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The 2005 Nissan Pathfinder: Same but Better

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

A larger engine, independent rear suspension and a third row of seats headline the redesign of Nissan’s Pathfinder, soon approaching its 20th birthday. It is also back to being built
on a truck-style frame, resulting in the ruggedness of the early models. With the upgrade
purchase being an Armada, the new Pathfinder’s style clearly echoes Nissan’s full-size SUV
and its Titan pickup; in many cases the Pathfinder can be viewed as a smaller-scale version
of its largest corporate brethren. If the style doesn’t seem like it’s for you, we submit
you can see only the hood from the driver’s seat. Under that hood is a stroked variation of
Nissan’s bread-and-butter VQ series V-6, an engine named one of the 10 best for each of the
last 10 years. Now up to 4 liters of displacement, the all-aluminum four-cam unit develops
270 hp — bettering Ford’s 4.6 and Dodge’s 4.7-liter V-8s, and 291 lb-ft of torque —
nearly equal the aforementioned V-8s and superior to most 3.7-, 4.2- and 4.3-liter sixes.
Since it was designed as a V-6 and not a V-8 with a couple of cylinders lopped off, no
balance shaft is needed for smoothness. One gearbox is offered, a five-speed automatic, but
the choice of 2WD or 4WD applies across the range, with the top-line LE using Nissan’s
All-Mode system for on-highway use in rough weather. Antilock disc brakes, electronic
stability control and 16- or 17-inch wheels are standard. A fully boxed frame is the
foundation, and nothing hangs down below the bottom of the rails. Coil-sprung
double-wishbone suspension is employed at both ends, and while it may have a bit less rear
travel than before, it goes down the road, around the bend and through rutted rock-strewn
forest roads better than before. The SE Off-Road version has a panoply of electronic
traction-assist systems. Top towing capacity is rated at 6,000 pounds regardless of model,
and the frame-mounted receiver hitch is standard equipment. With a fair amount of roll
stiffness built into the suspension, the Pathfinder should comfortably handle any
light-to-moderate-weight travel trailer within its rating. Some drivetrain parts come
straight from the Armada, so the Pathfinder’s proven durability should remain. The all-new
cabin now matches the interior ambiance of almost every Nissan car and light truck, with
contemporary styling and finishes; cloth is standard on base XE models, and leather is
available on SE and LE models. Instrumentation does not include a
transmission-fluid-temperature gauge but it does include responsive oil-pressure and
voltage indicators. Dominating the center dash are the controls for climate control and
sound — the latter may be upgraded to a thundering Bose system. In a compact size such as
this, the third row is best reserved for kids and small adults, but the middle and front
rows have plenty of space. Both the second- and third-row seats can be folded down (without
removing headrests) for a flat floor. On some models the front passenger’s seat folds, and
the cargo floor is easy to clean as well. There are plenty of tie-down points in back for
cargo, and those who load bags, tents or kayaks on the roof will appreciate the grab
handles built into the ends of the roof-rack rails. An XE model comes with items such as
power locks and windows and an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat, and the main option is
an airbag package (front side and side curtains for all three rows). The SE model adds a
host of convenience features and a power-adjustable driver’s seat, with many LE bits
optional. An SE Off-Road includes Rancho shocks, big BFG trail-oriented tires, traction
assists and skid plates, plus creature comforts such as automatic climate control, rear air
and adjustable pedals. The LE adds All-Mode 4WD, leather, a sunroof, the aforementioned
Bose system, heated mirrors, a carpeted cargo bay, 17-inch alloys and options like DVD
entertainment and navigation systems. The 2005 Pathfinder is as capable off the highway as
its first-generation sibling, especially if you have the occasional need for seven seats,
and it is a better trailer-puller than any previous generation. The significant owner
loyalty the Pathfinder enjoys will likely remain for years to come.

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