2009 Pathfinder New Car Test Drive
Never the shy one, the Nissan Pathfinder bounds into 2008 with freshened styling, a subtly but substantially revised cabin, and technology upgrades such as a backup camera and hard-drive music storage.
All of which pale in comparison to the real headliner: The Pathfinder gets its first V8 engine option for 2008, a 5.6-liter from the Titan full-size pickup with 310 horsepower and more torque than GM's 6-liter or Dodge and Jeep's Hemi.
The Pathfinder was winning SUV comparison evaluations long before SUV became a household word, and this heavily updated fourth-generation version merely puts it in a bigger, seven-seat house. Built like a truck and unstoppable by most reasonable endeavors (Baja, anyone?) the Pathfinder is a capable mid-size SUV for those who require a genuine truck, compete rather than watch, yet still want some degree of style and comfort during the week.
If your off-road driving consists of graded dirt roads, you desire all-wheel drive for bad weather, or tow something as light as personal watercraft, Nissan's Murano might be better. But if your path has tree stumps, rocks, ruts, mud or all of the above, your boat or RV weighs a couple of tons, or you like your Xterra but want more luxury, the Pathfinder may fit.
However, don't let the truck talk fool you. Thanks to independent rear suspension and large tires, the Pathfinder rides well and the rack-and-pinion steering works precisely and turns tighter than many mid-size sedans. Also, the Pathfinder doesn't require a climb to get into and will fit easily in garages and standard parking spaces.
The mid-size SUV market isn't as huge as it once was, but many of the contenders, such as the Chevy TrailBlazer, Dodge Durango, Mercedes ML-Class, Mitsubishi Montero, and Toyota 4Runner, can't offer the mechanical combinations, nor in some cases the aggressive styling, that the Pathfinder does.
The 2008 Nissan Pathfinder is offered in several trim levels with two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. The V8 engine is available in SE or LE trim levels with two- or four-wheel drive. Expect to add $2,000-$2,200 for 4WD and $1,600-$1,800 for the V8.
Pathfinder S ($25,700) includes a 4.0-liter V6, five-speed automatic, cloth upholstery, air conditioning, power windows and locks, cruise control, immobilizer, 40/20/40 reclining middle-row and 50/50 third-row that both fold flat, active front head restraints, alloy wheels, roof rack, rear wiper, rear glass and hatch opening, four map lights, seven assist grips, full instrumentation, CD player, and twelve cargo area tie-down points. It's also available with 4WD ($27,700).
SE ($29,000) adds an eight-way power driver seat, 17-inch wheels, fold-flat front passenger seat, seven-inch display with rearview monitor, power adjustable pedals, dual-zone climate control and rear air, easy-clean cargo area, fog lamps, leather wheel and shifter, tow hook, running boards, body-color power mirrors, 6CD satellite-ready sound, and extendable visors with illuminated mirrors. The SE is available with 4WD ($31,000). SE models offer a wide range of options.
SE V8 ($30,600) adds 18-inch tires; SE V8 4WD ($32850) comes with the All-Mode four-wheel-drive system that includes an all-wheel-drive setting for street use.
SE Off-Road ($33,900) comes with 4WD (electric-switched part-time), the V6, nominal SE bits, plus 265/75R16 B.F. Goodrich Rugged Trail tires, Bilstein shocks, unique blue seat fabric, hill climb and descent electronic assists, three skid plates, and the SE premium package including moonroof, HomeLink, and Bose sound system. Leather upholstery and DVD entertainment are optional.
LE ($34,800) comes with leather upholstery (except the kid's third row) and woodgrain trim, driver memory system, side and curtain airbags, moonroof, heated steering wheel/front seats/mirrors, and the Bose 6CD 10-speaker sound system. LE 4WD ($37,000) are All-Mode. The LE V8 ($36,500) and LE V8 4WD ($38,700) uses 18-inch wheels. Navigation is optional, along with XM Satellite Radio, Bose sound with 9.3-gigabyte Music Box hard drive and Intelligent Key.
Safety features on all Pathfinders include VDC electronic stability control, tire pressure monitors and ABS. Front side-impact airbags (for torso protection) and side-curtain airbags (for head protection) are extra-cost options on all but the LE where they come standard; we recommend getting them.
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