I come from an era where mainstream Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) first made their entrance on the market. This new category was comprised of vehicles embodying a manly attitude with a spirit of adventure and coolness in a go-anywhere package. One of my favorites from the early pack with its bold muscular hard-body style was the Nissan Pathfinder, first introduced in 1986.
I liken the first gen Pathfinder to that of an All-American high school jock with a 3.8 grade average “donning a future so bright he’s gotta wear shades.” Catch the 80’s reference? But, as with everyone regardless of youthful zest and athletic abilities, we must all grow up. And such is the case with the fourth generation Nissan Pathfinder. Gone are the days of that record setting performance, the machismo that attracted the cheerleaders and had the fellas emulating your style. No more massive wheels or unique styling that boldly separated the Pathfinder from the rest of the pack. Welcome to middle-aged surbubia, your new gym teacher.
Although I may not be wowed by the mundane exterior or interior looks of the latest Pathfinder, our long-term tester did prove to meet my surbubia needs abundantly well. What may have been lost on sporty interior features, the designers certainly made up for with the use of interior space and added luxury features. My family of five was able to comfortably hit the hard core suburban streets from kid activities with associated gear to the always oh-so fun road trips without any complaints, well with one exception. During a trip to the mountains for a day of snowboarding, we engaged the third row seating to accommodate three active pre-teen boys. According to two of the three young men, the third row lacked comfort and adequate legroom, so much so we had to alter our return home passenger plans to provide comfort for everyone. However, with the third row seating out of the equation the second row bench seating provided more than enough room for my three young evaluators. Our tester included the Tri-Zone Entrainment system with rear head-rest mounted 7″ DVD monitors earning high-marks from myself and the kiddies. One annoying fact, however, was the need to engage the emergency brake in order for the driver to make any DVD changes. Understandably done for safety, but annoying nonetheless.
It was on the road where I found my appreciation for the Pathfinder. With our optional 5,000 pound capacity tow package, hauling my custom sportbike was a breeze. From family road trips and daily commuting, even transporting a gargantuan snow blower, the Pathfinder proved it’s matured gracefully with new comforts, while still providing the same tried-and-true utility I’ve come to expect from a Pathfinder. I was able to navigate an east coast snowstorm with ease, engaging the All-Mode 4×4-i system with a simple twist of a rotary dial. Finding an untraveled stretch of snow covered road and hills, I reconnected with my inner youth in my attempts to get the Pathfinder stuck, but the “Path” wasn’t having it. As I tossed around the Pathfinder, with the 4×4-i system set in “Auto,” the system seamlessly adjusted power to the needed wheels.
With a base MSRP of $28,950 and powered by a 3.5 liter, 24-valve V6 engine producing a respectable 260 horsepower, today’s Pathfinder is mated to an Xtronic CVT transmission with an estimated 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway fuel economy. Breaking this down further, during several fill-ups it was pleasing to the see the fuel distance economy monitor read 380+ miles making road trips and daily commuting easy on my wallet.
While the new Pathfinder may not possess the rugged macho looks of its early days, it does deliver in comfort, room and off-road ability. And what’s wrong with being a gym teacher? I’m sure we all remember our physical education instructor a little different from other teachers. They had an unspoken style, charisma, and confidence the others lacked and so epitomizes the latest generation Nissan Pathfinder.