Pros: Acceleration, Navigation Logic, Styling, Suspension
Cons: Rear seat access/room, Navigation controls, Handling on bumpy roads, Annoying occasional rattles
In December 2005 we have purchased one of the first new body style Pathfinders. Twenty two thousand miles later I would cautiously recommend this SUV, but I would do it with a few words of warning.
Here is the list of the main things I like/dislike about my Pathfinder (I will go into details below).
I like: acceleration, interior design, exterior styling, comprehensive trim levels, nifty features and options.
I do not like: handling on bumpy roads, limited room access to the third row seats, fuel economy, Controls of the navigation system, Occasional rattles.
Why Pathfinder. After driving a small SUV (㤊 Honda CR-V) for a while, my wife and I wanted a bigger, more luxurious, more powerful SUV without investing a fortune into it. We have considered and turned down the following alternatives: Honda Pilot - turned down by my wife for styling, I did not like having to choose between Navigation System and Rear Seat Entertainment System (you can not have both in Pilot). BMW X5 nice, but way over the budget. Toyota 4Runner we had to choose between Navigation System and the third row seat (per Toyota - you could not have both at that time go figure), Acura MDX was the runner up, but I was not thrilled with a known issue of transmission reliability and the ride was too wagon like to my taste. Once we test drove the fully loaded Pathfinder LE, we had a winner.
Now for the details: We decided on LE with Navigation and Entertainment systems. LE comes fully loaded and the only options you can add are the Nav. System and Entertainment System. The exterior of the Pathfinder is very stylish and with a right choice of colors looks quite nice (our pick was dark blue). The interior looks very upscale, and with a number of buttons, controls and gauges looks hi-tech. Leather seats are nice quality and look rugged enough for an SUV. Other plastic/imitation wood surfaces look very decent, although some people claim that they are easily scratchable. Pathfinder offers a good amount of storage compartments (including a hidden one under the second row of seats). Front seats are comfortable, although I would opt for more support and finer power seat adjustments. The height of the seating position paired with large windows offer an outstanding view of the road. Despite the outside mirrors being quite large, the blind spot still exists and can be annoying in dense traffic. Second row seats are less inviting than the front ones anyone who is taller than 5㤒 should not attempt a long trip seating in the second row. The third row can be used only by a very drunk adult or kids under 12. The third row has very little leg room and the seating position leaves a lot to be desired. Both of the rear rows of seats are easily foldable and when folded offer more than ample cargo space. Instruments and controls are very well thought of with little to be desired. Since my Pathfinder has a Nav. system, it offers the driver even more information. Gauges are easy to read and are well lit at night. Climate control is fairly easy to operate, however it does not do a good job in maintaining a comfortable temperature and requires frequent adjustments. Having heated mirrors and seats is great during winter (in fact I was pleasantly impressed how fast heated mirrors defrost/defog). There are a few non essential options that my Pathfinder has, but I enjoy them anyway: adjustable pedals that allow you to set the height of brake and gas pedals, tire pressure monitor (part of the Nav. System screen) that shows the tire pressure readings, speed sensitive volume on the radio also turned out to be a very convenient feature. I have to mention the BOSE audio system. I know they have made some changes to it in 2006 Pathfinders what a shame! In 㤍 LE models, the 6 CD changer not only plays CD, but also MP3s that are recorded onto CD media. This allows you to record more than 100 songs per CD; multiply that by 6 and you get about 50 hours of entertainment. I also like the quality of sound, especially on the good quality recordings. Radio reception is another thing that has room for improvement. I am contemplating the idea of installing a radio signal amplifier. Navigation system has a good routing logic; however controlling the Nav. System is more than annoying. Instead of having a touch screen, Pathfinders Nav. System is controlled by a little joystick and to enter a destination you have to scroll through the letters and numbers, thus it takes a very long time to set the system to get you to your destination. The screen also could be larger to offer a better view of the route. Same can be said about the rear seat entertainment system.
Driving: Step on a gas and .whoa!!! Even though Pathfinder is heavy, it accelerates swiftly, however the speed is not noticeable and just when you think acceleration is not up to par, you look at the speedometer and it shows 80. Braking is also good, and is more than adequate for the SUV of this size. Engine sound aggressive on the high RPM, but is not noticeable while cruising. Pathfinder had adequate handling and takes the turns rather easily, however if the road is bumpy, while taking a turn at speeds over 30, you will feel like the rear of the Pathfinder becomes somewhat uncontrollable. It does not happen often, but does give you an unpleasant feeling. The suspension is on the firmer side, but does a fairly good job in absorbing the bumps and potholes. The steering wheel is almost too responsive and even a slight movement reflects on the Pathfinders path. High speeds are a breeze and traveling at 80 mph is very comfortable with a good feeling that 80 is far from the limit. Pathfinders 4X4 is geared towards off-roading, rather than every day driving. It does a superior job in getting out of the deep snow, but does not react to icy roads as quick as some real-time all wheel drive vehicles. In a mixed mode driving (some highway, some local traffics), I get 16-17 miles per gallon using regular gas. It does seem a little high, but taking the size of the SUV and engine into consideration, it is reasonable.
Now for the top 10 I would change about Pathfinder:
1. Navigation System controls should be touch screen
2. Get rid of rattles Occasionally some of the plastic panels start rattling, then the noise goes away, thus it is very hard to get it fixed.
3. Navigation/Entertainment screens should be larger.
4. Turns on bumpy roads should be absorbed better to help maintain the control.
5. Fuel economy could be improved
6. 4X4 should be faster to respond to slippery roads
7. Rear row seats (2nd and 3rd rows) should be improved in aspect of roominess and accessibility
8. Radio reception
9. Finer adjustments to the front seats
10. Eliminating a fairly large blind spot.
Overall Nissan Pathfinder is a good value for the money. It offers nice features and LE trim comes fully loaded, so you will not be surprised by some outrageous charges for small, but nice-to-have options. If during the test drive you will pay attention to my list of things in need of improvement (see above), and you are not too concerned, than go ahead, buy it and ENJOY!