Time to bid adieu, so long, farewell and thanks for the memories to the Nissan Pathfinder-at least to the current version that was designed and developed, built and marketed with the Japanese market, and not the U.S. one, in mind.

Late this year or early next, the next generation Pathfinder will wend its way to market, a vehicle that promises to be more in keeping with the tastes of the American buyer, Nissan says.

To get an idea of what those buyers want in 1996, we test-drove a Pathfinder LE 4WD to learn what they get in 1995-no air bags, anti-lock brakesonly on the rear wheels, styling so outdated the Willys Jeep looks nice in comparison, narrow dimensions that cramp leg and shoulder room, a rear seat sadly lacking in occupant space and a design that requires rear-seat passengers to crawl over a wheelwell to enter or exit, which means you could spend a great deal of your winter at the cleaners refurbishing the soiled duds.

Pathfinder enjoys success because sport-utilities are the hottest vehicle in the market. When a segment is hot, every vehicle in it shares the wealth. Sport-utilities in recent years have gotten wider and roomier with carlike ride and handling. Pathfinder hasn't.

The '96 will have larger dimensions, more modern styling, dual air bags andfour-wheel ABS. Welcome to the real world.

As for the current version, the 3-liter, 153-horsepower, V-6 provides adequate power with 4-speed automatic but the 15 mile-per-gallon city/18 m.p.g. highway fuel economy rating is disappointing.

Standard equipment includes power brakes and steering, steel-belted radial tires, luggage rack, privacy glass, bodyside pinstripes, AM/FM cassette with eight speakers and compact disc player, air conditioning, leather seating surfaces, heated seats, power windows/locks, power liftgate/window release, reclining front/rear seats, cruise control, split foldaway rear seats, electric rear window defroster, leather wrapped steering wheel, intermittent wipers, carpeted floor mats, side-door guard beams, child safety rear locks and flipup sunroof.

The sunroof is a nice touch because most sport-utilities lack one in favor of places to store garage door opener/sunglasses holder in the roof. Our test model also came with a rubber surface running board, which was slippery when wet. Not a nice touch.

Base price is $30,359. The only added cost is $390 for freight, a much morerespectable and less profit-motivated charge than you get from the domestic automakers.

Nissan's Infiniti division has a new luxury sport-utility coming for 1997. With a base price of $30,359 on the current Pathfinder, you have to wonder howluxurious and how high-priced the exotic Infiniti will be. It may be built offthe same platform as the next generation Pathfinder. Nissan won't say.