2011 Nissan Pathfinder SLV 4X4Posted on July 6th, 2011
Silver anniversary edition celebrates 25 years of adventure
By Nina RussinAs its name suggests, the Nissan Pathfinder is a full-sized sport-utility vehicle geared towards active families. The body-on-frame truck seats up to seven passengers, and comes with a choice of two engines as well as the option of four-wheel drive.
This year, a silver edition commemorates the Pathfinder’s twenty-fifth anniversary. Standard equipment includes a four-liter, 266 horsepower V-6 engine, five speed automatic transmission and a tow hitch with 6000 pound capability. The available four-wheel drive system includes a two-speed transfer case which provides a low gear range for uneven off-road trails.
Base price for the 4X4 model is $37,490, excluding the $800 delivery charge. The model comes loaded with comfort and convenience features, sparing the buyer the confusion of wading through option packages. These include keyless entry and start, power heated driver’s and front passenger seats, a premium audio system with satellite radio, Bluetooth interface, tri-zone climate controls, and power adjustable pedals. The only option on the test car is a $195 floor mat and cargo net package.
Road trip to the north countryAny vehicle with a name like “pathfinder” begs to be taken on a road trip. My husband and I loaded up provisions for four days, and headed north out of Phoenix towards Flagstaff. Since this was the Fourth of July holiday, we had plenty of company along the way. Normally quiet stretches of the 17 freeway were clogged with traffic, putting the truck’s steering, throttle and braking systems to the ultimate test.
While the V-6 engine doesn’t have the power of the available V-8, its long, flat torque curve gives the block excellent performance on steady uphill grades. Peak torque of 288 foot-pounds is available at 4000 rpm: about half throttle. As a result, I had no problems keeping up with faster vehicles, or passing slower ones on the 5500 foot climb to our destination.
Because the engine is naturally aspirated, there is some parasitic power loss at high altitudes, which is primarily noticeable as a drop in fuel economy. The five-speed automatic transmission can’t match a six-speed unit for gas mileage. I averaged 17.5 miles-per-gallon for combined city and highway driving during the road test.
To its credit, the automatic transmission is a smooth performer, transitioning smoothly through the gears at all speeds. There was no obvious hunting or shift shock along the drive, including some of the steep grades on the freeway.
Engineers designed the V-6 block for hard use. Molybdenum-coated pistons and the use of a timing chain rather than a rubber belt give the engine durability to withstand the rigors of towing.
In addition to providing traction off-road, the four-wheel drive system enhances the truck’s grip on paved surfaces by sending up to fifty percent of engine power to the front wheels. This improves cornering and wet road performance, and also extends fuel economy.
The rack-and-pinion steering system provides plenty of assist at low speeds for maneuvering through crowded parking lots. The car’s long wheelbase limits severe maneuvers such as U-turns to wider, four-lane roads.
A standard rear-view camera projects a wide-angle view to the back of the truck on a center stack screen, making it easier and safer to back out of parking spots. Parents of small children will appreciate the extra measure of safety, enabling them to see if their children are passing behind the vehicle.
At higher speeds, the steering system has positive on-center response. A four-wheel double wishbone independent suspension eats up bumps in the road, giving all seven passengers a compliant ride. The compact double wishbone design minimizes intrusion into both the passenger compartment and cargo area.
Visibility to the front and sides of the car is quite good, especially for a vehicle of this size. I had no problems seeing around the B pillars to monitor traffic in the adjacent lanes. The thick rear pillars create some rather large blind spots in the rear corners. The rearview camera eliminates these areas when driving in reverse, but I had to be wary of vehicles passing on the left before changing lanes on the highway.
Large vented disc brakes on all four wheels stop the Pathfinder in a firm, linear fashion.
Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing noise intrusion inside the vehicle, enabling all three rows of passengers to enjoy the premium audio system and converse.
Athlete-friendly interiorI commend Nissan’s design team for seeking feedback from athletes near their San Diego studios when designing active lifestyle vehicles. As a result, the interiors are much better suited for adventure-bound owners than some competitors designed for the same purpose.
The Pathfinder’s interior holds up to seven passengers. The third-row seats don’t have a lot of legroom, but a flip-up second-row seat makes access quite good. Smaller adults should be fine on short trips, and kids won’t have any problems.
Power adjustments and heaters on the driver’s and front passenger seats keep both occupants comfortable in temperature extremes. There is enough room for three adults to sit in the second row.
Second-row seats recline for comfort on longer trips. Rear-zone temperature controls are accessible from both the overhead console and back of the center console. Ceiling vents circulate air through the back of the cabin.
I found both the gauge cluster and center stack screen easy to read in bright sunlight. Redundant audio, Bluetooth and cruise controls on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction. The tilt steering column and adjustable pedals enable shorter drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag and a clear forward view.
An abundance of 12-volt power points, cup and bottle holders service all three rows of passengers. A double glovebox includes a locking section for securing valuables inside the vehicle.Overhead reading lamps in the first and second rows illuminate the interior at night.
Third-row seats fold completely flat using levers on the seatbacks, so the Pathfinder easily meets our bicycle-friendly standards. Standard roof rails enable owners to add a cargo carrier up top.
The Nissan Pathfinder comes standard with front, side, and side curtain airbags, four-channel antilock brakes, vehicle stability control, tire pressure monitoring and front seat active head restraints. Trail-rated tires on the silver edition provide additional traction on extreme off-road surfaces.
Nissan builds the Pathfinder at its Smyrna, Tennessee assembly plant.
Likes: A seven passenger sport-utility vehicle which is bicycle-friendly, exceeds our ALV towing standards, and is capable of traversing extreme off-road trails. Standard roof rails make it easy to add a cargo carrier up top.
Dislike: Five-speed automatic transmission can’t match the fuel economy of a six-speed unit.
Model: Pathfinder SLV 4X4
Base price: $37,490
As tested: $38,485
Horsepower: 266 HP @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 288 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 14/20 mpg city/highway
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