A larger, more powerful V-6 engine and a restyled interior arrived last spring to give the Pathfinder an early start on the 2001 model year.
Pathfinder is built from the same design as the Infiniti QX4, a luxury SUV with more amenities and a higher price; both share a 3.5-liter engine. Nissan also sells the Xterra sport utility vehicle, which is based on the Frontier pickup and is priced below the Pathfinder.
With an overall length of 183 inches, Pathfinder is 5 inches longer than the Xterra and about 5 inches shorter than the Ford Explorer. It comes with four side doors and a rear liftgate with a window that flips up.
On XE and LE models, the instrument cluster has black markings on a white background, while the SE has an eye-grabbing titanium background, and the colors reverse at night. Large, convenient controls for the climate and audio systems are easy to reach, and the optional duplicate audio controls on the steering wheel include an on-off switch.
All models seat five, but rear-seat occupants will find there is no room for their feet under the front seats. The 60/40 split rear seat folds to create 85 cubic feet of cargo room.
Under the Hood
Previously, all models came with a 170-horsepower 3.3-liter V-6 engine. The new 250-hp 3.5-liter V-6 is now standard across the board. The SE model offers a choice of four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmissions, and the XE and LE come only with the automatic.
All models come with either two-wheel drive or a part-time four-wheel-drive system that is for use on slippery surfaces. The 4WD system can be engaged or disengaged at speeds of up to 50 mph with a floor-mounted transfer-case lever.
Four-wheel antilock brakes are standard on all models, and side-impact airbags for the front seats are part of the optional Leather Package for the LE and SE.
The 3.5-liter V-6 engine is quieter, smoother and considerably more potent than the 3.3-liter it replaces. The Pathfinder is a sturdy, well-equipped SUV, but some rivals offer more rear-seat room and more convenient push-button operation for their 4WD systems.