With the introduction of the redesigned 2005 Pathfinder, it’s clear that Nissan has decided to take this SUV back to its old-school, pickup truck roots. Like the all-new Xterra, the Pathfinder is built atop the F-Alpha frame used by the full-sized Titan and mid-sized Frontier pick-‘em-ups. The Pathfinder also shares its design flavor and some interior parts with the rough-and-tumble Xterra, but adds a third-row seat for seven-passenger capacity and a whole bunch of extra cubes for cargo. Obviously, the Murano will serve the touchy-feely crowd that demands the utility of an SUV but wants a vehicle that drives like a car. The new Pathfinder is meant for rough-housing, not running errands.
After hundreds of miles driving a well-equipped 2005 Nissan Pathfinder SE Off-Road with 4WD, we discovered that it is competent at work or play. From the rain-ravaged desert trails in Riverside County, to the crumbling city streets of Los Angeles, to the smooth freeways laced across southern California, the Pathfinder proved it is no longer a compromise. Rather, it is an exceptionally comfortable, multi-talented vehicle that is quite pleasing to live with – if you don’t mind averaging 15.4 mpg with its powerful V6 engine.
When shopping the 2005 Nissan Pathfinder, you choose between base XE, sporty SE, rugged SE Off-Road, and luxurious LE trim levels equipped with either 2WD or 4WD. The standard, and only, engine is a 4.0-liter V6, a bored-out version of Nissan’s award-winning 3.5-liter VQ motor that sees duty in everything from the Altima family sedan and Murano SUV to the Infiniti G35 and FX35. In the Pathfinder, this V6 makes 270 horsepower and 291 lb.-ft. of torque, just enough to motivate its 4,671 pounds and tow a trailer weighing up to three tons. A five-speed automatic delivers power to the rear or all four wheels, and the 4WD system is Nissan’s All-Mode unit that’s shifted on the fly using a switch on the dashboard.
All-Mode doesn’t mean Nissan tosses in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s when you buy the 4WD model. Rather, this is a system with four modes of operation to cover all driving situations. Run it in 2WD to increase fuel economy, leave it in Auto for automatic power transfer depending on wheel slip, choose 4-Hi for medium difficulty trails or snowstorms, and select 4-Lo for tough terrain. The Pathfinder SE Off-Road also gets a hill descent control system and a hill start assist system to keep you from getting stranded in difficult spots, but you can’t lock the axles so it’s easy to freewheel if one tire on each axle loses traction simultaneously.
The new Pathfinder rides on a four-wheel double-wishbone suspension and standard 16-inch aluminum wheels, guided by a power rack-and-pinion steering setup and stopped by a four-wheel-disc antilock braking system. Traction and stability control come standard on every Pathfinder. Options include a 17-inch wheel/tire combo and Rancho performance shocks.
Now able to seat seven passengers, the Pathfinder is much more spacious than ever. Fold the seats, and a handy cube-shaped cargo area measures 79.2 cubic feet. The Pathfinder is safe, too, equipped with standard front airbags with occupant classification sensors and available with seat-mounted side airbags in front and side curtain airbags for all three rows. A tire pressure monitor is standard on all models.
Other standard items include the usual suspects: Power windows, locks, and mirrors; remote keyless entry; cruise control; and a CD player. Stepping up from the XE to the SE nets running boards, fog lights, an EZ-Clean cargo area, special cloth upholstery, an eight-way power driver’s seat, and a first-aid kit. SE Off-Road adds a whole bunch of stuff useful for boulder bashing, plus automatic climate control, rear air conditioning, adjustable pedals, and special décor. The luxury-lined LE includes 17-inch wheels, heated mirrors and front seats, a power sunroof, Bose audio, leather upholstery, and fake wood trim. The LE also includes front side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags. Key options for the 2005 Nissan Pathfinder include a DVD entertainment system, a navigation system, and satellite radio.
Given the sturdy F-Alpha pickup truck frame under the redesigned 2005 Nissan Pathfinder, the most surprising thing about this SUV is how well it drives on the street. You never forget it’s a truck, especially the SE Off-Road model with its Rancho performance shocks installed, but the Pathfinder is nevertheless an agreeable paved-road partner.
The 4.0-liter V6 delivers decent power; the 2005 Nissan Pathfinder is neither quick nor slow, but just right. The transmission shifts smoothly when cruising and promptly when passing, and the All-Mode 4WD allows shifting on the fly at speeds up to 60 mph unless you want low range. During our test drive, we averaged 15.4 mpg, barely better than the EPA rating of 15 mpg in the city. The Pathfinder is supposed to get as much as 21 mpg on the highway.
Better than the motor is the braking system. Nissan knows that terrific pedal feel, response, modulation, and balance are appreciated just as much by an SUV driver as they are a 350Z owner, and the company proves it with the Pathfinder. Of course, with all-terrain tires and a higher center of gravity, the Pathfinder won’t handle like a 350Z. Nevertheless, this rig rarely feels top heavy, and on twisty roads the weight transitions predictably. The ride quality is firm, thanks in part to those Rancho shocks, but not jarring. The F-Alpha frame gives the Pathfinder a solid, sturdy, planted feel, though it’s not as car-like to drive as the old model.
While off-roading, we got stuck. One front wheel and one rear wheel lost contact with the ground, and the Pathfinder sat in a cloud of dust, spinning its unloaded tires. Once that was resolved, however, the SUV proved nimble, maneuverable, and much more confidence-inspiring than the old Pathfinder.
