Full 2012 Nissan Pathfinder Review
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Nissan Pathfinder lineup receives just a couple of tweaks including the addition of the navigation system as standard equipment on the top-of-the-line LE trim level.
The 2012 Nissan Pathfinder has long been known for being a rugged SUV with decent off-road capabilities. This third-generation version that dates back to 2005 is no different. It can still hold its own after the pavement ends, thanks to a robust platform based on the full-size Nissan Titan pickup truck. With a choice of V6 or V8 power and rear- or four-wheel drive, the Pathfinder can also tow up to 7,000 pounds, a number that bests most car-based crossovers.
While the Pathfinder's truck-based brawn can come in handy when you're traveling the rutted road to your favorite fishing hole or pulling the family camping trailer, it comes at a price. Specifically, you'll be giving up many of the qualities that are important in everyday driving, including a smooth ride, confident handling, decent fuel economy and an interior with plenty of room for both people and cargo.
As such, we'd recommend most buyers check out some of the better car-based crossovers on the market, including the Chevrolet Traverse, Dodge Durango and Ford Explorer And if you're one of the few who need serious off-road and/or trailer-towing capability, we suggest you also have a look at the V6-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee or Toyota 4Runner, both of which offer better fuel economy.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Nissan Pathfinder is a midsize seven-passenger SUV offered in five trim levels: S, SV, Silver, LE V6 and LE V8.
Standard equipment on the entry-level S model includes 16-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, roof rack rails, air-conditioning, an eight-way manually adjustable driver seat, cruise control, full power accessories, a tilt steering wheel and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player.
The SV adds 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, running boards, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear air-conditioning, upgraded cloth upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat, power-adjustable pedals, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 7-inch color multi-information display, a rearview camera, a six-disc CD changer and an auxiliary audio jack.
Step up to the Silver trim level and you get heated mirrors, body-color/chrome side moldings, keyless ignition/entry, leather upholstery, a four-way power passenger seat, heated front seats and Bluetooth.
The LE V6 model comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, roof rack crossbars, driver seat memory functions, a heated steering wheel, wood-grain trim and a navigation system with digital music storage. The top-of-the-line LE V8 loses the standard sunroof but gains the 5.6-liter V8 engine and four-wheel drive.
The options list is short and includes a sunroof and the rear-seat video entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Nissan Pathfinder is offered with a choice of two engines. The 4.0-liter V6 makes 266 horsepower and 288 pound-feet of torque, while the LE V8 model gets a 5.6-liter V8 that produces 310 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic is the only transmission offered.
Rear-wheel drive is standard, while a part-time four-wheel-drive system featuring a shift-on-the-fly transfer case is an option on S, SV and Silver models. LE models can be had with an available full-time four-wheel-drive setup.
In Edmunds performance testing, a V6-powered four-wheel-drive Pathfinder went from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates are 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive and 14/20/16 with 4WD. Properly equipped, this powertrain can tow 6,000 pounds.
The LE V8 model made a quick 7.0-second sprint from zero to 60 mph in our testing. But that slight performance gain comes with dismal fuel economy numbers of 13/18/14 mpg. Properly equipped, the V8 model can tow 7,000 pounds.
The 2012 Nissan Pathfinder comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front seat active head restraints, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. In Edmunds 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.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Pathfinder its highest possible rating of "Good" in both frontal-offset and side crash tests but a second-lowest score of "Marginal" for the roof-strength test.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside the cabin, the 2012 Nissan Pathfinder's front seats are comfortable enough, but second-row passengers will find foot and shoulder room in short supply. The standard third-row seat is really only suitable for kids, and they'll have a hard time getting back there because of the elevated placement of the Pathfinder's rear door handles and its high step-in height. The Pathfinder's interior design is also showing its age, with a ho-hum look and a lot of small buttons on the center stack.
When it comes time to transport cargo, the interior's 40/20/40-split second-row and 50/50-split third-row seats fold down to create a flat load floor and 79 cubic feet of cargo room. This is less than most large crossovers.
No matter which engine you choose, you'll find that the 2012 Nissan Pathfinder performs admirably, with both the V6 and V8 producing strong acceleration. The five-speed automatic transmission helps make the most of this power with smooth, well-timed gearshifts.
In fact, the driving experience feels almost sporty thanks to precise, responsive steering. The Pathfinder can't escape its truck-based roots, though, and there's the usual body roll during cornering, while a suspension calibrated for hauling and towing delivers a stiff-legged ride on bad pavement.