SAN FRANCISCO: The
Nissan Pathfinder is a serious SUV, not a pretender like some of its competitors in the
near-luxury SUV market segment. Watch the nightly news long enough, and youre bound
to see white Pathfinders with UN painted of their roofs. Four-wheel-drive models are
really meant to be driven off road over very rough terrain. While the 2002 Pathfinder got
a revised front facia and grille, it still has a less "Tonka" truck look
compared to the 2002 Nissan Frontier and Nissan Xterra.
The Pathfinder now comes in two trim levels, SE and LE, with each available in
two- and four-wheel-drive. All Pathfinders are now powered by a 3.5-liter, dual-over
camshaft (DOHC), V6 engine that comes in two versions and is basically the same engine
used in the highly acclaimed Nissan Maxima. One version used with the five-speed manual
transmission produces 250-horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 240 ft-lbs of torque at 3,200 rpm.
The manual transmission is available in the Pathfinder SE only with 4WD. All other
versions feature a four-speed, electronically controlled automatic transmission. Here the
engine is rated at 240-horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 265 ft-lbs at 3,200 rpm.
While noted for competent off-road capability, the Pathfinder has near luxury car road
manner that comes from the Pathfinders mature and refined engineering. While not all
that advanced, the Pathfinders proven mechanics do a very good job. Acceleration and
hill-climbing is excellent, though I didnt drive a fully loaded vehicle or towed
anything. When properly equipped, the Pathfinder can tow 3,500 pounds with the manual
transmission and 5,000 pounds with the automatic transmission. The brakes, front discs and
rear drums fitted with standard ABS, stopped the Pathfinder well. The Pathfinders
Monoframe unitized body integrated with a ladder frame results in a very solid feel with
maximum rigidity against flexing and torsion stresses. Handling and ride is nearly
car-like, a tribute to the independent front suspension using MacPherson struts and a
5-link coil-spring rear suspension with rigid axle and stabilizer bar in the rear. Power
rack-and-pinion steering is used.
An on-demand, part-time, shift-on-the-fly 4WD with a two-speed transfer case is used on
the 4WD SE Pathfinder. The 4WD LE uses a fully automatic, push-button All-Mode 4WD System.
For maximum off-roadability, there is an optional viscous-coupled limited-slip
differential for $249.
Two-wheel-drive Pathfinders are rear wheel drivers. The EPA numbers are: 4WD Manual -16
mpg City/18 mpg Highway, 2WD automatic 16 mpg City/19 Highway and 4WD automatic -
15 mpg City/19 mpg Highway. Fortunately, the fuel tank on the thirsty Pathfinders holds
Prices for the Pathfinder start at $27,189 for the 2WD SE and go up to $32,039 for the
4WD LE. Of course, you can load the Pathfinder with luxury and high-tech electronics like
leather package at $1799, entertainment center with DVD and roof-mounted LCD screen at
$1299 and Navigation system at $1999.
The base SE come very well equipped with standard features including air conditioning,
cruise control, power doors/windows/locks, tilt leather-wrapped steering wheel, AM/FM/CD,
remote keyless entry and heated power mirrors. The LE adds as standard features like power
glass sunroof, automatic temperature control, Homelink Universal Transceiver,
titanium-color running boards, Bose audio system, wood-toned trim and halogen fog lights.
The LE has 17-inch wheels and tires versus 16-inch ones on the SE. The full-size spare
tire is mounted underneath the rear so it doesnt impede on interior space. Like most
of the current Nissan products, the Pathfinder has easy-to-read, black-on-white
If you want an upscale SUV with all the requisite goodies and creature comforts that
rides and drives/rides like a good passenger car, the Pathfinder represents excellent
value. Incidentally, the Pathfinder shares its platform, engine and mechanics with the
Infiniti QX4, luxury SUV.
With a price tag that of about $4,000 more than a comparable Pathfinder, you get some
more standard amenities, the Infiniti name and dealer treatment, and a better warranty,
one year and 24,000 miles better. However, when it comes to rubber hitting the road, the
two are pretty much equal. By Bill Siuru
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Column Name: The Nissan Pathfinder is a serious SUV
Topic: 2002 Nissan Pathfinder
Word Count: 730
Photo Caption: The 2002 Nissan Pathfinder
Photo Credits: Nissan Internet Media
Series #: 2002 - 14
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