The Nissan Pathfinder may be labeled an SUV but once you boost yourself onto its high step in you'll have little doubt it's a truck. A few drives around town with a quickly dipping gas gauge and your thoughts will be confirmed.
But wait - you get a lot in compensation for a fuel economy rating that can dip as low as 13 mpg city, 18 mpg highway with the 4WD 8-cylinder 5.6-liter models. Built on Nissan's 'F-Alpha' platform, with a fully boxed, all-steel ladder frame it boasts a four-wheel independent double-wishbone suspension, as well as a standard integrated tow hitch. The Pathfinder is ready to work but also looks great while it's doing it.
Lest you think that's just for 'showin,'' note that the Pathfinder can tow 7000 pounds thanks to it's 5.6-litre DOHC V8 engine rated at 310 horsepower. Pathfinder is also available with a 266-horsepower, 4.0-liter VQ-series V6 engine which hauls up to 6000 pounds. Either engine is available with two-wheel or four-wheel drive.
2009 Nissan Pathfinder Exterior
The 2009 Pathfinder is much the same as the overhauled 2008 but has some nice tweaks such as equipment availability, including the addition of standard 18-inch machined aluminum alloy wheels on Pathfinder LE V6, standard side and curtain supplemental air bags on all models and a new auto door lock function.
Those who want a sporty look will enjoy the standard roof rails with front and rear grips and a jazzy tailgate design. One caveat - during the test drive of the SE 4x4, it took a bit of wrangling to figure out how to release the rear cargo door and not the flip-up rear glass hatch opening.
More 2009 style news comes in colors - Red Brick and Navy Blue were added to the array from which to choose. Other exterior color choices include: Desert Stone, Super Black, Storm Gray, Silver Lightning, Avalanche and White Frost (a special three-stage pearl paint).
2009 Nissan Pathfinder Interior
I'm not a huge fan of third-row seats in truck-based SUVs, but a plus for the Pathfinder's is that they fold down or can be configured as a 50-50 split. The reclining second row seats are also hauler friendly with a 40/20/40 split which urban sports enthusiasts, a likely target market for this SUV, will frequently use.
Seat space is in the comfort of the user. Some reviewers found the second and third rows somewhat cramped with the third-row singled out as 'for kids only.' Others disagree, noting it's plenty roomy.
In fairness, the Pathfinder boasts 149.1 cubic feet of passenger volume and the SE 4x4 used for this test drive felt very roomy - perfect for commutes, jaunts around town or even that weekend sporting adventure.
Pathfinder wins huge points for a straightforward dash design that easily allows the driver to navigate without much fuss. Not that it doesn't offer plenty of extras including steering wheel mounted audio controls, plentiful power outlets, power adjustable pedals, and more.
2009 Nissan Pathfinder Performance and Handling
What's great about the Pathfinder is that it's built for drivers but doesn't short change passengers on comfort. The steering is responsive which is a bonus in both cramped urban areas and bumpy unpaved back roads. The Pathfinder does drive like a truck more than a car but it doesn't feel intimidating - just rugged and powerful. Again, it's an excellent choice for the urban dwelling sports enthusiast.
The 4.0-liter DOHC V6 for SUV and truck applications, is part of Nissan's VQ engine series found in the Nissan 350Z, Nissan Maxima, Nissan Altima, Nissan Murano and Nissan Quest.
The Pathfinder's smooth ride in all three rows of seating is credited by Nissan to the long-travel front suspension in an all-steel double-wishbone design with coil-over shocks and large stabilizer bar. In addition, the rear suspension is an independent double-wishbone design with the coils located on the toe control link (offset spring and shock) with stabilizer bar and a plate under the radiator.
As you'd expect, the Pathfinder comes with a long list of safety features that has earned it a four-star driver- and passenger-crash ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
2009 Nissan Pathfinder Trims
The 2009 Pathfinder, with an MSRP starting at 27,210, is offered in a choice of four models: S-V6, SE-V6, LE-V6 and LE-V8 (4x4 only). Pathfinder S-V6, SE-V6 and LE-V6 come with a standard 266-horsepower 4.0-liter V6 and 5-speed automatic transmission and in a choice of 4x2 or 4x4. The Pathfinder LE-V8 features a 300-plus horsepower 5.6-liter V8 with standard 5-speed automatic transmission and 4-wheel drive. Every model comes with standard three-row seating.
Options packages include the SE Journey Package (includes automatic on/off headlights and HomeLink Universal Transceiver), an SE Premium Package (include Bose 6 CD audio system, XM Satellite Radio); and the Leather Package (adds leather-appointed seating and heated front seats). Many other available features include a DVD Mobile Entertainment System, with a 7.0-inch color monitor and rear seat wireless headphones.
No word at press time on the 2010 models, but since the model went through a major change in 2008, expect minimal changes for the upcoming model year.