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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
noseplow and body lean typical of truck-type SUVs
vehicles shifted smoothly, turned confidently and delivered a ride that seemed pleasant enough
Kelley Blue Book
sportier than the truckish body-on-frame architecture might lead one to believe
Car and Driver
Experts at TheCarConnection.com love the power that comes with the 2009 Nissan Pathfinder. It's well suited for the vehicle's main callings in life. Unfortunately, however, the performance makes the vehicle very thirsty.
The 2009 Nissan Pathfinder is available with two engine options. Kelley Blue Book reviewers list your choices as a "powerful and torque-happy" 4.0-liter V-6 that produces 266 horsepower and 288 pound-feet of torque, and "for those who need extra horsepower and towing capacity, the optional 5.6-liter V-8 is the obvious answer, adding an additional 100 foot-pounds of torque and 44 more horsepower." Edmunds characterizes the Nissan Pathfinder's performance as "vigorous even with the standard V6." Car and Driver describes the engines as "terrific and beefy."
In order to transfer the engine power to the wheels, Edmunds finds that "both engines pair to a five-speed automatic transmission." Kelley Blue Book adds that, during their tests, the Nissan Pathfinder "shifted smoothly." The automatic generally fares well with reviewers, although ConsumerGuide claims "passing maneuvers require a brief moment for the transmission to downshift, but power is ample thereafter."
The EPA fuel economy estimates range from 15 mpg city, 22 highway on the V-6 with 2WD to 12/18 mpg for V-8-equipped 4WD Pathfinders. In between those two, the 4WD V-6 gets 14/20 mpg and the 2WD V-8 returns 13/18 mpg.
In addition to the automatic transmission, Edmunds notes "all but the 4WD-only SE Off-Road offer a choice of rear- or four-wheel-drive." In terms of towing capacity, Cars.com says that the V-8's "towing capacity is 7,000 pounds, compared with 6,000" for six-cylinder Pathfinders. Edmunds reviewers appreciate that "Nissan built in up to 9.1 inches of ground clearance," a practical trait that improves the off-roading credentials of the 2009 Nissan Pathfinder.
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. The one letdown is that the Pathfinder's suspension doesn't have the wheel articulation needed for more precarious boulder-scrambling.
On the road, the Nissan 2009 Pathfinder has decent handling characteristics. Kelley Blue Book says its Pathfinders "turned confidently," while Edmunds praises the "surprisingly sharp" steering response. However, many reviewers find fault with some of the Pathfinder's handling qualities, as ConsumerGuide notices the "noseplow and body lean typical of truck-type SUVs." As is the case with most truck-based SUVs, the Pathfinder's ride is firm and a bit choppy, and it handles well, but on rough pavement or tight, twisty roads, it's less settled than modern crossover designs. ConsumerGuide also notes that "bumps and expansion joints can cause some bounce," and overall the 2009 Nissan Pathfinder doesn't offer a particularly comfortable ride. On the plus side, they report that the brakes provide "smooth, progressive stopping control."
The 2009 Nissan Pathfinder offers strong engine choices, but handling is choppy and gas mileage is abysmal.