Nissan Pathfinder Performance
Reviewers agree that the 2008 Nissan Pathfinder feels rock solid and now has more power than ever with a V8 engine option. Edmunds notes its useful "combination of off-road durability and on-road refinement" and Forbes says it "rewards drivers with its smooth handling, decent steering feel and surprisingly-agile cornering."
However, reviewers also register their disappointment with the 2008 model, which "is less carlike than the last generation," says Edmunds. "It's heavier, and there's considerable body roll around corners, especially on SE Off-Road models, which are fitted with off-road-biased tires."
Acceleration and Power
Under the hood, the 2008 Nissan Pathfinder offers two engine options. The base engine in the S model is a 266-hp 4.0-liter V6, while the SE and LE models come with an optional new 310-hp 5.6-liter V8. According to the EPA, the base V6 engine is expected to net 15 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway, while the V8 should get 13/18 city/highway. Premium fuel is recommended. Of the V6's fuel economy, Automobile.com says "I stayed in the city most of the week, and came out under 14.7 mpg at week's end, so it's no Prius, that's for sure, but I'm sure you could do worse."
Reviewers are relatively pleased with the base V6, which is a version of the same engine that powers Nissan's 350Z roadster and includes electronic throttle, continuous valve timing and variable induction control. Edmunds says "Step on the gas and the Pathfinder accelerates smartly off the line and maintains stamina all the way up highway grades, even when loaded with passengers and loot. Passing maneuvers come and go without drama." The V6 allows the Pathfinder to reach 60 mph in 7.4 seconds -- "a full second faster than the old  model and a couple tenths better than a V8-equipped Toyota 4Runner," Edmunds continues. Carz Unlimited simply says "The V6 provides ample power for just about any type of driving."
One of the few complaints about the base engine comes from Consumer Guide, who feels the "V6 labors to deliver brisk uphill acceleration from midrange speeds." Edmunds also notes that "the 4.0-liter, while smooth, can be noisy above 3,000 rpm." The addition of an available V8 engine is a major plus for most reviewers, many of whom listed the missing V8 option as a con for the 2007 Pathfinder. Edmunds says "The new 5.6-liter V8 comes can't beat Jeep's Hemi, but comes out ahead of V8s from Ford, GM, and Toyota with 310 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque, raising the Pathfinder's towing capacity from 6,000 to 7,000 pounds."
Both the V6 and V8 are paired with a five-speed automatic transmission on the base S model, though it also comes with manual mode on the SE, SE Off Road and LE models. Edmunds adds that the "responsive five-speed automatic transmission serves up crisp shifts at all the right times" and MSN says it "upshifts smoothly and downshifts quickly to help allow fast passing. It also lets the engine loaf at 75 mph."
When properly equipped, the Pathfinder with the new V8 can tow up to 7,000 pounds, and the V6 can tow up to 6,000. A seven-pin connector trailer wire harness is required and comes standard on all models.
Handling and Braking
Beginning with the 2005 redesign, the Pathfinder is based on the F-Alpha platform of the full-size Nissan Armada and rides on a fully boxed, all-steel ladder frame with a front and rear independent double-wishbone suspension. Reviewers who appreciated the previous Pathfinder's car-like ride see the third-generation SUV's handling as somewhat lacking. Because it's built on a truck chassis, reviewers like the Edmunds represents the other camp's view, noting "my jaunt was limited to around town, and riding around in the Pathfinder doesn't abuse you. It's not harsh or bumpy, just comfortable and quiet in an urban setting."point out that "the new Pathfinder rides like, well, like a truck. The ride is a little bouncy but still quite civilized until the pavement starts to get a little choppy." But
Reviewers have mostly good things to say about the Pathfinder's engine-speed-sensitive power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering. MSN says it's "responsive and has the right amount of assist for a tall, heavy sport utility. Handling is good, but sudden maneuvers such as quick lane changes make a driver aware that he's in a tall, heavy SUV." New Car Test Drive adds in a caveat about the SUV's large turning radius, which in the 2005 model was already "almost two feet larger than the '04's." Automobile.com, however, likes that the "steering is easy and light, which I found comforting when maneuvering it into and out of parking spots and navigating my urban crawl to work."
