Pros: Third row seats fold down flat, lots of thoughtful features
Cons: Poor fuel economy
We started getting flyers for the newly restyled 2005 Nissan Pathfinder and was immediately captivated. After years of looking pretty much the same, the Pathfinder has gone through a much-needed makeover. When we got a mailer from a dealer advertising a free 2-night vacation with each test drive, we decided to see what this new vehicle was all about.
First be aware that Nissan is spending a lot of money on some aggressive advertising campaigns. The mailer we got from Gardena Nissan clearly advertised a free 2-night vacation with each test drive. Only after we got there did we find out that it was a chance to win with each test drive. Very misleading, and probably intentionally so. It got us over there, didn't it?
Nissan has taken a lot of cues from its successful Xterra after learning what its SUV fans are looking for. At first glance the new Pathfinder might look like a restyled Xterra. But more careful examination will reveal that it's very different. It's a little bigger than the Xterra, but not as hulking as its Armada big brother. A nice-looking running board on either side make it easier to get in, although the Pathfinder does not sit as high off the ground as the Xterra. The front end is beefier looking and modern. The luggage rack is sturdy, but not as ruggedly big as the Xterra's. This gives it a slightly sleeker look. Looking at the angular side view of the Pathfinder's back end reminds me of the Hummer H2.
What we hated most about the Xterra was its very bouncy, old-truck-like ride. Modern trucks don't even feel like that anymore. Though it's a very stylish vehicle and we love how it looks, it was a bit too spartan for us. To be honest, the Xterra was a bit of a compromise when we decided to purchase it (see my review of the 2001 Nissan Xterra). It looked good, but didn't have enough of the luxury features we like. The Pathfinder has fixed that for us. The ride feels nice, like a car instead of a truck. It feels smooth, but not too floaty like some Cadillacs and Buicks.
Acceleration is also much improved over the Xterra. It's still a V6 engine, but it seems to pull better. The Xterra tended to feel weak climbing up hills, and it would feel underpowered when climbing with a load of people. Though we haven't climbed any mountain roads yet, it already feels more powerful. We were trying to avoid the behemoths and their V8 engines for the sheer fact that gas would run through it like water in your hands. At 16 MPG city and 23 on the highway, I wouldn't call the Pathfinder fuel efficient. But it beats the Armada's pathetic 13 city and 19 highway. (Fuel efficiency ratings refer to the 2 wheel drive models. The 4 wheel drive Pathfinder gets 15 city and 21 highway.)
Because of the Pathfinder's lower suspension relative to the Xterra's, turning corners doesn't feel as precarious. There's a lot less leaning and I feel more confident and comfortable driving it than the Xterra.
Since it's only been a week since we got the car I can't speak for its reliability. However my experience with the Xterra's reliability in the 3 years we owned it has been excellent. No engine or electrical problems at all. This plus the fact that I see old Pathfinders everywhere leads me to believe that the new Pathfinder's reliability will also be excellent.
Utility is literally an SUV's middle name, and we are duly impressed by the Pathfinder's swiss army knife handiness. There are two power outlets (what used to be cigarette lighters) in the dash, one inside the cubbyhole/armrest, and two in the trunk area. The whole family can charge their cellphones at once!
The climate controls feature dual temperature settings for the driver and passenger, in addition to rear-seat controls for the air vents in the back. I was impressed that there were even air vents for the third row seating. No more whining about it being too stuffy in the back. The only problem I have encountered so far is that the rear seat climate controls are impossible to see at night. It needs to be lit up.
The sunroof (or is it called a moonroof? I always get them confused.) is a vast improvement over the Xterra's. There is no clunky basket to get in the way, and the cover slides out of the way instead you having to remove it and put it somewhere. The controls are nicely labeled and easy to operate.
Sitting next to these controls is a handy roof compartment to store your sunglasses. Another interesting small storage feature is a dual compartmented glove box. There is a flat wide compartment for you to keep your manual and registration. However I had trouble fitting the thick manual in there. I had to squish it a bit to make it fit. Below that is the standard lockable glove box.
The rear seats not only fold forward, they also roll up and out of the way. This is a little hard to explain, but I first saw this feature in the Toyota RAV4. The backrest folds forward, then the bottom part of the seat lifts up to roll the entire seat toward the front seat. If you scoot the front seat forward far enough, you can get the rear seat to sit perpendicular to the floor! This opens up a vast amount of space in the rear for cargo.
The tailgate opens much like the Xterra's in that it acts like a roof while fully open so you can get some shade/shelter for tailgate parties. It also borrows the Xterra's first aid kit, and this thing is not just band-aids. It's got aspirin, bandages, alcohol wipes, and anything else a proper first aid kit should have.
Hidden away in the floor of the trunk area is a compartment where the tire-changing tools are kept. There was enough space left over for me to store a couple other small items as well.
And what is a vehicle in America without cupholders? There are two large cupholders up front with removable rubber linings. If you take out the lining you can probably fit a Big Gulp in there. For the rear seat there are two fold-away cupholders that come out of the center console. Even the third row seats have a cupholder on both sides.
I almost forgot about the stereo! Our model came with a 6-disc in-dash CD changer that has MP3 playing capability. We were so thrilled! We've been wanting one for years. It's also got a Bose audio system that sounds pretty good. The bass isn't as deep and rumbling as my BMW's Harmon Kardon system, but it's still good.
The 2005 Pathfinder doesn't look all that big, but it feels more spacious inside. There is definitely more room in it than the Xterra (not surprising since it is a bit bigger). The seats in our model were cloth with some mesh overlay for style. The cloth feels almost like suede and I like it a lot.
What I really fell in love with is the third row seating. Not only can you fit as many people in this vehicle as a minivan, these rear seats can fold down completely flat if you need the storage space. I first saw this feature in the Yukon and was impressed by it. I am so glad that Nissan decided to add this to the Pathfinder because I am in love with it. This is the feature that made me say, "I want one!"
In addition to the driver and passenger seats, you can fit three large people in the back seat and two more in the third row. If they are skinny you can probably squeeze three back there. For large families this kind of seating is a must have.
There is no center "hump" to get in the way of the middle person's legroom in the back seat. Front seat legroom is fairly spacious. I didn't bump my leg as many times as I did in the Xterra. Although I wish there was more space under the front seats for the rear seaters to put their feet, you can at least fit your toes under there for a little extra room.
Seating in the third row is a little tricky. You first have the fold one of the rear seats out of the way, then the person needs to climb through this narrow opening to get to the back row. Once there the seats are very low to the floor, so it may not be as comfortable as the second row. This third row is ideal for children and nimble people.
I don't believe in love at first sight for people, but I do for cars. We went in to get a free hotel stay and instead came out with a new SUV. I think we'll be keeping this Pathfinder a lot longer than we kept the Xterra. It is the vehicle we were meant to get when we were originally looking for an SUV. It's very comparable both in price and features to the Toyota Highlander (see my review of the 2001 Toyota Highlander), but the Highlander does not have that awesome fold-down third row.
I love swiss army knives -- I use mine every day. So when a vehicle comes along and displays as much versatility as one, I am very impressed. Granted it won't turn into a truck so you can haul refrigerators, but I think it's got plenty of features to satisfy almost every need. Add that with the nice smooth ride and MP3 capability and we've got ourselves a winner.
I give it four stars instead of 5 because of the terrible fuel economy. In this day and age manufacturers should have already come up with more efficient ways to power a motor vehicle.