2000 Nissan Pathfinder

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2001 Nissan Pathfinder

This 2001 review is representative of model years 2000 to 2004.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

A powerful new V6 finally eliminates the Pathfinder's major drawback.
Pros:
  • More power
  • Roomy
  • Better equipped
  • Rugged
  • Good handling
Cons:
  • Only part-time 4-wheel drive
  • Narrow back doorways
  • Occasionally jumpy ride

The refined Nissan Pathfinder has had a lot going for it since its redesign in 1996, but a weak engine has kept it from being fully competitive.

No longer. The 2001 model gets a smooth 3.5-liter V6 that generates 250 horsepower with a 5-speed manual transmission and 240 horsepower—but more torque—with a 4-speed automatic. Variable valve timing helps provide good response at all speeds.

The new engine is related to the nifty V6 in Nissan's flagship Maxima sedan. But it is said to have more than 100 refinements to provide better operation. It's a sign of the times when an automaker gives a truck an improved version of its top car engine.

The dual-overhead-camshaft, 24-valve V6 replaces a heavier, single-overhead-camshaft 3.3-liter V6 that generated 170 horsepower and considerably less torque. It gave the fairly heavy Pathfinder mediocre acceleration.

For instance, the old Pathfinder struggled to reach 60 mph from a standing start in about 11.0 seconds, and merging into fast traffic and passing on highways could be stressful. While it's no hot-rod sport ute like the Mercedes-Benz ML55, the Pathfinder can do 0-60 in about 9.0 seconds. No longer must the automatic transmission continually downshift and upshift to wring the best performance from an underpowered motor.

Unchanged Fuel Economy
Fuel economy is virtually unchanged, although it's nothing to phone home about; figure on the mid teens in the city and 19-20 mpg on the highway. Premium fuel is needed for the best performance, but electronic engine controls allow use of regular-grade gasoline.

Base prices range from $27,349 to $31,299. The Pathfinder comes in entry XE, sporty SE and top-line LE trim. The SE is the only model offered with the manual transmission.

Good Highway Performance
Other models have the revised automatic, which upshifts at 70 mph instead of remaining in passing gear until 75 mph. However, the 65-75 mph passing time is pretty good, and the engine loafs at 2500 rpm at 70 mph with the automatic transmission.

Steering is quick but rather spongy—especially with 4-wheel drive. Also, the turning radius is fairly large for a midsize sport utility.

Crisp Handling
Handling is crisp. While the ride is generally pretty good, it's more truck-like than car-like, and the live rear axle occasionally causes it to get jumpy—even on some freeway surfaces. The strong brakes provide short stopping distances, but the soft, sensitive pedal takes getting used to.

The Pathfinder has rear-drive or a part-time 4-wheel-drive system not meant for dry pavement. The system is engaged with an old-style, console-mounted lever instead of a pushbutton, but Nissan said such a button would be offered in the not-distant future.

While most sport-ute owners never do serious off-road driving, the Pathfinder's low-range gearing, rugged unibody construction and high ground clearance allow rough off-road use.

Styling is unchanged because it was revised in the middle of the 1999 model year. The Pathfinder has some flair, with such things as nicely integrated rear door handles. But, like most other rivals, it has a box-like shape to provide good interior room.

Roomy Interior
Four 6-footers comfortably fit in the quiet, intelligently designed interior. Even the center of the back seat is fairly soft for a third occupant—at least during short trips because the Pathfinder isn't wide enough to allow three adults to comfortably sit abreast for long distances.

A fairly low floor makes it pretty easy to get in and out of the front area, but narrow rear doorways impede entry and exit. Also, all inside door handles are too small. A driver sits high in a supportive seat and can easily reach the smooth controls and front cupholders. Rear cupholders are sturdier than many.

Awkward Rear-Seat Design
While long, the cargo area is not especially deep. And rear seatbacks can't be moved forward to enlarge the cargo area unless the seat cushion bottoms are flipped forward—an awkward design. But the hatch has a handy flip-up glass area for those who want to quickly toss in small items. And it has a convenient grab handle to enable it to be quickly closed.

The new Pathfinder has beefed-up components to handle the extra power and torque, besides a restyled instrument panel and console.

There are also side airbags up front in a $1,799-$1,999 leather package for SE and LE models. That package also contains leather upholstery and power, heated front driver and passenger seats, with a new memory feature for the driver's seat.

More Standard Items
Some 2001 Pathfinder models have more standard items. For example, an in-dash 6-disc CD changer has been added to the SE and LE, and the LE gets a power sunroof. Steering wheel audio controls are also newly standard on the SE and LE.

But all models are nicely equipped. Even the XE has air conditioning, cruise control, anti-lock brakes, AM/FM/cassette with a single-disc CD player, and power windows and door locks.

Racy Windows
The windows have a one-touch up-down feature, but are hard to stop with a control button once they're racing up or down. That's especially annoying during heavy rain.

The SE adds equipment such as a new, standard rear spoiler, lower-profile tires and bigger offset alloy wheels. Opt for the LE and you get items such as wood-tone trim.

No matter what model, the Pathfinder's stronger engine makes it a lot more desirable.

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BB02 - 8/1/2014 7:14:03 AM