- Towing ability
- Off-road toughness
- Responsive base V-6
- Seats feel skimpy
- Hard, busy ride
The 2009 Nissan Pathfinder is a top-notch choice for towing or serious off-roading, but otherwise there are more comfortable vehicles.
Nissan's mid-size, truck-based Pathfinder is a comfortable, luxurious SUV for those who need traditional truck ruggedness, either for off-roading or heavy towing.
The Pathfinder can be equipped with a V-6 or a V-8; both engines are available with either rear- or all-wheel drive. The standard 266-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6 provides adequate power for most types of driving and gets significantly better fuel economy, yet still offers a tow capacity of up to 6,000 pounds. A 310-horsepower V-8 ramps up the torque and allows the truck to pull up to 7,000 pounds. With the V-8 and four-wheel drive, the 2009 Nissan Pathfinder is rated a dismal 12 mpg for city driving.
The Pathfinder's suspension doesn't have the wheel articulation needed for more precarious boulder-scrambling. Other than that, however, the 2009 Nissan Pathfinder has the toughness, along with short overhangs and good ground clearance, for off-roading, and its four-wheel-drive system has an electronically controlled transfer case with a separate low range and auto mode that switches to four-wheel mode once slip occurs. The system is aided by electronics such as Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist, which help maintain traction when off-roading.
A 200-pound-capacity roof rack is standard on the 2009 Nissan Pathfinder, including a handle to help in step-up and loading. The interior is configured to make the most of the Pathfinder's space, with a flat-fold passenger seat in front, a 40/20/40-split second row, and a 50/50-split third row. Both the second and third rows can fold down to the same level, enabling a long, flat cargo surface, and by folding the front passenger seatback forward against the lower cushion, the Pathfinder can reach a cargo length of up to 10 feet. There is a large storage area hidden away under the second-row seats and a handy small storage area inside the back door. Seating isn't as comfortable as it could be in the 2009 Nissan Pathfinder, due to front seats that are rather small and skimpily cushioned.
As is the case with most truck-based SUVs, the Pathfinder's ride is firm and a bit choppy. It handles well, but on rough pavement or tight, twisty roads, it's less settled than modern crossover designs.
The base S model only comes with the V-6, but the sportier SE and uplevel 2009 Nissan Pathfinder LE models are available with either the V-6 or V-8. The SE Off Road model is offered only with the V-6. It brings tougher stuff such as skid plates, a tow hook, Bilstein shocks, a stronger alternator, and upgraded equipment inside. A DVD entertainment system is also available, along with Bose audio, power seats, rear air conditioning, and wood trim. Options include a nav system with a 9.3GB Music Box entertainment system, new front and rear styling, and new 17- and 18-inch wheels, along with Bluetooth compatibility and Intelligent Key security.
Electronic stability control is standard across the line, and side impact and side curtain airbags are newly standard for 2009. The 2009 Nissan Pathfinder has been crash-tested by the federal government, receiving four-star ratings for frontal impact and top five-star ratings for side impact. The IIHS also awards the Pathfinder top "good" ratings for frontal and side impact, but "marginal" in its seat-based rear-impact test.