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#21

in 2011 Affordable Midsize SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $16,888 - $25,354
Original MSRP: $28,570 - $43,250
MPG: 15 City / 22 Hwy
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2011 Nissan Pathfinder Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The 2011 Pathfinder rides on a truck-based chassis and still provides an adequate ride on pavement, although it's a bit choppy. A rough on-pavement ride is the tradeoff for strong off-road capabilities, but reviewers say the Pathfinder doesn’t trump the competition there, either.

  • "Pathfinder is less absorbent than crossover rivals, but fine for a traditional truck-based SUV. ... Still, bumps and expansion joints can cause some bounce and body shudder." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Though it's a traditional body-on-frame SUV, the Pathfinder's all-independent suspension delivers surprising agility, as well as a smooth ride." -- Car and Driver

Acceleration and Power

The base engine in the S model is a 266-horsepower 4.0-liter V6, while the SV and LE models come with an optional 310-horsepower 5.6-liter V8. Reviewers are relatively pleased with the base V6, and they love the V8's extra power. The Pathfinder's power numbers surpass those of many competitors, including the smoother-riding Toyota 4Runner.

However, the Pathfinder pays the price in fuel economy. According to the EPA, the RWD 2011 Pathfinder achieves 15/22 mpg city/highway with the six-cylinder engine. The 4WD model achieves 14/20 mpg with the six-cylinder and 13/18 mpg with the V8. These figures are in the bottom half of the Pathfinder's class, but are about average when compared only to other off-road SUVs. Still, many off-roaders achieve better gas mileage. These include the Jeep Patriot, Suzuki Grand Vitara and Kia Borrego.

  • "V6 Pathfinders are peppy from a stop and around town. A 2WD [SV] did 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds in our testing. Passing maneuvers require a brief moment for the transmission to downshift, but power is ample thereafter. However, some testers feel the V6 labors to deliver brisk uphill acceleration from midrange speeds." -- Consumer Guide
  • "With either engine, the . . .Nissan Pathfinder is an impressive performer. The eight-cylinder variant smokes the Ford Explorer's V8 on the way to 60 mph by a full 2 seconds, and its automatic transmission provides perfectly timed and smooth gearshifts." -- Edmunds
  • "The transmission upshifts smoothly, but faster downshifts would be appreciated." -- MSN
  • "The engine does sound a bit archaic compared with some of the smoother V6s on offer these days, particularly from Honda. I like this engine, though -- the torque is impressive." -- AutoWeek  

Handling and Braking

Since its 2005 redesign, the Pathfinder has been based on the same platform as the full-size Armada and rides on a fully boxed, all-steel ladder frame with a front and rear independent double-wishbone suspension. Some reviewers find the ride lacking because it can feel very truck-like. That means the Pathfinder may not be the most comfortable daily driver. For an off-road SUV that's smoother on the pavement, consider the similarly priced Toyota 4Runner.

  • "Low-effort cornering induces noseplow and body lean typical of truck-type SUVs. A wide turning radius hurts close-quarters maneuvering. Braking action is smooth and progressive." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The steering is surprisingly responsive and sharp, especially for an SUV of this size, giving it an almost sporty feel in traffic. However, the Pathfinder still drives more like a truck than a car-based crossover, with its heavy curb weight and pronounced body roll." -- Edmunds
  • "The ride was on the harsh side, and there were some rattles heard inside as we banged over the potholes." -- AutoWeek  

Off-Roading

The Pathfinder's off-road abilities are decent enough, but it still ranks in the bottom half of its class when compared to other off-road SUVs. The Pathfinder seems to straddle the line between off-roader and family SUV, which prevents it from accomplishing either goal particularly well.

The Pathfinder comes optional with a 4-Wheel Active Brake Limited Slip system (and it won't cost you anything extra). For 4x4 models, the S and SE feature a shift-on-the-fly two-speed transfer case, while the top-of-the-line LE gets an all-mode two-speed transfer case.

Next Steps: 2011 Nissan Pathfinder

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