The step rail is made of flattened metal tubing. Very solid and ratherunique, but
we have to wonder how the tubing will provide support and tractionfor entry and exit in the winter, when covered with ice and snow. Once you maneuver the rail and get in back, you find designers fell short on rear-seat comfort. The seat back is too
upright and rigid; it needs more ofan angle to it. While on the subject of annoyances, we should point out one of the moreunusual problems we`ve experienced in a vehicle. The ``Nissan`` letters areraised on the driver`s floor mat. In moving our
feet while shifting the 5-speed, the heel of our left shoe kept catching on those raised letters.After a while it became as annoying as listening to someone chew gum whiletalking on the phone. The Pathfinder we drove was powered by a 3-liter,
153-h.p., fuel-injected, V-6 teamed with 5-speed manual transmission. A 4-speed automaticwith overdrive is optional. The V-6 is powerful and has plenty of zip. However, for the pleasure ofleading the pack from the light, you pay the price in fuel
economy with a 15mile per gallon city/18 m.p.g. highway rating with the 5-speed or theautomatic. The test vehicle came with an optional sport package that included dualshock settings for firm sport or softer touring ride and handling. We
foundtouring to be less objectionable. The firm setting magnified every bump in thepavement. The sport package also included huge 31x10.50 R15 all-season radials.Those oversized tires combined with the higher center of gravity from thevehicle being
raised to handle the four-wheel-drive hardware made for a bit ofwobble in corners and turns at speed. We didn`t have the opportunity to use the four-wheel drive, which is anon-command unit that
doesn`t require getting out and locking the hubs. Four-wheel-drive traction and security in the winter would make up for the poormileage. Base price of the four-door SE 4x4 we drove is $20,149 with manualtransmission, $21,079 with automatic. Those
prices also include cruise controland intermittent wipers. By comparison, the Pathfinder four-door XE 4x2 startsat $15,720 with manual and $16,875 with automatic. The two-door Pathfinder costs more than the four-door because the two-door is
classified as a truck and therefore carries a 25 percent import taxand the four-door is classified as a passenger car and has no extra tax. Thetwo-door SE starts at $21,814 with manual and $22,744 with automatic. Standard equipment in the SE we
drove includes AM-FM stereo withcassette, air conditioning, power steering and power brakes. The optionalsport package on our test vehicle ran $2,000 and included aluminum alloywheels, the oversized tires, glass sunroof, limited slip
differential,adjustable shocks, outside mounted spare tire with cover, fender flares andthe step rail.