- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 24, 2005

Nissan first introduced the Pathfinder in 1986 as the only SUV offered for the brand, and as an innovator in the class. Today, the Nissan SUV stable consists of four products — the full-size Armada, the smaller rugged Xterra, the crossover Murano and the completely redesigned Pathfinder.

The Pathfinder for 2005 is based on the same “F-Alpha” platform as the Armada, increasing its wheelbase to 112.2 inches, providing more interior space, enhanced ride comfort and stability. Short front and rear overhangs ensure better maneuverability, both in urban environments and on tight off-road trails with the manageable overall length of 187.6 inches.

The new Pathfinder also comes with three-row seating and a powerful 4.0-liter V-6 engine — the same engine that powers the 350Z, Maxima, Altima, Murano and Quest. The stroke is longer than that of the 3.5-liter version and is tuned for SUV and truck implementation. The engine features electronic throttle control, Continuous Valve Timing Control (C-VTC) and Nissan’s variable Induction Control System (NCIS), and generates 270 horsepower and 291 foot-pounds of torque. The V-6 is coupled to an electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission.

There are two new Pathfinder models: a new base XE trim; and the SE Off-Road model. These models join the SE (4x2) and the flagship LE. Pathfinder is offered in both 4x2 and 4x4 configurations. The available 4x4 system is Nissan’s advanced All-Mode system that includes: 2WD/AUTO/4H/4LO modes and an electronically controlled transfer case with both Hi and Lo ranges. A traction system is standard on SE Off-Road models that includes the Four-Wheel Limited-Slip system and Hill Descent Control, assisting with downhill travel control without constant brake use.

The Pathfinder isn’t as large as the Armada, but it displays the same DNA in its overall appearance — simply in a more compact overall packaging. Proper homage is paid to classic Pathfinder predecessors, but with a bolder, more muscular image. For traditionalists, the angled “C” pillar still encases the high-mounted rear-door handles.

The test 2005 Pathfinder was an SE Off-Road model that embodies the vehicle’s original spirit and intent. The wheels feature a distinctive design and are shod with B.F. Goodrich Rugged Trail tires, Suspension sports Rancho performance shocks. The interior of the SE Off-Roader was done in a unique blue seat cloth and chrome “Off-Road” badging. The exterior was sprayed in Silver Lightning metallic. The base price was set at $28,450 with the final sticker totaling $29,010. Available options include: a Comfort Package; a Premium Package; a Leather Package; a Mobile Entertainment Package; and an Air Bag Package. LE models offer a Navigation Package.Pathfinder pricing ranges from $24,650 (XE) to $32,550 (LE). The destination and handling charge for all Pathfinders is $560.

The 2005 Nissan Pathfinder has moved admirably from a compact SUV to the midsize SUV categorization. It is therefore bigger, more powerful and just plain better all around than ever before, though it is 11 inches shorter than its big brother, Armada. More than 900,000 Pathfinders have been sold over the past nine years. The standard third-row seating provides comfortable passage for up to seven passengers, with 64 total seating configurations. The split tailgate features a flip-up rear window for loading convenience.

The new 4.0-liter V-6 provides plenty of power for cruising at highway speeds, and lots of torque for climbing over logs, through mud and up steep grades.

The five-speed automatic transmission is the same found in the Titan truck series, and delivers smooth, transitional gear changes. When properly equipped, the Pathfinder is capable of towing up to 6,000 pounds.

The on-road ride quality is comfortable and switchgear is well thought out and placed for optimum user friendliness. Adjustable pedals are available on all but SE models, aiding in achieving that just-right driving position for a variety of driver profiles.About the only thing that the Pathfinder won’t do is float.

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