- Off-road toughness
- Towing ability
- Tech options like Bluetooth and Music Box
- Responsive base V-6 engine
- Hard, choppy ride
- Seats feel skimpy
If you’re after serious off-roading ability, the Pathfinder is more than capable—otherwise, there are comfier options available.
In recent years, most mid-size utility vehicles have evolved to be more carlike, with car-based underpinnings that in some cases give up some off-road ability or toughness in the name of comfort, safety, handling, or fuel economy. But the Pathfinder sticks it out as a "real" truck, with body-on-frame construction for those who need traditional truck ruggedness, either for off-roading or heavy towing, but who don’t want to skimp too much on comfort.
V-6 and V-8 engines are available for the 2010 Pathfinder, and rear- or all-wheel drive can be had with either. The 2010 Pathfinder’s base S model only comes with the V-6, but the sportier SE and LE models are available with either the V-6 or V-8. The standard 266-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6 provides adequate juice for most types of driving and gets significantly better fuel economy than the larger V-8, yet still offers a tow capacity of up to 6,000 pounds. Opting for the 310-horsepower V-8 ramps up the torque and allows the truck to pull up to 7,000 pounds. Fuel misers beware, though; with the V-8 and four-wheel drive, in city driving the 2010 Nissan Pathfinder is rated a dismal 12 mpg.
For serious off-roaders willing to overlook this detail, the 2010 Pathfinder is a capable vehicle when it gets away from the tarmac. The tough Pathfinder features short overhangs and good ground clearance, 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. The only issue we found was that the Pathfinder's suspension doesn't have the wheel articulation needed for more precarious boulder-scrambling.
Storage-wise, the 2010 Pathfinder is able to swallow up a large amount of gear, both on top of and inside the car. On the outside, a 200-pound-capacity roof rack is standard on the 2010 Nissan Pathfinder, including a handle to help when 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 stowing 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 under the second-row seats and a handy small storage area inside the backdoor. The only real issue with the interior is that seating isn't as comfortable as it could be in the 2010 Nissan Pathfinder, thanks to the skimpy front seats.
The Pathfinder's ride is firm and a bit choppy, as you might expect from a truck-based SUV. It handles well, but on rough pavement or tight, twisty roads, it's less settled compared to nearly all modern crossover vehicles. With the exception of a fair amount of engine noise that can be heard in the cabin of either version, the Pathfinder's interior is quite refined and quiet.
Virtually all sport-utility vehicles now come with an array of safety features aimed at protecting occupants and preventing accidents in the first place, and the 2010 Pathfinder is no exception. Electronic stability control is standard, and side impact and side curtain airbags are standard for 2010. The 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 rear impact protection.
Options for all models include a nav system with a 9.3GB Music Box entertainment system, Bluetooth compatibility, and Bose sound. Meanwhile, LE models can be optioned with Nissan’s Intelligent Key system and the above-mentioned DVD system. The SE Off-Road model is offered only with the V-6. It brings tougher stuff into the mix, such as skid plates, a tow hook, Bilstein shocks, a stronger alternator, and upgraded equipment inside. The LE model is worth checking out if you want a more luxurious driving experience; it offers an optional DVD entertainment system that is not available on any other models, plus leather, a heated steering wheel, and wood trim.