Used 2011 Nissan Pathfinder SUV Review
Once a compact five-passenger hauler with nimble feet off-road, the Nissan Pathfinder finds itself in the clutches of middle-age gravity. It's now larger, heavier and sturdier than its younger self. In some respects, that's not a bad thing. Powered by a V6 or V8, perched atop the same sturdy truck chassis as the Nissan Titan and offered with rear- or four-wheel drive, the Pathfinder can still scramble over rocks and tow a decent-size trailer. But for getting you through daily life, the Pathfinder is increasingly out of touch.
On the positive side, the 2011 Nissan Pathfinder has a maximum towing capacity of 6,000-7,000 pounds, depending on the engine selected. This is more than what you'll be able to do with a typical crossover SUV. And even with its fully independent suspension, the Pathfinder still has decent off-road chops. But we suspect most Pathfinder owners will be favoring the trailer over the trail, and head for the river rather than the Rubicon.
Either way, the Pathfinder's traditional SUV design brings a number of notable drawbacks. The first is weight, which conspires to drag down gas mileage and handling ability when compared to large crossover SUVs. Additionally, that body-on-frame construction robs the cabin of passenger and cargo space; even though the Pathfinder has three rows of seating, neither the second nor the third row is roomy.
Overall, we think there are better choices. If you really need a tow vehicle, a larger SUV like the 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe would make more sense. On the opposite side of things, crossovers like the redesigned 2011 Ford Explorer, 2011 GMC Acadia and 2011 Mazda CX-9 are roomier, more nimble and more fuel-efficient. And if you really do need an SUV with a mix of towing and off-road abilities, we'd recommend the impressively redesigned 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee or the capable Toyota 4Runner. Middle age, it seems, has not been kind to Nissan's Pathfinder.
performance & mpg
Two engines are offered for the 2011 Nissan Pathfinder. The 4.0-liter V6, standard on all but the top trim level, makes 266 horsepower and 288 pound-feet of torque, while a 5.6-liter V8 that produces 310 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque powers the Pathfinder LE V8. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard on all models.
All models are rear-wheel drive, with optional part-time 4WD featuring a shift-on-the-fly transfer case operated with a dash-mounted switch available on S, SV and Silver models. LE models offer available full-time four-wheel drive.
In Edmunds 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 LE V8 made a quick 7.0-second sprint from zero to 60 mph in our testing. But that performance comes with a fuel economy penalty of 13/18/14 mpg. Properly equipped, the V8 model can tow 7,000 pounds.
The 2011 Nissan Pathfinder comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front seat active head restraints, front-seat side airbags and 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 Nissan Pathfinder has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedure. Its 2010 rating (which isn't comparable to 2011 ratings) was 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.
With either engine, the 2011 Nissan Pathfinder is an impressive performer, with its automatic transmission providing perfectly timed and smooth gearshifts. Steering is surprisingly responsive and sharp, especially for an SUV of this size. It almost feels sporty in traffic -- almost. Despite four-wheel independent suspension, the Pathfinder still drives more like a truck than a car-based crossover, with a rough ride on broken pavement and pronounced body roll through corners.
The 2011 Nissan Pathfinder offers an attractive and well-appointed cabin with three-row seating and a generous amount of interior storage space. Front seating is quite comfortable, but second-row passengers will feel cramped and longing for foot and shoulder room. The third row is suitable for children only, and even they'll have a hard time getting in and out due to the Pathfinder's high-mounted door handles and tall step-in height. Both the second and third rows fold flat, as does the front passenger seat, allowing 79 cubic feet of cargo space, typical for this class.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.