The new Nissan Pathfinder is a great daily driver if you can afford to fuel it, exuding competence at all times, and is easy to see out of no matter which direction you look. Though consumers are shifting away from these rugged types of SUVs, if you need towing capacity and a modicum of off-roading capability, the Pathfinder ought to be on your short list.
Comfort and Convenience
Bought for working as well as playing, midsize suvs like the 2005 Nissan Pathfinder are employed as commuter cars, grocery getters, and family ferries. That means they need to be comfortable and practical. With this redesign, Nissan competently covers those bases.
Wide, flat, and plush, the front seats aren’t firm but they support a body well. Our test truck included power adjustable pedals, a thick steering wheel rim, and soft upper door panels. Combined with ample front leg and head room, we can’t complain one bit about the Pathfinder’s comfort level except to moan about the rough fabric used on the SE models.
Rear seat riders are less thrilled by the prospect of finding paths in this Nissan, but compared to the outgoing model, this new suv is more accommodating. First, the middle row of seats is slightly roomier, even if it does lack space for feet and the leg clearance is only adequate. Second, the new truck has a third-row seat that holds two small adults or average-sized children. Everyone will ride in quietude, since wind, road, and engine noise is barely noticeable. Well, everyone except people in our test Pathfinder, which had an extremely irritating squeak coming from somewhere underneath it.
Getting in and out is pretty easy, though Ford makes it simpler for larger people to access the third row in the Explorer, but watch your face when cranking open one of those big rear doors. They’re wider at the top, and if you lean in while yanking out, you’re gonna take your nose off. Expanding the cargo area is a bit of a hassle – the Pathfinder’s 40/20/40 rear seating system is a little fussy to fold – but the result is a useful, cube-shaped space that can swallow as much as 79.2 cubic feet of cargo. If you’re six-feet-tall and wearing boots, your head might not clear the tailgate when it’s raised.
Interior storage space is everywhere. Highlights include a big dual-door glovebox, huge door panel bins with integrated bottle holders, and a giant center console that, even when equipped with the DVD player for the rear seat entertainment system, still leaves enough room for multiple movie and video game cases. The dashboard includes two storage areas with rubber liners to quiet rattles and keep things still when cornering, and there’s even a handy cell-phone pocket sewn onto the inboard side of the front passenger’s backrest.
Control layout is simplistic, with everything located exactly where you might expect to find it, and labeled with clear instructions on how to use it. Our only complaints are with the stereo display, which cannot be read while wearing polarized sunglasses; the ratcheting operation of the automatic temperature controls; the fussy DVD player operation; and the automatic up/down operation of just the driver’s window. At $38,000 and change, should they all work that way?
What is the best thing about the 2005 Nissan Pathfinder?
The 2005 Nissan Pathfinder is so incredibly well-rounded, it’s hard to pick a favorite thing about it. So let’s go the superficial route and say styling. After the 2005 Pathfinder first debuted at the Detroit Auto Show in 2004, Ford designer J Mays was reportedly overheard to say that he wished his company had something like it. In our opinion, this SUV is clean, industrial, and tough looking, an extremely well-balanced design that deftly blends traditional Pathfinder styling cues with modern Nissan truck themes. We particularly like the way the front fenders sweep up and onto the sides from the front bumpers, and the roof rack is easy to load thanks to the SE model’s running boards and rear bumper step pad.
What is the worst thing about the 2005 Nissan Pathfinder?
In our experience, the least impressive aspect of the 2005 Nissan Pathfinder is the quality of its materials and construction. Inside, like many Nissan products of late, it’s too easy to see cost cutting through various bits and pieces that look and feel insubstantial. For example, the upper door panel pads in our test truck showed significant wear with less than 10,000 miles on the odometer. Making matters worse, many of the Pathfinder’s parts flex under stress, tarnishing the SUV’s impression of solidity. And on the outside, our test truck had large hood gaps, a sticking fuel door, and tailgate that was obviously tweaked off-center from several feet away.
Should I buy a 2005 Nissan Pathfinder?
Our single reservation about this terrific new SUV, aside from our complaints about quality, is with fuel economy. We averaged 15.4 mpg during a mix of city, highway, and off-road driving. If that doesn’t bother you, you’re going to love the 2005 Nissan Pathfinder.
Test Vehicle: 2005 Nissan Pathfinder SE Off-Road 4WD
Price of Test Vehicle: $38,010 (including $580 destination charge)
Engine Size and Type: 4.0-liter V6
Engine Horsepower: 270 at 5,600 rpm
Engine Torque: 291 at 4,000 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Curb Weight, lbs.: 4,697
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 15/21 mpg
Observed Fuel Economy: 15.4 mpg
Length: 187.6 inches
Width: 72.8 inches
Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
Height: 73.3 inches
Legroom (front/rear/3rd row): 42.4/34.2/28.1 inches
Headroom (front/rear/3rd row): 40/39/36.7 inches
Max. Seating Capacity: 7
Max. Cargo Volume: 79.2 cubic feet
Max. Payload: 1,239 pounds
Max. Towing Capacity, lbs.: 6,000
Min. Ground Clearance: 8.9 inches
Competitors: Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT, Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, GMC Envoy XL, Honda Pilot, Isuzu Ascender, Mercury Mountaineer, Mitsubishi Montero, Toyota 4Runner
Photos courtesy of Ron Perry and Nissan