An Aging SUV Stalwart Sizes Up Its Crossover Competition 2011 Nissan Pathfinder - Click above for high-res image gallery Would you describe yourself as an optimist? Someone who can always find the good in something that others fail to see? It's an admirable quality, and one we're going to try and keep in mind while putting down our thoughts on the 2011 Nissan Pathfinder. We could write a thousand-word essay on the demise of the large, three-row, body-on-frame sport utility vehicle, but that hardly seems helpful. Instead, we'll do our best to point out exactly what penalties you'll be signing up for by choosing this type of vehicle over one of its newer crossover competitors. Yes, a pessimist could surely find plenty about the aging Pathfinder to complain about, but the deep-seated, glass-half-full optimist can take that 4,800-pound bag of lemons and make some sweet-tasting lemonade. It took the entirety of our week with the 2011 Nissan Pathfinder, but we finally figured out exactly who this vehicle is for. Could it be you? Continue reading... If someone were to give you a pen and paper and ask you to draw a sport utility vehicle, the resulting sketch would likely look exactly like the 2011 Nissan Pathfinder. It's rugged, thanks to its exaggerated wheel arches and wide flares, but somehow much softer up front due to its friendly chrome fascia. Out back, Nissan has done very little to disguise the fact that the Pathfinder is a big box on wheels, and we appreciate that concession to form following function. Put simply, the Pathfinder is the very definition of an SUV. And, since this version was first seen on public roads in 2004 as a 2005 model, it was developed when the sport utility vehicle was still king of the people movers. In other words, this ought to be the cream of the SUV crop. Built atop Nissan's F-Alpha platform, which also underpins the Nissan Frontier and Titan pickups along with the Xterra SUV, the Pathfinder uses a traditional ladder frame, with heavy-duty steel rails that run the length of the vehicle. Everything is bolted solidly to the frame, from the engine and transmission to the body and passenger compartment to the front and rear suspension systems. Unlike many of its brethren, the Pathfinder eschews a solid rear axle for a four-wheel independent suspension. You'd think that would equal a smooth ride on the highway, but that's not the case. In fact, the Pathfinder rides like the truck it is, no doubt due in part to its fully boxed steel frame. Even small bumps in the road send loud thumps through the chassis and into the occupant's tailbones. Larger bumps are somehow better absorbed by the rigid structure, though you can expect that an equally sized shockwave will reverberate its way through the steering wheel and into the driver's hands. The 2011 Pathfinder's 4.0-liter V6 powertrain is an able partner in most driving scenarios. There's 266 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 288 …
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|MPG||15 City / 22 Hwy|
|Transmission||5-spd auto w/OD|
|Power||266 @ 5600 rpm|
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