Nissan's first Pathfinder blazed a trail when it was introduced in 1986. The Pathfinder is, and has always been, a trucklike vehicle with off-road characteristics and a more rugged persona than many of the now-popular crossover SUVs. It has standard third-row seating.

Prices start at $27,210 for a two-wheel-drive S and top out at $40,210 for a four-wheel-drive LE with the optional 310-horsepower, 5.6-liter V-8. The test vehicle was a four-wheel-drive SE, and its base price was $32,510. The V-8 has a 7,000-pound towing capacity.

The 4.0-liter engine has 266 horsepower. 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 V-6 can tow up to 6,000 pounds.

Fuel mileage is rated at 14 mpg in the city and 20 on the highway.

The aluminum-block engine also has variable valve timing, a variable intake system and an electronic throttle.

The five-speed automatic transmission has widely spaced gears for strong acceleration and relaxed cruising.

The Pathfinder's rugged looks play a large part in its appeal. It has a fully boxed all-steel frame that contributes to the vehicle's weight, but it also has the strength for heavy towing and off-road use.

The wheelbase is 112.2 inches and overall length is 187.6 inches. Short front and rear overhangs are useful for off-roading.

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, rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity and a 10-speaker Bose stereo with XM satellite radio.

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.

The SE has standard side and side-curtain airbags.


The test vehicle's base price was $32,510. Options included sunroof, heated leather seats and Bose stereo with satellite radio. The sticker price was $38,190.


Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

2009 Nissan Pathfinder SE 4X4

Engine: 4.0-liter, 266-hp V-6

Transmission: Automatic

Four-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 112.2 inches

Curb weight: 4,801 lbs.

Base price: $32,510

As driven: $38,190

MPG rating: 14 city, 20 hwy.

To get in touch with Tom Strongman, send e-mail to