- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2008

The Nissan Pathfinder is 22 years old and still going strong. The Pathfinder has improved with each new model and 2008 is no exception.

This seven-passenger body-on-frame SUV is loaded with improvements, making it what consumers want with more car-like interior refinement. The 2008 Pathfinder has a heated steering wheel, redesigned console and second-row reclining center seat section, new illuminated switchgear, new trim and an intelligent key. It also has a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, revised navigational system, plus a 9.3-gigabyte music box hard drive.

The Pathfinder features three-row seating, plus storage that is more than adequate with additional containers under the floorboards. What doesn’t fit inside can be carried on the roof. The exterior (front and rear) has been redesigned to feature attractive bold curves. The body stands on 17-inch finished alloy wheels wrapped with BF Goodrich long trail tires that have a comfortable ride on paved roads, yet are capable of off-road performance.

The driver’s seat is accommodating by moving backward when the ignition is shut off for more room to exit and enter. When the ignition switch is turned on, the seat moves forward to one of the two preset positions. This intelligent key doesn’t have to be in the ignition switch, so I kept it in my pocket.

Although the Pathfinder is available with a 300-horsepower 5.6-liter V-8 engine, my LE tester had a 4.0-liter V-6 engine that produced 266 horsepower and 288 pounds-feet of torque. Under hard acceleration this engine was surprisingly fast. It’s capable of towing up to 6,000 pounds and has a standard integrated tow hitch. The mileage rating is 14 miles per gallon city and 20 mpg highway.

What surprised me most was the comfort and handling. I inquired about the reason for this and was told the Pathfinder model utilizes Nissan’s “F-Alpha” platform with fully boxed, all-steel frame that provides a solid mounting point for the body and the four-wheel double-wishbone suspension.

Pathfinder easily responds to each turn of the wheel. Even with its 39-foot turning circle, getting this nearly 5,000-pound SUV around tight spots was effortless.

My tester, assembled in Smyrna, Tenn., had a base price of $37,000 and with a few options; the bottom line was $40,260. The first and second rows are covered with leather and the driver’s seat has eight-way power, four-way power for the passenger’s seat. The second row has 40/20/40 split fold-flat seats that also recline for passenger comfort. The third row is also a split fold-flat for cargo and passenger flexibility.

As expected of an SUV of this caliber, it comes with loads of safety equipment, such as the advanced airbag system, plus side-impact and roof-mounted airbags. The front seats have active head restraints and three-point seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters. It also has zone-body construction with front and rear crumple zones. In addition to the LATCH system, it has child safety rear door locks.

I drove over a rough off-road track that required wading through a few streams. By simply flicking a switch on the dash-panel into four-wheel drive, the great outdoors was mine. I went over rough paths and was amazed at how easy they were to negotiate. Even more amazing was how easily this SUV responded when making turns on my favorite wiggly paved roads, leaving me to wonder how can Pathfinder improve on this model.

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