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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
August 27, 2003
Vehicle Overview The introduction of the new Pathfinder Armada full-size sport utility vehicle for 2004 doesnt mean Nissans midsize Pathfinder will disappear. Both will be part of Nissans lineup.
Nissan also sells the youth-oriented Xterra, which is based on the Frontier pickup truck and priced below the Pathfinder.
Previous Pathfinders have been offered in SE and upscale LE forms. For 2004, the LE becomes the Platinum edition and features electroluminescent gauges, aluminum kick plates and special dark wood trim.
All versions are ready for the installation of either a Sirius or XM Satellite Radio. Side-impact airbags and side curtain-type airbags are standard in the Platinum. A Vehicle Dynamic Control Package offers an electronic stability system, traction control and a tire-pressure monitor. The Pathfinder competes against such SUVs as the Acura MDX, Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander.
The four-door Pathfinder displays a typical SUV appearance overall, but it has a neatly tapered rear end. Built on a 106.3-inch wheelbase, it has an overall length of 182.7 inches thats nearly 5 inches longer than the Xterra. The Pathfinders rear liftgate window flips up.
All Pathfinder models seat five people, but foot room for backseat occupants might be tight beneath the front seats. Large, convenient controls operate the climate and audio systems. Optional duplicate audio controls on the steering wheel include an on/off switch. A 60/40-split rear seat folds to create 85 cubic feet of cargo space.
Under the Hood
A 3.5-liter V-6 engine that develops 240 horsepower and 265 pounds-feet of torque is the lone power plant. It drives a four-speed-automatic transmission; a manual gearbox is not offered.
The Pathfinder may be equipped with rear-wheel drive or a part-time four-wheel-drive system that is intended for use on slippery surfaces. The system can be engaged or disengaged at up to 50 mph by using a floor-mounted transfer-case lever. The LE 4x4 has a push-button All-Mode four-wheel-drive system that permits up to 50 percent of available torque to reach the front wheels when needed. This system can be left engaged on dry pavement.
Antilock brakes are standard. Side-impact and side curtain-type airbags are standard in the upscale LE edition. LATCH child-safety seat anchors and tethers are installed.
The Pathfinder is a mighty smooth operator. Not only is Nissans SUV a true pleasure to drive and ride in, but it also delivers plenty of performance. The ride quality reaches close to gentle, and it gets choppy only on washboard-type road surfaces. Despite the soft ride, the Pathfinders handling ranks above average as it maneuvers easily and adeptly. It stays relatively flat in curves and corners, and little correction is needed on straightaways. An easy-acting automatic transmission delivers prompt gear changes.
The seats are comfortable and supportive. The backseat is as inviting as the front seat, and it offers fine legroom but not quite as much headroom. The Pathfinder is very carlike, in the best sense of the word.