- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 9, 2004

The all-new 2005 Nissan Pathfinder is ideal for active, growing families. This sport utility vehicle now has third-row seating, more power and amazing off-road capability.

Pathfinder, a midsize SUV with a rugged outdoor image, has been around since 1986. Because of the popularity of this type of vehicle, Nissan has other choices, such as the full-size Armada, Xterra and the Murano. But what makes the newest Pathfinder shine are additional seats and the versatility of the interior and additional power.

For example, if there is need to carry a 10-foot stepladder, the front seat and a segment of the middle and rear seats easily fold down so the ladder can slide in from the split tailgate. I was intrigued by the various ways the seats could be used and the interior cargo capacity transformed by folding down various sections of the second- and third-row seats. In addition, there are quite a number of storage compartments under the seats.

I rode in both the second- and third-row seats and found them reasonably easy to climb into, but these seats are more suitable for children than adults as the legroom is limited.

What isn’t limited is the acceleration. The 2005 model has a new 4.0-liter DOHC V-6 engine that generates 270 horsepower and 291 foot-pounds of torque. With most of the torque kicking in below 2,000 rpm, it is quite responsive to the quick demand on the gas pedal. All this power is linked to a five-speed automatic transmission. It can also tow 6,000 pounds, and the trailer hitch is included.

The ride is much improved over the former model. One reason is an all-new body-on-frame construction, plus a host of suspension components. I could define the purpose of each — such as the double wishbone front suspension with stabilizer bar — but the bottom line is a very comfortable ride in a vehicle that absorbs normal road bumps much like a sedan.

Sedanlike atmosphere surrounds the interior appointments that include such optional features as a DVD-based navigational system containing a wealth of information. For example, on the DVD that covers the entire country, you can find restaurants broken down by cuisine. Another upscale feature is a Bose sound system that can knock the socks off a teenager. However, both features are options to be added to an estimated $32,000 range.

Now comes the good part: off-roading. I drove one on an off-road course that demonstrated two new features: Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist. Here I encountered some extremely rough roads that led to a hill that most other off-road vehicles wouldn’t be able to climb. That’s when Hill Start kicked in and prevented the Pathfinder from rolling back (for up to two seconds), so I felt safe as I crept up this steep hill — ever so slowly.

Then came the real scary part: going down hill. Because this hill was so steep, I felt like I was driving off a cliff, but the Hill Descent Control prevented me from changing speed, allowing me to drive at a slow pace and concentrate on my steering and handling.

This is definitely not the Pathfinder of old. The older-model Pathfinder could never have climbed such a hill, nor could it accommodate the needs and seating of growing families who want to get out, do a little off-road exploring and be able to go just about anywhere.

That includes such ventures as going to the local shopping center in a very maneuverable SUV and being able to park with ease because of its short turning circle. In a nutshell, this Pathfinder is ideal for a growing family.

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