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New Car/Review


Nissan Pathfinder SE (2001)

SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide

By Matt/Bob Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 30,349
     Price As Tested                                    $ 33,967
     Engine Type              DOHC 24-valve 3.5 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 214 cid/3498 cc
     Horsepower                                   240 @ 6000 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               265 @ 3200 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  106.3"/71.7"/182.7"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4302 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  21.1 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                 P225/55R16 M&S
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/five-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            15/19/18          
     0-60 MPH                                        9.0 seconds
     Maximum cargo capacity                      85.0 cubic feet
     Maximum towing capacity                         5000 pounds
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

("Modern SUVs continue to move away from their roughneck roots and more toward being tall family sedans," says Bob Hagin. Matt Hagin says that's OK, as long as their makers don't forget those roots.)

BOB - The ongoing saga of the SUV market is that they're getting further from their off-road, rock-crusher origins every year and closer to being station wagons with attitudes. This new Nissan Pathfinder that we're evaluating this week is a good example. It has evolved past the original SUV parameters of being a four-by four truck with a couple of enclosed seats mounted where a pickup bed would be. Whereas the original Nissan SUVs had a separate, truck-like ladder frames with the body bolted on, the current crop of Pathfinders has unibody one-piece construction like most modern passenger cars. It won't flex as well going over really rough terrain, but it sure is smooth.

MATT - Body flex for off-roading isn't important because few Pathfinders are ever going to roll over terrain that's any rougher than the streets of New York City. The Pathfinder body is put together with over 4000 separate welds, which makes for a strong, rattle-free vehicle and allows it to handle better on twisting country roads. The SE version that we were given is the most sporty of the three Pathfinder models that are offered. The other two, the XE and the LE, are the base model and the luxury version in that order. As an indicator that SUVs are no longer strictly for hunters and fishermen who need to traverse fire trails and stream beds, all three of the Pathfinder models can be had in either two or four-wheel drive. And you're right about it being a family vehicle, Dad. In wet, icy or snowy weather, the four-by-four system can be shifted into all-wheel-drive at up to 50 MPH. The only drawback is that shifting it back into 2WD requires stopping the thing. But the All Mode package automatically switches power from just the rear wheels to driving all four in an instant, then back again when it regains traction. In addition, the anti-lock braking system (ABS) automatically modifies how "hard" the ABS applies the brakes on bad road conditions.

BOB - It's hard not to get excited over the new engine in the Pathfinder. It's still a V6 like the old unit, but it's a larger version of Nissan's twin-cam, 24-valve engine that's used in the Maxima. It puts out 240 horses in our automatic-equipped SE and a whopping 265 pound- feet of torque. Its towing capacity is 5000 pounds, which isn't bad at all. It's an all-aluminum design whereas the last generation Pathfinder engine used a heavy iron engine block and put out 70 less ponies. The Nissan press kit says the 4300-pound Pathfinder will go from 0 to 60 in 8.8 seconds, which is probably accurate, but I found the four-speed automatic a bit slow to downshift when I tried to pass other vehicles.

MATT - This year the fancier Pathfinder models have a six-disc in-dash CD player and ours even had an optional video player that drops down out of the headliner to entertain those in the back seat. I liked the fact that the system could be hooked to earphones for back seat passengers because I quickly get tired of the patter that goes along with the cartoon videos my daughters like. There was an air-deflector over the rear door that kept the road "stuff" that comes over the roof from hitting and sticking to the rear window. It also had a factory roof rack that's probably strong enough for a couple of sets of skis but not much more. There were also side-bars under the doors, which helped getting into and out of the vehicle but they looked like they might be accident-prone if the Pathfinder was taken into the boondocks.

BOB - As further testament to the Pathfinder's evolutionary civility, our test rig had an optional leather package, which added side air bags up front and heated front seats. Also, a sunroof package added a compass and some other small items. We used a Pathfinder on a trip a couple of years ago and your mother and I found the compass very useful in finding our way out of the deepest wilds of Brooklyn.

MATT - Knowing how you hate to stop and ask for directions, Dad, I'm sure that you found it to be the most noteworthy accessory on the vehicle.