Now 5 years old, the current-generation Nissan Pathfinder still sports one of the friendliest interiors of any SUV on the market, and drives very much like a car without sacrificing much capability to travel off the beaten path.
Front passenger space is ample, but the rear seat can be cramped for larger adults. Though the Pathfinder appears to be on the small side of the midsize-SUV continuum, it actually is capable of carting 85 cubic feet of detritus. For comparison purposes, a Dodge Durango can hold only 3 more cubic feet of stuff.
Our main complaints about the Pathfinder revolve around the weak 3.3-liter V6 engine and the tight entry and exit afforded by small rear doors. Last year, Nissan slightly boosted power output to 170 horsepower and 200 ft-lbs. of torque, but the truck still feels winded as the revs climb. Low rpm grunt is acceptable, however, so urban commutes and four-wheeling don't tax the powertrain. Look for a big power boost in the middle of the 2000 model year. The rumors we're hearing involve a 230-hp, 3.5-liter V6.
Other changes last year included revised styling that gives the Pathfinder a more rugged and substantial appearance, new colors, improved NVH performance, revised suspension tuning for better on-road ride and handling, bigger tires and a wider track. Interiors got a makeover with new fabrics, white or titanium gauge clusters, standard CD sound system with cassette player and six speakers, optional side airbags and an ignition immobilizer.
Three trim levels are available with either rear-wheel drive or part-time four-wheel drive. Basic XE models come decently equipped with ABS, automatic transmission, air conditioning, alloy wheels, privacy glass and an anti-theft system. Step up to the SE and enjoy the option of shifting gears manually, tubular step rails, leather-wrapped steering wheel, titanium gauges, suede-look cloth trim, power windows and locks, heated power mirrors, driver's seat height adjustment and lumbar control, and remote keyless entry. Top-of-the-line LE models are loaded with running boards, fog lights, chrome exterior accents, automatic climate control, Bose audio, exterior temperature readout, integrated compass, and fake wood interior accents.
Dealers will likely be getting huge incentives to move underpowered 2000 Pathfinders off the lot until the more powerful V6 arrives. Adding to this consumer-friendly market climate is the incredible popularity of the smaller Xterra, which is cannibalizing Pathfinder intenders with its more hip, youthful image and cheaper price tag. Screaming deals are available on this aging yet still capable sport-ute, and for this reason alone, this truck deserves your attention.