Nissan Pathfinder is First Produced

The Nissan Pathfinder and (Japanese: Nissan Terrano) were originally compact SUVs and they are now mid-size SUVs. Whereas the Pathfinder is sold in North America, the name first introduced in late 1986, elsewhere in the world the vehicle was known as the Terrano. The first generation Pathfinder/Terrano platform is known as the WD21. The second generation Pathfinder platform is known as the R50, and the third generation is known as the R51. The Pathfinder is slotted in size between the Murano and Armada or Patrol, but in price between the Xterra and Murano. The Pathfinder's traditional Japanese competitor is the Toyota 4Runner.

The North American first generation Pathfinder came in two different bodies and shared styling and most components with the Nissan Hardbody Truck. Built on a ladder-type frame, the Pathfinder was Nissan's response to the S-10 Blazer, Ford Explorer, the Jeep Cherokee and other non-domestic SUV's like the Toyota 4Runner Isuzu Trooper and the Mitsubishi Montero. WD21 Pathfinders were available in both 2WD and 4WD configurations. In the US from 1986.5 to 1989 Pathfinders came with a two door body. In early 1990 it became a four door in the United States. Some US 1990 Pathfinder's came with the two door body, but they are rare.

When the four door was introduced, Nissan chose to conceal the door handles as a part of the "C" pillar trim to visually make it appear like a two door truck with a camper shell, with conventional door handles on the front doors. This appearance approach was also used on the first generation Chevrolet S-10 Blazer with conventional door handles for the rear doors. This design tradition is still used on some Nissan SUV's currently offered, to include the Nissan Armada and the Nissan Xterra.

The 2-door version was available in Canada until 1990. From 86.5 to 1989 Pathfinders were available with either the Nissan VG30i 3.0 L V6 (145 hp (108 kW), 180 lb·ft (244 N·m) torque), or the Nissan Z24 2.4 L (106 hp (79 kW)) I4. In 1990 the V6 received an upgrade from throttle body injection to a multi point fuel injection system. This engine was known as the VG30E, and was rated at 153 hp (114 kW) and 180 lb·ft (244 N·m) torque. Also in 1990, the Z24 was replaced with the KA24E. The first generation continued until 1995. This generation also came out in the 2.7 L I4 Diesel Engine known as the TD27 with the option of a turbocharger to increase the power rating.

The first generation (WD21) Pathfinders are known to develop rust in the following areas: the frame above and behind the rear wheels, the floor directly above the catalytic converter and under the back seats. On automatic-equipped models, the transmission cooler is notorious for clogging up and starving the transmission of fluid, resulting in a costly rebuild or replacement. Installation of an aftermarket transmission fluid cooler is recommended for any WD21 Pathfinder with an automatic transmission. Nissan techs generally recommend that the stock cooler in the radiator not be used at all.

Some sport-utility vehicles appeal to truck people, while others appeal to car people. The Nissan Pathfinder is one of the few sport-utility vehicles that actually holds some appeal for both. When it debuted in the late 1980s, the Pathfinder had the trucklike qualities of rear- or four-wheel drive, sturdy body-on frame architecture, angular styling and, when equipped with four-wheel drive, genuine off-road capability.

However, as the Nissan Pathfinder evolved through the years, it became larger and more refined. Its designers made changes that allowed it to walk the line between suburban family runabout and macho, rugged rock crawler. Now the Pathfinder is broad-shouldered enough to fit such new-millennium amenities as a fold-flat third-row seat, powerful V6 and V8 engines and a 6,000-pound towing capacity, while remaining tidy enough to fit easily in a standard garage space. It's also one of the rare SUVs to switch from unibody construction back to a truck-based body-on-frame setup, creating a sturdier truck but also adding weight.

That said, the Pathfinder can be considered a jack of all trades, though it has never dominated in any one area. It has always been a solid choice among midsize SUVs, but with its bland styling and unremarkable ride and handling, today's seven-passenger Pathfinder may be overlooked by SUV shoppers who have plenty of other candidates to consider in this class. Those who do take a look, however, should be pleased with its all-around capabilities.

Current Nissan Pathfinder

Today's Nissan Pathfinder is both more civilized and more rugged than ever. Body-on-frame architecture provides a sturdy platform for the Pathfinder, helpful while towing a 6,000-pound trailer or twisting across a dry riverbed. The standard engine is a 4.0-liter V6 producing 270 horsepower and 291 pound-feet of torque. A 5.6-liter V8 is optional, making 310 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. Both engines come with a five-speed automatic transmission as standard equipment.

The interior is roomy enough for tall people up front and a pair of kids in the standard third-row seat. The midsize SUV features more creature comforts and storage bins than ever, including two gloveboxes. Pathfinder buyers have a choice of three trim levels: base S, midgrade SE and more luxurious LE, each offered with rear- or four-wheel drive (with a low-range transfer case). A special SE Off Road 4x4 trim level adds features that off-road enthusiasts might want.

In editorial reviews, the Nissan Pathfinder has earned favorable commentary for its powerful engines, above-average abilities when taken off pavement and ample storage space. The main criticisms include tight rear seating for adults, inconsistent fit and finish, the V8's poor fuel economy and middling on-road handling.

Used Nissan Pathfinder Models

The latest, third-generation Nissan Pathfinder debuted for the 2005 model year. The most notable midcycle change has been the addition of the 5.6-liter V8 engine as an option in 2008. Other changes for '08 included a revised interior and slightly tweaked styling. Otherwise, the present Pathfinder has changed little since its debut.

The second-generation (1996-2004) Pathfinder debuted right when the SUV craze hit a fever pitch. A switch to carlike unibody construction afforded it significant gains in size, interior space and on-road agility, as well as a 200-pound weight loss. However, the softer Pathfinder's unremarkable styling and wimpy engine (its V6 made just 166 hp) rendered it merely average within its crowded segment. Plus, a small backseat made it less suitable for hauling children than some competitors.

A cosmetic update in 2000 was followed by a much-needed engine upgrade in 2001, as Nissan installed its powerful VQ-series 3.5-liter V6 under the hood. In the Pathfinder it was good for an impressive 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The improvements added enough flavor to earn the Nissan Pathfinder two consecutive Edmunds.com Most Wanted awards, in 2001 and 2002.

Launched in 1986 for the 1987 model year, the original Nissan Pathfinder has roots that run deeper than most midsize SUVs. Initially, the Pathfinder was intended to appeal to the same youthful, active, primarily male buyers that Toyota had been snatching up with its 4Runner. Based on Nissan's compact pickup platform, the original Pathfinder looked macho and performed well off road, even though it was not terribly well equipped or spacious by today's standards. Nor was it very powerful, even with the optional 3.0-liter V6. It was offered initially only in a two-door body style, later adding a four-door variant that ultimately became its only configuration in subsequent generations. Four- and six-cylinder motors were offered, as were rear- and four-wheel drive.