2000 Nissan Pathfinder


2001 Nissan Pathfinder

This 2001 review is representative of model years 2000 to 2004.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 8.25
  • New, powerful, class-leading V6
  • Smooth-shifting, re-engineered automatic
  • Amenable ride
  • Smallish rear-door openings pinched by wheel wells
  • You must know when to shift into 4-wheel drive
  • Middle rider in back lacks some safety equipment

Nissan didn't get its redesign done on the Pathfinder all at one time. The exterior was restyled in 1999. Now, for the 2001 model year, a powerful, smooth V6 is added, along with a re-engineered automatic, making the Pathfinder once again worthy of shoppers' consideration.

Restyled midsize SUV with traditional looks that now are less brutish. Check.

A decent amount of standard equipment, including air conditioning. Check.

Available 4-wheel-drive system. Check.

Choice of automatic or manual transmission. Check.

Respectable V6 power. Finally and most definitely, check.

Shoppers looking for a traditionally styled, midsize SUV might have skipped over the Nissan Pathfinder in recent years. But as the check-off list above shows, there's little reason not to put the new, 2001 Pathfinder on your shopping list.

V6 finally competitive—and then some
An early model year introduction, the new Pathfinder finally gets what it was noticeably lacking in recent years: A powerful, competitive V6. But not only does the Pathfinder's newly engineered V6 have more horsepower and torque than its predecessor, it has more than what's offered in the Pathfinder's major 6-cylinder competition.

Yes, in one fell swoop, the 2001 Pathfinder vaulted over major competitors such as the Toyota 4Runner and Jeep Grand Cherokee, with a V6 that's more powerful and refined than you might expect.

Pricing restraint
But it's not the only news. The most popular models—the midrange Pathfinder SE and uplevel LE—actually received the increased power and smooth-shifting automatic with no price increase.

So, while the starting price for a base Pathfinder XE 4X2 with automatic transmission rose about $1,250 at the start of the new Pathfinder's arrival in spring 2000, pricing of the other models stayed pretty much as it was.

"You get 80 extra horsepower for no extra money," said Mark Perry, corporate manager in marketing at Nissan North America Inc.

Has been here for more than a dozen years
The Pathfinder has been an able, midsize SUV since its debut in the United States in 1987. It formerly was offered in both 2- and 4-door models, but in recent years, only the 4-door, 5-passenger body style has remained. This continues for 2001.

The Pathfinder's part-time 4-wheel-drive system offers drivers the flexibility of deciding when to shift into the more fuel-hungry 4-wheel-drive mode and when to travel in regular rear-wheel drive. It's a good system for those in the know, but naïve or lazy drivers might not like taking responsibility for activating the system.

For individualists who relish even more personal control over engine power, Nissan offers the 4-wheel-drive system with a 5-speed manual as well as a 4-speed automatic. You can't get a 5-speed manual in a Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Old engine was outclassed
But Nissan's earlier V6—a 3.3-liter single overhead cam engine with 170 horses and 200 lb-ft of torque—was overtaxed and outclassed. It struggled to maintain highway speed on hills and a driver sometimes felt that a lot of advance planning had to be done to pass another vehicle.

By the 2000 model year, the Toyota 4Runner with 3.4-liter double overhead cam V6 had 183 horses at 4800 rpm and 217 lb-ft of torque at 3600 rpm. Ford's Explorer had an uplevel, 4.0-liter V6 offered only with an automatic that had 205 horsepower at 5250 rpm and 240 lb-ft of torque at 3250 rpm.

Now, thanks to the new V6, the Pathfinder is rated with as much as 250 horses with the manual transmission and 240 with the automatic. Both are reached at 6000 rpm. Torque rises to 265 lb-ft at 3200 rpm with the automatic and 240 at 3200 rpm with the manual.

All this compares with 195 horsepower and 230 lb-ft of torque in the 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee with its 4.0-liter overhead valve inline six.

Responsive power now
The new V6 power was felt—and immediately welcomed—during the Pathfinder test drive. Why, I had to adjust my driving to get used to the nicely responsive power. It came on surprisingly smoothly in both city and highway driving in the test model, which was fitted with the 4-speed automatic transmission.

And once the Pathfinder settled into a steady speed, I was impressed with the quiet interior. I heard the engine during acceleration, but it quieted quickly after that, helping to provide a more refined ride sense.

The engine is re-engineered. Besides its larger displacement, it's lighter weight than its predecessor and includes Nissan's Variable Intake System that helps boost torque at low engine speeds to give you that power when you need it in city driving.

Acceleration is measurably improved. Perry estimated the old engine could power the Pathfinder from 0 to 60 mph in some 11.0 seconds. The new one can make it in 7.6 seconds if it's a 2-wheel-drive model with manual transmission and 8.8 seconds if it's a 4-wheel-drive model with automatic, he said.

Fuel economy is about on par with the predecessor Pathfinder, even though power is improved. But it's nothing to brag about. My tester was rated at just 15 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway.

Pleasant riding
The Pathfinder retains its unibody construction. Front suspension is an independent strut design, while the rear has a 5-link solid axle with coil springs.

The Pathfinder bounces now and then on big bumps, but the suspension is satisfactorily supple on many city and highway pavements.

A few, subtle changes for 2001
There are some other, minor improvements in the new Pathfinder.

Along with the new engine, Nissan restyled the Pathfinder's instrument panel for 2001. Gauges in the test SE 4X4 had a white and gray background with thick, black letters and numbers. It's a look you might expect to find in a sporty car rather than an SUV.

The tester had the Bose in-dash 6-disc CD changer as well as the optional one-touch power glass sunroof. Both amenities helped make the ride in this truck-based SUV extremely pleasant.

Comparable size
The bodywork was changed in calendar 1999, with new hood, headlamps and grille up front and a cleaner back end. Styling and dimensions remain the same for the 2001 Pathfinder.

Front headroom is comparable to that of the competition. The 37.5 inches of rear headroom are less than the 38.7 inches of the 4Runner and the 39.5 inches of the Grand Cherokee, but I found I could manipulate the headroom by using the Pathfinder's nicely reclining rear seatbacks.

Front legroom is on a par with the competition, but while the 31.8 inches of rear legroom was fine for someone my size—5 feet 4—it's less than the 34.9 inches in the 4Runner and the 35.3 inches of the Grand Cherokee.

I also noted that the rear-door openings on the Pathfinder continue to be small, pinched by the forward edge of the rear wheel wells. This is a common complaint in many SUVs in this segment.

Still, the Pathfinder's seats, front and rear, are comfortable. They let you sink in a bit but still provide support. The middle person in the back seat, however, doesn't get a head restraint and has to do with a lap belt.

As you lower the split rear seat, make sure the seat belts don't get down below the seat cushion or you'll have to fish them out.

Usual SUV high ride
The high-ride position and big side windows give all passengers good views in the Pathfinder. But the rear-door side windows, which go down nearly all the way, create a wind buffeting inside that can annoy sensitive ears.

The Pathfinder's 8.3 inches of ground clearance is pretty typical for off-roading. But I still managed a rather graceful entry in the vehicle by positioning myself up onto the edge of the seat while keeping a foot on the ground.

The tester included standard tubular step rails that looked good but got in my way instead of helping ease my entry and exit. My pant legs often rubbed against the rails and, on occasion, got dirty.

The Pathfinder's horn is more like that of a small car's than a sport utility's.


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BB06 - 9/16/2014 6:39:29 AM