What's New for 2010
The number of available configurations has been significantly reduced for the 2010 Nissan Pathfinder. The SE Off Road trim bites the dust, while options packages have been reorganized.
Back in the 1990s, Nissan found a path to success with its Pathfinder SUV -- one of the pioneers in the class of rugged off-roading vehicles that made the transition to family on-road use. Yet with rising gas prices and the advent of crossovers, the 2010 Nissan Pathfinder finds itself on a path that no longer leads to the promised land of abundant sales and healthy profits. While this latest model is the best yet, it's a relic of a different time and really only makes sense for a narrow range of shoppers.
The 2010 Pathfinder is based on the same sturdy truck chassis as the full-size Nissan Titan and Armada. This helps to boost the Pathfinder's off-roading credentials, but realistically its large size and the discontinuation of the Off Road package mean that dedicated mud-slinging and rock crawling aren't very likely. The Pathfinder is still a strong candidate for towing duties, however, thanks to stout V6 and V8 engines capable of towing 6,000 and 7,000 pounds, respectively, when properly equipped. Both of these engines are class standouts, providing ample thrust whether hooked up to a trailer or not.
There are downsides to this truck frame, however. The first is weight, which conspires to drag down gas mileage and handling ability as compared to those of large crossover SUVs like the Ford Flex and GMC Acadia. Additionally, that body-on-frame construction robs the cabin of passenger and cargo space, both of which pale in comparison to those aforementioned crossovers. For people who never plan on towing or finding an unpaved path somewhere, a large crossover is a much wiser choice.
However, if you do routinely tow a boat or venture to a cabin in the woods, the 2010 Nissan Pathfinder is still one of the strongest members of the traditional midsize SUV class. It's quicker and more luxurious than the Dodge Durango and Ford Explorer, though its longtime rival, the Toyota 4Runner might eclipse it this year thanks to an extensive redesign. Kia's refined Borrego might also be worth a look. All said, though, the Pathfinder should suit you well as long as you'll be able to take advantage of its strengths.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Nissan Pathfinder is a midsize seven-passenger SUV offered in four trim levels: S, SE, LE and LE V8. Standard equipment includes 16-inch alloy wheels, rear tinted windows, a receiver hitch, roof rails, a tailgate with separate glass hatch, a front skid plate, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning, a tilt steering wheel, an eight-way manually adjustable driver seat and a six-speaker stereo with CD player.
The SE adds 17-inch alloy wheels, running boards, foglights, upgraded cloth upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat, power-adjustable pedals, a leather-wrapped wheel and shifter, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear air-conditioning, a color multi-information display and an auxiliary audio jack. The SE Premium Journey package adds roof rail cross bars, keyless ignition/entry, automatic headlights, a rearview camera, an auto-dimming mirror and a 10-speaker Bose stereo with six-CD changer and satellite radio.
The LE adds the Premium Journey package items plus 18-inch wheels, a sunroof, heated side mirrors, heated front seats and steering wheel, leather upholstery, driver memory functions, a four-way power passenger seat and wood-grain trim. The LE Navigation package (standard with the V8 model) adds a hard-drive-based navigation system, real-time traffic and 9.3 gigabytes of digital music storage. A rear-seat entertainment system is also optional for the Pathfinder LE.
Powertrains and Performance
Two engines are offered for the 2010 Nissan Pathfinder. The 4.0-liter V6 that is standard on all but the top trim level is good for 266 horsepower and 288 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard, while both rear- and four-wheel drive are available. The four-wheel-drive system available on S and SE models is a part-time system with a shift-on-the-fly transfer case operated with a dash-mounted switch. The LE gets a full-time four-wheel-drive system. In performance testing, a 4WD Pathfinder went from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds. Estimated fuel economy is 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined with rear drive and 14/20/16 with 4WD. Properly equipped, the V6 can tow 6,000 pounds.
The Pathfinder LE V8 gets a 5.6-liter V8 that produces 310 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. It, too, gets a standard five-speed auto, and four-wheel drive is standard. Our tests resulted in a quick 7.0-second sprint from zero to 60 mph. Of course, this comes with a fuel economy penalty of 13/18/14 mpg. Properly equipped, the V8 model can tow 8,000 pounds.
The 2010 Nissan Pathfinder comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front seat active head restraints, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags.
In brake testing, the Pathfinder LE V8 came to a stop from 60 mph in 134 feet, which is about the norm for truck-based SUVs. In government crash tests, the Pathfinder was awarded four out of five stars for frontal crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset and side crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside the Nissan Pathfinder, occupants will find an attractive cabin with excellent ergonomics. Optional amenities like navigation, Intelligent Key (keyless ignition/entry), Bluetooth and a hard-drive-based music server only add to the luxurious ambience. Front seating is quite comfortable, but the same cannot be said for the other positions. Second-row passengers will feel cramped, particularly longing for foot and shoulder room. The third row is suitable for children only, and even they will find access problematic due to the Pathfinder's high-mounted door handles and tall step-in height. The cargo space accommodates a maximum of 79 cubic feet -- typical for this class -- thanks to the ability of both rear rows to fold down flat.
With either engine, the 2010 Nissan Pathfinder is an impressive performer. The eight-cylinder variant smokes the Ford Explorer's V8 on the way to 60 mph by a full 2 seconds, and its automatic transmission provides perfectly timed and smooth gearshifts. The steering is surprisingly responsive and sharp, especially for an SUV of this size, giving it an almost sporty feel in traffic. However, the Pathfinder still drives more like a truck than a car-based crossover, with its heavy curb weight and pronounced body roll.