The mid-size SUV market is a crowded place. From a handful of competitors 10 or 15 years ago, it's grown in numbers to rival the mid-size car market. How to stand out in such a teeming mass is the challenge Nissan faced when it undertook the update of the Pathfinder, its mainstay in the heavily congested mid-size SUV fray.
Nissan had the 4X4 technology, but that alone couldn't carry the burden. It needed a stronger drivetrain. The Pathfinder had long been an underdog, with barely competent power and an aging transmission. The new Pathfinder had to step up with a rejuvenated engine and a state-of-the-art gear set.
The solution turned out to be right at hand: the same V6 powering the 350Z, Nissan's performance star. With the displacement boosted to 4.0 liters and its horsepower and torque curves redrawn to workhorse geometry, the new Pathfinder engine not only substantially betters its predecessor, it also steps out ahead of the market's benchmark, the larger V8 in the number one-selling Ford Explorer. Fuel economy is improved, too, by 2 mpg on the highway. The new, five-speed automatic, geared to capitalize on the engine's torque characteristics, completes the package. Electronic stability control comes standard, giving drivers a reassuring safety blanket by controlling skids.
Get up and go is one thing. Looking and feeling good in the process is another entirely, and Nissan had fallen behind the curve here, too. For years, the Nissan Pathfinder had made do with modest, cosmetic makeovers of stale design motifs, while the market was moving toward more expressive exteriors and roomier, more accommodating interiors.
Again drawing on the new Pathfinder's stablemates, Nissan dumped its predecessor's size-limiting, frame-less body construction in favor of a larger, honest, body-on-frame truck design. This opened the door to a complete re-vamp of the Pathfinder's exterior, to a bold, broad-shouldered shape more in synch with the company's all-new, full-size SUV and pickup.
Likewise with the interior: With more room, there could be more comfort and more conveniences, not to mention more passengers, something that has become critical as SUVs have grown to keep pace with growing, active families. The new Nissan Pathfinder shines inside, with upgraded, less busy, more intuitive digs.
The 2005 Nissan Pathfinder arrives in four trim levels, each of which can be ordered with two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive, the latter either manually or electronically selected. All are powered by the 270-horsepower, 4.0-liter V6 engine with a five-speed automatic transmission.
The Pathfinder XE ($24,650), the base model, comes with air conditioning; cruise control; power mirrors, windows and door locks with keyless remote; halogen headlamps; AM/FM/CD stereo playing through six speakers; fabric upholstery; adjustable lumbar on the driver's seat; reclining backs on the middle row seats; roof rails; and a pre-wired tow setup including hitch. The XE also comes standard with Vehicle Dynamic Control and aluminum-alloy wheels. A choice of XM or Sirius satellite radio ($400) are available, but few options are available.
Stepping up to the Nissan Pathfinder SE ($25,850) adds power adjustable driver's seat; halogen foglights; running boards; roof rack cross bars; and middle seat fold-down center armrest. Three SE option packages are available. The SE Comfort Package ($1,350) has dual-zone, automatic air conditioning; adjustable pedals; multi-accessorized, auto-dimming rearview mirror; upgraded sunvisors; leather trim (but not seats); and painted silver interior accents. The SE Premium Package ($1,700) adds a two-way power sunroof; automatic headlamps; programmable remote garage door opener; the Bose stereo with six-disc CD changer and eight speakers plus subwoofer; redundant steering-wheel-mounted audio controls; and capabilities for MP3 and satellite radio. The Mobile Entertainment System ($1,600) delivers a DVD player with a rear-passenger, seven-inch color monitor and two infrared headphones.
The Pathfinder SE Off-Road model comes with B.F. Goodrich Rugged Trail P265/75R16 tires on distinctive wheels; Rancho off-road shocks; skid plates. The 4X4 SE Off-Road model ($30,450) also comes with Hill Descent Control (which limits downhill speed without driver intervention) and Hill Start Assist (which briefly holds the Pathfinder on a slope while the driver releases the brake pedal and applies the accelerator). The Off-Road model features robust, waffle-texture fabric upholstery. An optional Leather Package ($1,400) includes leather-trimmed and heated front seats, four-way power adjustable front passenger seat, leather-trimmed doors and heated outside mirrors. The Mobile Entertainment System is also available.
The Pathfinder LE tops the lineup with leather upholstery, wood-toned trim, a sunroof, the Bose system with six-disc changer, eight speakers and subwoofer, and 17-inch wheels and tires. The LE-exclusive Navigation Package ($2,000) includes a DVD-based navigation system with a seven-inch, color LCD display.
Safety features include dual, two-stage frontal airbags; anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution; and electronic stability control, which Nissan calls Vehicle Dynamic Control. Available on all four trim levels is an Air Bag Package ($700), providing front-seat side-impact airbags and full-coverage, side curtain airbags. We recommend opting for this last package as it can provide head protection to you and your passengers if someone crashes into the side of your vehicle or you roll over. And we strongly recommend always wearing your seatbelts as they are your first line of defense in an accident. A monitor is included with the Navigation Package that checks the pressure of each tire.