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Review: 2003 Nissan Pathfinder SE

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SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide



MODEL: Nissan Pathfinder SE
ENGINE: 3.5-liter DOHC V6 HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 240 hp @ 6,000 rpm/265 lb-ft @ 3,200 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 106.3 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 182.7 x 71.7 x 68.1 in.
STICKER PRICE: $30,000 (est.)

There's no doubt that the Nissan Pathfinder is one of the more popular sport utility vehicles on the road today. You see them everywhere. And, for some reason, many Pathfinders seem to be driven by women, although I'm certain Nissan didn't plan it that way.

Pathfinder received a redesign that gives it the standard Nissan truck face, with a bolder grille treatment. In addition, the design of the rear has been smoothed.

Under the new bolder hood is a 3.5-liter DOHC V6 that pumps out 240 horsepower. It puts the power to the wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission that is simple to use and leaves no confusion. The engine is based on the V6 used in the Maxima and that engine has been named one of the 10 Best Engines by Wards Auto World for eight straight years. It is smooth and powerful, without a lot of noise.

Our tester was the SE 4x4, meaning it was the lower trim level with all-important four-wheel drive. We needed the 4WD because our weather has been pretty nasty of late with snow and/or freezing rain and the comfort of driving a vehicle that can handle all that safely is a luxury.

It is also possible to get a Pathfinder in LE trim with a standard leather interior. Both trim levels are available in 2WD or 4WD, but in the Northeast, 4WD is recommended, simply because of unpredictable weather. The Se has standard 16-inch wheels, while the LE has standard 17-inch wheels.

As with most SUVs, the Pathfinder is a five-passenger vehicle with excellent rear-seat legroom. Behind the rear seat is a cargo area that contains 38.0 cubic feet for storage. If you fold the rear seat back flat into the floor, cargo capacity increases to 85.0 cubic feet. A large cargo area increases the "utility" part of the sport-utility equation.

Ride quality in the Pathfinder is excellent. Nissan uses an independent strut front suspension with coil springs. In the rear is a five-link coil spring suspension. Stabilizer bars are used front and rear to reduce roll while still offering a comfortable ride.

Nissan also has added a new optional Vehicle Dynamic Control system with a Traction Control System and tire pressure monitoring system. This package ensures a reliable safe ride with less tendency to wander away if you're on a difficult surface. In addition, Pathfinder offers front disc/rear drum brakes with a standard 4-wheel/4-sensor/3-channel Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS).

I noticed with the Pathfinder that there was a minimum of body rattle that you often get in an SUV that is truck based. The Pathfinder is a true truck-based SUV, don't worry about that, it just doesn't give the harshness that many others do.

And this may be the appeal to female drivers, the vehicle's great ride and lack of harshness. You'll find this in luxury sport-utes, bot not so often in the mid-range vehicles, where the Pathfinder fits. For a reasonable price, you can get some of the advantages of a luxury vehicle without having to sell the farm.

2003 The Auto Page Syndicate