However, as other reviewers also mention, Automobile.com points out that the Pathfinder is not a performance vehicle: "When you're out cruising on the highway, it is plenty comfortable and soaks up rough patches, but once again requires a steady hand and does not inspire confidence to do anything more than cruise in nice straight lines." To that point, Edmunds says "In sweeping turns, the Pathfinder hits its stride. The steering is firm and quick and, when combined with a small-diameter steering wheel, makes you feel like you can carve up any back road that comes your way. When the corners tighten up, however, the body rolls and the tires squeal, reminding you that this Pathfinder is related to the Xterra, not the Murano."
The 2008 model features four-wheel vented disc brakes with an Anti-lock Braking System and Electronic Brake force Distribution. Edmunds found braking in the 2005 model disappointing, noting "In normal traffic, the Pathfinder's four-wheel discs provide confident stops and a reassuring pedal feel. But because of its added weight and more off-road-ready tires, the truck needs 138.5 feet to stop from 60 mph. The old Pathfinder did it in 129 feet. A Ford Explorer can do it in 125."
Motor Week also says "On the road, the Pathfinder handles with car-like ease. The ride is smooth without feeling overly soft and though not as plush as some car-based SUVs, it's still far from stiff." However, Edmunds is less pleased with Pathfinder's overall handling, noting "In off-road situations, the Pathfinder's rugged underpinnings are advantageous, and it offers plenty of suspension travel on rutted trails. However, for the majority of buyers who won't be using it in this manner, the 2008 Nissan Pathfinder's compromises are undeniable compared to the many qualified crossover SUVs in this price range."
Though the Pathfinder's on-pavement handling receives mixed reviews, its off-roading abilities are where it really shines. With available four-wheel drive (4WD) and a maximum ground clearance of nine inches, the Pathfinder is "a true backcountry machine that's as capable as any midsize SUV when it comes to tackling adventures far from the beaten path," Edmunds says. The notes "Off-road behavior is excellent, rivaling that of more expensive SUVs."
A part-time "Shift-on-the-fly" switch-operated 2-speed transfer case is available on the S, SE and SE Off Road trims, while a full-time "All-Mode" system with 2-speed transfer case is available only on the LE and SE V8 models. Edmunds notes that the part-time system, though easy to use, "means you have to know when to use it. Only the top-of-the-line LE model comes with an easy-peasy full-time system with an all-wheel-drive mode."
Automobile.com says "With an easy to use and very competent 4WD system, this truck has camping and adventure road trips written all over it (bonus points for the first aid kit that's strapped into the tailgate)." agrees, noting "The car trundled along as if nothing was amiss, crunching a new path through the forest. It got through the logging road, leaving two deep ruts of snow and clambered back onto the highway without complaint."
Kelley Blue Book calls the SE Off Road model "certainly Nissan's most sophisticated off-roader to date." It comes standard with Hill Descent control and Hill Start Assist, heavy-duty Bilstein off-road performance shocks, underbody skid plates, and larger off-road tires. "Regardless of what you know about how all the new gadgetry works, when it comes down to picking your way over logs and through streams all you have to do is keep your foot in it and it just keeps on going," praises Edmunds of the Off Road model.
S base model
The base Pathfinder comes with a 266-hp 4.0-liter V6 engine and is available in either two-wheel drive or part-time four-wheel drive.
The SE model includes the base 266-hp 4.0-liter V6 engine and is available in two-wheel drive or part-time four-wheel drive. The SE adds non-performance enhancements to the exterior and interior.
SE buyers can upgrade to a more powerful 310-hp 5.6-liter V8 engine, and can opt for either two-wheel drive or part-time four-wheel drive. The SE trim also adds non-performance enhancements to the exterior and interior.
SE Off Road
The V6 engine is the same as in the base model, but the SE Off Road version adds a shift-on-the-fly 4x4 transfer case, Bilstein off-road shocks, hill descent control, hill start assist, skid plates, and BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A tires. No two-wheel drive option is available.
Includes the base 266-hp 4.0-liter V6 engine and is available in two-wheel drive or full-time four-wheel drive. The LE also adds non-performance enhancements to the exterior and interior.
Includes the upgraded 310-hp 5.6-liter V8 engine and is available in two-wheel drive or full-time four-wheel drive. The LE also adds non-performance enhancements to the exterior and interior.