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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
sportier than the truckish body-on-frame architecture might lead one to believe
Car and Driver
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
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 2010 Nissan Pathfinder is available with two engine options. Kelley Blue Book reviewers list these 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." The standard 266-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6 provides adequate power 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.
In order to transfer the engine power to the wheels, Edmunds finds that "both engines pair to a five-speed automatic transmission." 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."
Kelley Blue Book adds that, during their tests, the Nissan Pathfinder "shifted smoothly."
Fuel misers beware: With the V-8 and four-wheel drive, in city driving the 2010 Nissan Pathfinder is rated a dismal 12 mpg. EPA fuel economy estimates range from 15 mpg city, 22 highway on the V-6 with RWD to 12/18 mpg for V-8-equipped 4WD Pathfinders. In between those two, the 4WD V-6 gets 14/20 mpg and the RWD V-8 returns 13/18 mpg.
Cars.com notes 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.
Thanks to short overhangs, good ground clearance, and tough body-on-frame construction, the Pathfinder does well off-road. 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 in tricky situations. The one letdown is that the Pathfinder's suspension doesn't have the wheel articulation needed for more precarious boulder-scrambling, but for the most part, it will be up to the job.
With all that taken into account, the 2010 Pathfinder has decent handling on the road, although it's far from perfect. 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."
ConsumerGuide also reports that the brakes provide "smooth, progressive stopping control."
The 2010 Nissan Pathfinder is a vehicle of compromise, with powerful, torquey engines that are great for off-roading and towing but bring terrible for fuel economy.