Nissan's midsize Pathfinder blazed a trail when it was introduced in 1986, and now, 11 years later, it continues to hold its own in a field that is crowded with comparable SUVs.
The Pathfinder is, and has always been, a trucklike vehicle with off-road characteristics and a much more rugged persona than many of the now-popular crossover SUVs.
The test vehicle was an SE equipped with the off-road package, and the rugged tires and special suspension meant that the ride was choppier than the ride of a normal Pathfinder.
Prices for the 2007 Pathfinder start at $25,600 for a two-wheel-drive model and $27,200 for four-wheel drive. The test car had a base price of $31,650.
The test car was a 2007 with the 4.0-liter V-6, but for 2008 Nissan plans to offer the Pathfinder with a new 5.6-liter V-8 with 300 horsepower. Other changes for 2008 include new exterior styling and a greatly refined interior, as well as newly available technology such as a revised Nissan navigation system with 9.3-gigabyte music box hard drive on the LE.
The Pathfinder's rugged looks play a large part in its appeal. In addition to the Pathfinder, Nissan's family of SUVs now encompasses the Armada, Xterra and Murano. All but the Murano are truck-based vehicles with body-on-frame construction.
The fully boxed, all-steel frame no doubt contributes to the vehicle's weight, but it also gives the Pathfinder the strength to be quite capable off-road.
The chassis has a 112.2-inch wheelbase. Overall length is 187.6 inches, thanks to short front and rear overhangs that give moderate off-road capability.
The test car's 4.0-liter engine was quite pleasant because it delivers the bulk of its power across a wide rpm range. Although this engine is similar to the one found in the Altima, Maxima and Murano, it has a longer stroke that gives it more torque, and that's useful in an SUV.
The engine also has variable valve timing, a variable intake system and an electronic throttle. The block is aluminum.
The five-speed automatic transmission has widely spaced gears for strong acceleration and relaxed cruising.
When properly equipped, the Pathfinder can tow 6,000 pounds.
The Pathfinder's third-row seat is fairly small, but it does provide a place for youngsters. The third seat is split 50/50, and it yields a flat cargo floor when folded. The back of the seat is covered with a hard surface, and eight hooks in the cargo hold are convenient for tying down gear.
The second-row seat is split into a 40/20/40 unit with three sections. A one-touch release lever moves the outer sections for easy access to the third row. The second-row seat also has a storage area underneath it.
Side and side-curtain airbags are part of an airbag option package.
While the Pathfinder has a rugged persona, the cabin of the SE is far from rough. The test vehicle's heated leather front seats were quite comfortable, and creature comforts included a power sunroof, rear-seat entertainment system and 10-speaker Bose stereo.
The Pathfinder is now 3 years old, but it is holding its own quite nicely.
Price The test car's base price was $31,650. Options included sunroof, airbags, Bose stereo, rear-seat entertainment system and leather seats. The sticker price was $38,090.
Warranty Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.