New & Used Nissan Pathfinder: In Depth
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The Nissan Pathfinder has been Nissan's mid-size utility vehicle since the 1980s. It's changed pretty radically over the decades, reincarnating itself from rugged SUV roots into a polished crossover vehicle capable of seating up to eight passengers. Once one of the toughest SUVs around, the Pathfinder's now one of the most carlike wagons on the road.Older and tougher Pathfinder competed more against the off-road-capable Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota 4Runner. Competitors for the latest Pathfinder include the GMC Acadia and Chevy Traverse, the Honda Pilot, the Toyota Highlander, and the Ford Explorer.
The Pathfinder became a much better vehicle in 2001, when a 240-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 replaced the older engine. It had been joined in Nissan's lineup the previous year by the Xterra, which picked up the more rugged, trucklike side of the Pathfinder that had been downplayed since its last redesign. Still, that Pathfinder retained the off-road ability, strong tow ratings, and a rather hard, choppy ride, along with a less refined ride and tight backseat.
Before the current model, the Pathfinder had last been completely redesigned for 2005, returning to body-on-frame construction that was once again closely related to that of the Frontier pickup, along with the Xterra. A 270-hp, 4.0-liter V-6 was standard, providing plenty of power for most needs, but a 310-hp, 5.6-liter V-8 was optional beginning in 2008. Those tempted by the V-8 in used examples should be forewarned that fuel economy is particularly atrocious with this engine.
The Pathfinder got a styling refresh for 2008, with the new V-8 option, upgraded interior trim, and a slightly different front end but remained otherwise unchanged through the 2012 model year. Special SE Off-Road models for 2008 and 2009 wrapped up all the features that trail hounds would need, including Bilstein shocks, trail tires, and upgraded skid plates.
The brand-new Pathfinder that arrived for the 2013 model year is a more carlike crossover vehicle. It shares some of its running gear with the smaller Nissan Murano, including the 260-hp V-6 engine with continuously variable transmission (CVT). It's offered with standard front-wheel drive or optional four-wheel drive (really all-wheel drive, but with a 4WD Lock mode). The latest Pathfinder handles and responds well on streets and highways, and trades the earlier models' towing and off-roading abilities for on-road ride and comfort, versatility, and seating space for seven.
New for 2014 was a Pathfinder Hybrid model; it replaces the V-6 with a supercharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a 15-kilowatt (22-hp) electric motor sandwiched between the engine and a modified CVT. Output for that powertrain is 250 hp, but the hybrid system can't run the big crossover on electric power alone--it just assists the engine, improving rated fuel economy by about 20 percent.
The Pathfinder saw only minor changes for the 2015 model year.