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2006 Pathfinder – Long Since Grown Up

Remember the first Pathfinder? The two-door model with the refinement of a skateboard? Well the 2006 Pathfinder has long since grown up. The current (redesigned in 2005) model has come a long way from the earlier testosterone versions. Sitting on the “F-Alpha” family platform like the Xterra, Armada, Frontier and Titan, this new Frontier performs with more comfort and sophistication than any of its predecessors.

Behind the Wheel
Behind the wheel, this vehicle is pretty sweet. The product planners seem to have dodged the usual Nissan bullet aimed at interior cost reductions. The interior looks and feels a lot nicer than other Nissans. The plastic does not have the same “ground-up beach toys” look found in the Altima. Switches have a nice look, feel, and operation. Ingress/Egress is easy, and the seats are comfortable.
With independent rear suspension and tall tires, it’s pretty smooth on the open road. Like the Xterra, it looks like it would have considerable head toss during exits from parking lots. However, both vehicles seem to have this issue beat, with great manners performing the daily “Costco-to-school-to-work-to-play” runs. My family drove it to the beach and around town over a recent weekend. It swallowed a few surfboards, and the rear cargo area held 4 body boards neatly stacked between the third row of seats and the hatch. The cargo area’s hard finish made clean up easy. (It’s amazing how much sand I must be hauling around in the carpet of my Expedition.)
While the third row seats get AC vents for both above and below, I’d reserve it for kids and adults you don’t like. I never did figure out how to get into the third row of seats without the gymnastics of climbing over the second row. The diagram on the second row seat seems to indicate that it folds out of the way, but the execution eluded me. Once in the second row, you’re pretty much there to stay. On a recent AutoPacific lunch trip I was forced to scramble over the top of the second row during an acrobatic exit. Amusing, but not recommended.
The best part of the Pathfinder is under the hood. There’s something about Nissan’s VQ powerplant that just makes you feel great. It’s just the right combination of the torque and exhaust note. (The only two things that really matter.) The Pathfinder gets a boost from 3.5 to 4.0 liters, giving it a considerable advantage in horsepower (270 ) over the V6 VW Touareg (240), Mitsubishi Montero (210), Toyota 4Runner (236) and Ford Explorer (210).
The downside to this powerplant is its economy. When I refueled I was sure there was a hole in the tank. 14 MPG is hardly 21st century efficiency for a V6.
Final Thoughts
This vehicle really shouldn’t be on my shopping list, but it is. The 1997 Honda Odyssey I parted with to get the Expedition could easily handle 90% of what I would use it for. Aside from its poor fuel economy, it hauls 7 people, looks tough, sounds tough, and is fun to drive for a SUV. If you’re considering an Explorer or 4Runner, you have to put the Pathfinder on your consideration list.
Great engine
Good daily handling for a SUV
Nicer interior materials than you’d expect in a Nissan
Surprising features:
Hard surfaced rear cargo area can be cleaned out with a leaf blower


Sunroof switches are not intuitive
Abysmal fuel economy
Another SUV
4.0L V 6, double overhead cam, variable valve timing and four valves per cylinder
Transmission: 5 Speed Automatic
Unleaded fuel 87
Fuel economy: EPA highway 21 mpg, city 15mpg
21.1-gallon main unleaded fuel tank
270 HP SAE @ 5,600 rpm; torque 291 ft lb

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The Pathfinder is an excellent Premium Mid-Size SUV. Good ergonomics, good powertrain, good style overall. The biggest downside in the model we were testing was the unfortunate addition of side steps to the evaluation vehicle. Now, a side step is required in something like a Ford Expedition. Climbing up is tough without one. But in something like the Pathfinder or the Ford Explorer, the step up is almost OK without a side step. When you have a step added, you step up too high and then have to duck low down to get through the door opening. Be sure you test getting in and out before you settle on any mid-size SUV – with or without steps.
George Peterson

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