2009 Nissan Pathfinder LE 4X4Posted on February 22nd, 2009
Nissan’s seven-passenger sport-utility vehicle appeals to active families.
By Nina Russin
When Nissan first rolled out the current Pathfinder for the ‘06 model year, product planners described the truck as a “decathlete.” In my opinion, the metaphor is a bit exaggerated. But the seven-passenger sport-utility vehicle is a good choice for buyers wanting Xterra‘s functionality, but with more interior space.
Last year Nissan refreshed the Pathfinder’s exterior styling and added a second engine choice: a 5.6-liter V8 available on the upscale LE model. This year side curtain airbags become standard on all models. The LE V6 tested gets a wheel upgrade as well, to eighteen-inch alloy rims.
Crisp ride and handling
The four-liter V6 engine on the test car is a stroked-out version of the block used in the Nissan Maxima, Altima, Murano and Quest. Though it has considerably less horsepower than the V8 (a block shared by Titan and Armada), my guess is that fuel economy is much better.
Nissan hasn’t announced fuel economy figures for the V8 Pathfinder, but other trucks using the block are thirsty. Average fuel economy for the four-wheel drive V6 truck is sixteen miles-per-gallon.
The six-cylinder engine on the test car falls a bit flat in twenty-to-fifty mile-per-hour acceleration, attributable to the truck’s curb weight: just under 5000 pounds. Towing capacity of six thousand pounds is well in excess of our ALV minimum standards. The V6 engine has plenty of low-end torque for off-road driving, and enough on the high end to pass other cars on the highway with ease.
The standard five-speed automatic transmission does a good job of downshifting for power without excessive shock. Speed sensitive rack-and-pinion steering has good on-center response, and no noticeable steering wheel play.
The Pathfinder is a body-on-frame truck, making it more robust for off-road driving and towing. Despite that, it doesn’t beat up its passengers. A fully-independent suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars is compliant enough for road trips, and sturdy enough for off-road trails.
Although its 112-inch wheelbase and 192-inch length limit the Pathfinder’s maneuverability on narrow trails, the truck has all the features necessary for negotiating uneven terrain. All models come with a skid plate under the radiator. Buyers can opt to add skid plates under the oil pan, fuel tank and transfer case.
A tow hook in front helps drivers who need to get towed out of an unexpected hole. Minimum ground clearance on the test truck is 8.8 inches: sufficient to clear most rocks or roots along the way.
A two-speed transfer case provides extreme low gears for off-road driving. The driver can switch between automatic, four-wheel drive high and low modes using a dial on the center console. A switch nearby turns off the vehicle stability control, so the driver can spin the wheels. The Pathfinder comes with a full-sized spare tire.
The interior has everything active types look for: an abundance of power points, cup and bottle holders, navigation system, rear backup camera, and a configurable cargo area. There are three twelve-volt powerpoints up front and one in the cargo area.
A standard tilt steering wheel can be positioned low enough to stay out of the driver’s line of vision. Audio, Bluetooth and cruise controls buttons on the steering wheel are easy to use without taking one’s eyes off the road.
Two-position memory on the test truck allows multiple drivers to program in seat, mirror and pedal positions. Heated seats on the test truck will appeal to owners in cold climates. Tri-zone climate controls with four overhead vents keep all passengers comfortable in temperature extremes.
The seats are firm, with adequate lower lumbar support. As with many three-row trucks, legroom is adequate but not abundant for those sitting in back. Most adults will be comfortable in the second row, but the third row works best for kids.
I was surprised at how easy it is to get in and out of the back row. Running boards on the test truck make it less difficult to climb over the wheel wells. They also ease access to the roof rack for loading cargo up top.
There are several enclosed storage areas up front: a deep center console bin, and a two-piece glovebox. Audio, temperature and navigation controls on the center stack are easy to reach from either front seating position. The driver can adjust the rear temperature using knobs on the overhead console. A second set of knobs behind the center console allows people in back to do the same.
Configurable cargo area:
Despite its ground clearance, liftover height on the Pathfinder isn’t excessive. The average adult should have no problems loading items in back. A step pad on the rear bumper makes it easier to load items onto the roof rack.
Designers stashed a first aid kit in the liftgate: an item which can come in handy after a day of adventure on the trails.
There’s enough room with all three rows of seating in place to stash the weekly groceries and some small duffel bags. Designers also added a couple of cubbies to keep small items from shifting around.
The rear seats fold flat using a single release lever on the back of each seatback. With the rear seats folded down, there’s plenty of room to slide a bike in with the wheels off. Folding the second-row seats flat is more complicated: the operation involves folding the seat cushions forward and then folding the seatbacks down.
The LE model comes standard with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, and electronic stability control. The Pathfinder received a four-star federal crash test rating for frontal impacts, but only a three star rating for rollover collisions.
Base price on the Pathfinder LE is $38,510, not including a $780 delivery fee. Nissan manufactures the Pathfinder at its Smyrna, Tennessee assembly plant.
Likes: A well-equipped seven-passenger sport utility vehicle that meets our ALV towing, off-road and bicycle-friendly standards.
Dislike: Floor mats are a $155 option
Model: Pathfinder LE 4X4
Base price: $38,510
As tested: $41,295
Horsepower: 266 Hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 288 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Standard
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 14/20 mpg city/highway
Comments: Base price does not include a $780 destination charge.
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