Review: the 2011 Nissan Pathfinder is Plastic Machismo

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Mechanically, the 2011 Nissan Pathfinder is a real winner – if (and I stress IF) you need an off road vehicle that tows well and does double duty as a kiddy carriage. The thing about most trucks that are this beefy and capable with a real 4X4 system is that they suck up gas faster than Miley Cyrus can suck down a bong-load.

(I was going to say, “Faster than Charlie Sheen can spout an anti-Semitic slur!” But that takes up a lot of space…)

The 2011 Nissan Pathfinder is a bit of an anachronism; it’s heavy, outdated hardware that will appeal to only a few consumers. Still, the 2011 Nissan Pathfinder is tough as nails, capable and will beat up crossovers that DARE to play in its dirt. That’s saying something. 

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Here’s what you need to know about the 2011 Nissan Pathfinder:

  • Nissan is celebrating 25 years of Pathfinder with the “Silver” edition which has a few unique goodies that sets it apart from the rest of the line.
  • The interior is a bit drab with a mountain of hard plastic throughout.
  • There’s good storage and cargo space the 3rd row seat can hold average sized people.
  • The standard 266 hp 4.0-liter V-6 makes 288 lbs-feet of torque and has plenty of legs for passing.
  • There is a 310 hp 5.6-liter V-8 model that makes 388 lbs-feet of torque (only available for the Pathfinder LE) sounds beefier, and is, but at the expense of economy and purchase price.
  • All Pathfinders have a smooth five-speed automatic.
  • The highway ride of the 2011 Nissan Pathfinder is quite good – easily as good as the new Toyota 4Runner.
  • V6 can tow up to 6,000 lbs and the V8 can tow up to 7,000 lbs.
  • The ride height is great as is the loading height. Unfortunately, the back door’s door pull is WAY too high for a 1st grader to reach.
  • Prices run from about $29,000 for a rear wheel drive V6 to over $44,000 for a 4X4 V8
  • The V6 2WD Pathfinder gets 15 mpg city and 22 mpg highway with the 4X4 coming in at 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway (I averaged 15 mpg combined) – which is not particularly impressive.
  • The V8 is rated at 13 mpg city and 18 mpg highway – that ain’t too good folks.
  • There is enough room for an average sized couple to sleep on a twin air mattress with both rows folded flat. So I’ve heard. 
  • The future of body on frame SUVs is bleak – so get one while you can. 

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I drove the 4X4 V6 Silver Edition off road and was pleasantly surprised with its athleticism. It feels heavier than the Xterra (which it is) but it handled nearly all of the same obstacles as the Xterra without braking a sweat. I drove the exact same course as I did when I tested a 2010 Xterra which is one of the best 4X4 SUVs on the market. The only place the Pathfinder could not follow the Xterra was on an off camber bend filled with large boulders. It’s just a bit too heavy and too long.

This is an excellent vehicle for snow country. I used the regular 4X4 system for driving a daily commute in snow-covered Denver, Colorado. It was easy-peasy. The Pathfinder never lost control and the brakes were well calibrated for everything I threw at them. I’ve been told that the fully automated AWD/4X4 system in the V8 is even better in the white stuff.

Regular handling is leisurely compared to an equivalent frameless crossover. There is a good deal of body lean in sharp corners and it doesn’t like being hustled around tight corners (think: parking lot) rapidly. It does a fine job with interior comfort and day to day commuting.   

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I get misty eyed when I think about the demise of SUVs. Unfortunately, gas will always rise and many Americans don’t want to shell out big bucks for premium unleaded – which is recommended for all Nissan Pathfinders. (Sigh) what a shame.

Here’s the bottom line: unless you need to haul a hell of a lot of crap and you MUST have a Nissan product – avoid the Armada and take a look at the Nissan Pathfinder – it makes a little more sense and it can fit in an average sized garage. It’s one of the last of the great SUVs of the past.  

Check out this episode of The Fast Lane Car to see one of Pathfinder’s main competitors – the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee!



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