We drive Nissan's all-new midsize SUV
The newest evolution of Nissan's Pathfinder brings the company's midsize SUV more into the mainstream while remaining true to its rugged heritage.
Among some of the noteworthy developments on the new model are a return to body-on-frame construction, four-wheel independent suspension, and for the first time in the Pathfinder's history - three-row, seven passenger seating. At 187.6 inches, the new Pathfinder grows by just under five inches in length, and the wheelbase grows by just under six inches to 112.2. Width is up by approximately one inch. Of course, with these larger proportions and a return to the heavier body-on-frame construction, weight grows, with the fully loaded LE gaining more than 500 pounds Compared to the 2004 model, bringing the weight of the 2005 LE to 4,815 pounds.
Thankfully, Nissan didn't neglect the engine on the new model, featuring an all-new tall-block version of the VQ-series V-6. With a nearly 10mm increase in stroke over the VQ35, the still-oversquare VQ40DE cranks out a V-8-like 270 horsepower at 5,600 rpm, and 291 lbs./ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. The only transmission available with the Pathfinder is a version of the Titan and Armada's 5-speed automatic. Fuel economy figures are the same as the '04 model, at 15/21 city/highway for the 4x4 model, and 16/23 for the two-wheel-drive version.
During our driving, this powertrain combination provided more-than-adequate power on the road and on the trail. Those disappointed by the lack of an available manual transmission with the Pathfinder need only wait a few more months for the re-designed Xterra, which will feature this same engine with an available 6-speed manual transmission, not to mention several hundred fewer pounds.
Though Nissan rightfully claims class-leading V-6 power figures for the Pathfinder, several astute automotive journalists in attendance pointed out that the Toyota 4Runner, one of the Pathfinder's chief competitors, offers an optional V-8. Nissan's counter was that the Pathfinder's V-6 produces nearly as much power as the Toyota's optional V-8. When pushed further on the issue, Nissan representatives admitted the engine bay in the Pathfinder could potentially accommodate the 5.6 liter Endurance V-8 from the Titan and Armada, with some minor underhood packaging changes. Since the new for '05 Pathfinder, Frontier and Xterra all share the same basic platform, this speculation makes for some interesting engine-swap possibilities.
Styling-wise, the new Pathfinder bears a strong resemblance to its big brother, the Armada, though most in attendance at the launch agreed the Pathfinder had a tauter, cleaner look to it than the in-your-face lines and proportions of the Armada. Likewise, the interior seemed to have better fit-and-finish than the Armada, with a more appealing tactile quality to the plastics, and tighter-fitting gaps. Official prices on the new Pathfinder start at $24,650 for the 2WD XE model, with the top-of-the-line LE starting at $32,550.