The Nissan Pathfinder has been around in its current form since 2005. Nearing the end of its lifecycle, we were surprised when Nissan offered us the keys to a new 2011 model to test for a week. But this was a special Pathfinder, a 2011 Silver Edition 4×4 to commemorate its 25 years in America.
The Silver Edition Pathfinder is a model slated just below the top of the line LE model, available only with the 4.0 liter V6. It features special interior trim, nicely appointed heated leather seating, Bose stereo system, Nissan’s intelligent key and Blue tooth connectivity just to name a few line items.
Our tester arrived to us with four wheel drive and the only optional item was the matched set of high quality logo floor mats. The total MSRP was $38,485 including delivery charges which puts it right in the range of most mid-size SUV’s out there today.
The first thing we noticed behind the wheel of the 2011 Pathfinder is that this is a genuine old-school truck based SUV. We state that as a major positive as this SUV has a substantial and solid feel underneath you with that traditional off-road feel in how it responds to you.
Down the highway it feels stable and solid as concrete Steering is slow off center and well weighted for good control. Braking effort requires a firm foot for fast stops but they really do the job well when summoned. On the back roads the chassis is stiff and stable offering what we found to be excellent ability and control.
The Pathfinder has a double wishbone independent rear suspension which in a larger SUV provides much of that refined ride on the highway. Moreover it keeps the suspension settled on washboard gravel roads and going up hills in the rough stuff. Despite the clunky image that truck based SUV’s have gotten in the media, we found the Pathfinder to have a high level of refinement and poise.
Inside, the leather seats were downright lovable. They are firm and supportive in a very German way. Their leather surfaces were perforated and tasteful as was the rest of the interior trappings. The driving position is arguably upright with a commanding traditional SUV view out over the hood. You definitely sit “on” this vehicle rather than “in” it.
There was a good amount of hard plastic abound inside, but it’s all tastefully done. The intelligent key is a bridge between the start button and traditional ignition key. You can place it in the switch and turn to start if you wish, or you can just twist the switch and leave the key in your pocket. Your choice.
The controls on the center stack lean more on the traditional with buttons and knobs. The LCD screen above allows for visual confirmations of your settings and inputs but is not a touch screen interface for most tasks. We liked the overall layout and found it easy to use and understand. The steering wheel also had simple controls for stereo and cruise control.
The standard Bose Stereo was a pure delight. It didn’t take a lot of massaging the audio settings to get a nice fat sound inside. I features a 6 CD changer, 10 speakers, satellite radio and MP3 capability. The HVAC controls were also easy to use and delivered a healthy dose of cold air in our warmer than average spring here in Arizona.
The passenger seating featured 40/20/40 split for the second for and 50/50 split for the third rows. They all tumble and fold for full cargo capacity easily too. The interior was well done overall in our opinion and a one word description for it would be “businesslike”. It was handsome, tasteful and buttoned down.
Power from the 4.0 liter V6 is 266hp and 288 lb ft of torque. Back in 2005 when this model made its debut this was a good amount but is a bit less than many of its competitors today. The engine provides a good amount of grunt however and we never found it less than adequate in acceleration. It is a bit rougher than some contemporary V6 engines, but has a good throaty growl under full acceleration.
With the weight of the Pathfinder it was a bit on the thirstier side. We averaged 17 mpg in our week of testing. The EPA rates it at 14 mpg. city and 20 mpg highway. The five speed automatic transmission shifted well in all driving conditions and even had a manual mode that felt real. The Pathfinder being one of the last truck based mid-size SUV’s with a real boxed frame can still tow 6000 lbs. That’s a boat, a small camp trailer or even a trailered classic car.
Build quality inside and out was faultless. We are grippers and grabbers on trim both inside and out when we test vehicles. Nowhere did we find a piece that felt hastily attached or loose to the touch. This is proof that vehicles built in America do not need to be substandard as the Pathfinder is assembled in Smyrna, TN.
While the 2011 Nissan Pathfinder is indeed one of the oldest designs on the market, the qualities that define it are fast becoming the exception rather than the rule. Many of its competitors have gone to car based crossover vehicle architectures which are typically less capable off road and for towing. The Pathfinder is still a good ‘ol truck underneath but is refined and polished in ways that surprised us. These qualities make it a unique standout in today’s SUV market.
Model: 2011 Nissan Pathfinder Silver Edition 4×4 4.0
Options: Floor Mats and Carpeted Cargo Area Mat
Price as tested: $38,485 including destination.
Exterior Color: Dark Slate
Interior Color/Trim: Graphite Leather
Assembly Location: Smyrna, TN