What's New for 2001
A long overdue 250-horsepower V6 engine debuts for 2001, making Pathfinder the most powerful SUV in its class. An interior freshening and more standard goodies, as well as snazzy options like an in-dash navigation system and an entertainment system for rear-seat occupants, are new for 2001. Also added to the LE's options list this fall is the handy All-mode automatic 4WD system from the Infiniti QX4.
Nissan's hardy Pathfinder has always been our vehicle of choice for seeking a new path to the premium outlet center. Though the exterior may exude that tough-guy outdoorsy image, the interior has always been comfortable enough for the dilettante woodsman who doesn't like to get his nails too dirty. Though the old 3.3-liter V6 engine provided acceptable levels of low-end grunt, the coarsely produced 170 horsepower it made was meager when stacked against newer competitors.
So revel, all you who seek liberation from urban ennui -- the Pathfinder is finally energized by a stouter V6, based on the Maxima sedan's stellar powerplant. When mated to a five-speed manual transmission, the 3.5-liter DOHC V6 engine produces a mighty 250 horsepower and 240 foot-pounds of torque. Matching it to an automatic tranny will usurp 10 ponies but add 25 foot-pounds of twist, still ample power to haul plenty of equipment and go mountain climbing, as well as merge onto freeways without fear.
The Pathfinder comes with rear-wheel or part-time four-wheel drive, the latter of which provides a shift-on-the-fly transfer case that can be engaged at speeds up to 50 mph. On LE models, an automatic All-Mode four-wheel-drive system can be specified for 2001, giving you one more reason to skip paying the extra tariff the Infiniti QX4 commands. All-Mode operates in 2WD, automatic 4WD, 4WD-Hi and 4WD-Lo, all selected using a simple rotary knob on the dashboard.
We've long admired the Pathfinder for its excellent ride and handling, further enhanced by solid unibody construction. The interior, one of the friendliest of any SUV on the market, is spruced up for 2001 with an updated instrument panel. A new dual level center console with a padded armrest and 12-volt power source will organize all your gewgaws.
You can choose from three trim levels -- the XE, which comes with standard power windows, mirrors and locks, and a security system for the 2001 model year; the sporty SE, which gives you a choice of automatic or manual transmission along with sporty trim; and the top-of-the-line LE, which includes foglights, Bose audio system and fake wood accents.
All models come standard with 16-inch wheels, full-size spare tire, a CD player and ABS. Side airbags can be ordered as long as they are contained in leather-wrapped seating, which is available only on the SE and LE. Those same models, when power is transferred to the drive wheels via an automatic transmission, can be equipped with a mobile entertainment system, which includes a 6.4-inch flip-down LCD screen, video player and ports to plug and play a PlayStation 2. A "Birdview" navigation system, shared with the Infiniti QX4, is also available, but we don't recommend it. While the "Birdview" perspective is interesting, teensy, tiny, little, itty-bitty buttons control the thing, along with some of the climate control functions. Get a map.
Items that remain static from last year include a substantial maximum cargo carrying capacity of 85 cubic feet (surprising for what appears to be a relatively small vehicle). Some of this space, in our humble opinion, should have been used to alleviate the still-cramped rear accommodations.
Despite a few quibbles, we're thrilled that Nissan finally rectified the Pathfinder's main problem: horsepower. With this updated competitive package, we're betting fat rebates and dealer incentives have gone the way of the dodo.