Nissan Pathfinder SE Review

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

A few months ago, mid-size SUV's had to battle each other for supremacy. They locked horns over style, utility, reliability, horsepower and off-road prowess. Market forces changed all that. Now, SUV's like the Nissan Pathfinder must fight for their survival against any vehicle getting 15mpg or better, from station wagons to minivans to plain old sedans. The old question: is this SUV any good? The new question: why bother?

Well, if you like a machine that jumps off the line like a wildebeest that just got a whiff of lion's breath, the Pathfinder is going to take some beating. Sure, there are $30k cars that can dump a Venti bold on your boss' lap with a simple foot flex, but there's something enormously satisfying about making a big rig go so fast so quickly. Never mind the fact that a 270hp 4.0-liter V6 nestles in the Pathfinder's nose. Just feel the G-force.

Of course, the two-and-half ton plus refrigerator-shaped SUV runs out of puff faster than a pack-a-day man running a 100-yard dash. Equally important, that much accelerative zeal may not be such a good idea for a vehicle that begins its day reversing out of a family driveway. But it is a hoot. The Pathfinder's five-speed slushbox's seamless shifts make you think the fun will never end– even as it does. And while you wouldn't call the Pathfinder nimble, it's got the handling and braking chops to keep drivers from panicking when they suddenly realize how much speed they're carrying into a corner.

Make no mistake: you'll pay for any such exuberance at the pump. Driven with unconscionable brio, the Pathfinder's fuel needle headed for E faster than an English teenager at a London rave. We're talking 12 real world miles per pricey gallon. What's more, despite fully independent suspension, the Pathfinder is a distinctly trucky sort of SUV. The first time you surf over an extended broken surface– feeling the mechanical disconnect between what the wheels are doing and the amount of input you have in that process– you'll know it's steady as she goes.

Or not. The Pathfinder's ability to take a real beating is one of its less-discussed advantages. Unfortunately, the people who provided our test truck made us sign a paper roughly akin to an insurance claim even before they handed over the keys. Nonetheless, we can report that the Pathfinder possesses the proper work boot ethos. Have you ever had to make your own parking space? You know those curbs that make you drive a mile down the road rather than cut across three lanes of oncoming traffic? Well, exactly. I'm equally sure those balloon-like tires and the four-wheel-drive system would see the Pathfinder through a military off-road course– at speed. You know, if I could find one…

The Pathfinder's rugged spirit extends to its interior. Our SE offered just enough plastic-coated luxury to keep us from feeling like renegade rednecks, but not so much that we felt forced to issue an anti-juice box edict. The optional DVD system typifies the balance. Nissan's Tennessee work force mounted the simple, solid player in the console between the front seats and installed a drop-down screen for second row squirts. Despite the determined efforts of a button-crazed two-year-old, both the screen and the player refused to break or frazzle out.

If Lola HAD broken the unit, we would have banished her to the fold-up third row, which even her Teddy bear found unacceptably confining. The Pathfinder's diminutive rear seats highlight the mid-sized SUV's existential dilemma; they're too small to be taken seriously as seven or eight seaters, yet they depend on the extra kiddy capacity to justify their place in the Soccer Mom's vehicular game plan. They're caught between a rock and hard place to sit without risking deep vein thrombosis. Or, to use the suspiciously scatological British expression, the Pathfinder falls between two stools: go-anywhere off-roader and minivan-on-stilts.

Not that you'd know it from looking at it. The Pathfinder's crisply-tailored sheet metal proclaims the model's essential SUVness without the slightest hint of urban or suburban affectation. It's a look straight from The Industrial Refrigerator School of Design: sharp, clean, functional lines, with big butch handles and stainless steel surfaces. The hexagonal rear window is the only element that doesn't square with the utilitarian demeanor. Given the odd ducks waddling around in this class (e.g. the unsightly Subaru Tribeca), you can forgive Nissan a single artistic flourish.

But can you forgive the Pathfinder its lousy mileage? I suppose that depends on whether or not your ute requires regular washing. As a pampered schlepper, the Pathfinder has suddenly become a needless extravagance. As a [slightly] rough-and-ready workhorse, it's still the business. In other words, the Pathfinder takes the SUV genre full circle, back to what it was supposed to be in the first place.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Dolorean Dolorean on Aug 24, 2007

    I've got three kids now and had to subject myself to letting go of my 2000 4-Runner, which I loved. The Pathfinder has been a worthy successor in every way having more power and comfort than my Toyota. I've had to sit in the third row occasionally and at six feet tall, I will admit that I would be hard pressed to stay there for four hours. However the leather is just as nice there and the seats are comfortable for a third row with decent headroom. I actually receive about 16 mpg in town and 25 on the highway on 87 octane. The Nissan is a real nice, real truck for the price.

  • Hermaphroditolog Good hybrid cars use ICE implosion mode.Mercedes-EQXX uses implosion turbines (turboexpanders) for regeneration from heat losses.
  • Kosmo I, for one, and maybe only one, would buy a 5.0 L, stickshift variant of the sedan/hatchback that is Ford's "Not A Mustang EV" tomorrow.I'd buy the sportwagon version yesterday.
  • Akear I am counting the days when Barra retires. She has been one long nightmare for GM. People don't realize the Malibu outsells all GM EVs combined.
  • Redapple2 you say; most car reviewers would place it behind the segment stalwarts from Honda and Toyota,........................... ME: Always so. Every single day since the Accord / Camry introduction.
  • Akear GM sells only 3000 Hummer EVs annually. It is probably the worst selling vehicle in GM history.