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2008 Nissan Pathfinder Review

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    2008 Nissan Pathfinder
    By Katrina Ramser


    Dreaming of owning a capable and comfortable mid-size SUV that drives fearlessly through snow, sand, rain, rocks and mud? The Pathfinder's off-road technology will take you through environmental challenges without the need to know too much about off-road driving.

    Updates for 2008 include new exterior front-and-rear styling and wheel designs and a whole new engine. There is some minor new interior, along with updated technology such as a navigation system. I test-drove a three-row, 7-passenger 2008 Nissan Pathfinder with the new 310-horsepower 5.6-liter V8 and XN All-Mode 4WD. The total vehicle package was $39,860.

    There is also the highly rated 266-horsepower 4.0-liter V6 engine with 288 lb-ft torque also available for the Pathfinder. This engine is used in the Maxima, Altima, Murano and Quest vehicles.

    The Pathfinder offers advanced and competitive 4WD systems, but differ in relation if you have the V6 or V8 engine. Under the V8, you get the full-time 4-wheel drive system. This XN All-Mode 4x4 system is straightforward. Using center console switches, you have four positions: 2WD(dry and paved); AUTO (equal torque distribution to wheels); 4H (rocky or snowy); and 4LO (steep grades and maximum power to mud and gravel). With the V6 engine, can you choose between a part-time shift-on-the-fly system and this XN All-Mode system.

    But only with the V6 and under the SE trim can you get the Off Road enhanced technology, the real highlight of the Pathfinder. This Off Road system includes Hill Descent Control (HDC), designed to reduce driver stress when climbing hills, both in forward or reverse, by putting the transmission in appropriate gear and simply switching it on in combination with the correct 4x4 mode (4LO with vehicle speed under 15-mph or in 4H with vehicle speeds up to 31-mph.) Working with the HDC is the Hill Start Assist (HSA); this system keeps the brakes applied for up to two seconds to help prevent rolling when you switch your foot to the gas.

    I've tried such Off Road enhanced technology systems on other makers and models, such as the Range Rover and Land Cruiser, and they are stress-free off-road fun. They practically drive themselves.

    : 2008 Nissan Pathfinder : HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

    Stylish But Comfortable Results: The new front and rear styling puts it back into a shape that resembles the Armada and Xterra more than its previous years. Despite the fact SUVs like this on keep growing bigger, visibility from behind the steering wheel is excellent. Keep in mind the rear-door handles are too high for kids to reach. I usually feel disappointed at Nissan's no-frills approach and inability to dazzle consumers with the convenience features – overall, the various knobs, switches and buttons inside the Pathfinder look very frugal in design without any pizzazz or sophistication. Nissan does go overboard with trim selections, starting from simplest of trims to big upgrades: S-V6, SE-V6, SE-V8, SE-V6 Off Road (4x4 only), LE-V6 and LE-V8.

    Reliability & Safety Factor: Reliability on Nissan's depends on the model you're looking at, with the Pathfinder being a 2008 recommended vehicle by Consumer Reports. Safety is also rated as having slightly better than average, including a curtain, side, and dual front airbags; anti-lock braking system (ALBS); the a Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) which reduces engine power and applies brakes if the vehicle senses a deviation from intended path. The Off Road enhanced technology in itself is a safe off-road system.

    Cost Issues: If you skimp on a couple of extras (ie. leather seating, sunroof, heated seats), you can get the Pathfinder price down to the mid-30s. However, remember Nissan has a no-frills approach to the most basic trims, meaning you don't get much of an interior if you don't buy some of their offered packages.

    Activity & Performance Ability: For the first time ever, the 2008 Pathfinder gets the 5.6-liter V8 engine, the same engine found in the Armada and Titan. Acceleration on a Nissan is particularly outstanding on all engines. I did find the standard power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering stiff and I sensed vibration (I've sited these issues on the Xterra, and I'm guessing it is part of being a Nissan).

    The Green Concern: With the 5.7-liter V8 engine, estimated gas intact is 15-mpg city and 22-mpg highway using premium unleaded. I clocked an average of 14.2-mpg. The EPA's Green Vehicle Guide gives it an average low score of 3 out of 10 for emitting vehicle tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases.

    For best and easiest-to-use off-road ability, the Pathfinder SE or LE trim with the V6 engine and Off Road package is the one you want.

    2008 Katrina Ramser