By KBB.com Editors
Nissan's 2009 Pathfinder mid-sized SUV offers room for five, plenty of power for towing and hauling and a progressive design that is both stylish and rugged. While car-based crossover SUVs are growing in popularity, there is still a large segment of the population that wants a sturdy body-on-frame design, which provides a more capable off-road platform and the ability to tow heavy loads. Until recently, Nissan buyers who required the pulling power of a V8 had to move up to the full-size Armada, but the addition of an available V8 engine to the Pathfinder powertrain choices means owners can stick with a modest-sized SUV and still tow up to 7,000 pounds.You'll Like This Car If...
Even if you seldom go off-road, you might still appreciate the Pathfinder's ability to give the most accomplished nameplates a mud-run for their money. And if you're looking for a people-mover that comes across as more mountain man and less soccer mom, the Pathfinder should more than suffice.You May Not Like This Car If...
The 2009 Nissan Pathfinder makes no attempt to mask its rugged capabilities behind a soft exterior, and its ride and handling are far from car-like. Although a welcome addition, the big V8 engine is not particularly fuel-efficient, making this Pathfinder option costly in the long-term.What's New for 2009
All models receive front side and side-curtain supplemental airbags, as well as an auto door lock feature and two new exterior colors. 18-inch alloy wheels previously available only on V8 models are now standard on LE V6 models.Driving It Driving Impressions
We spent time in both two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive Pathfinders, including the SE Off-Road model, and came away impressed by both our off-road and on-road experiences. In particular, the SE Off-Road model's sophisticated hill descent control and hill start assist features were appreciated during our steeper, more strenuous off-road exploits. Back on the streets, where even major off-road enthusiasts will log most of their miles, the vehicles shifted smoothly, turned confidently and delivered a ride that seemed pleasant enough for even longer road trips.Favorite Features
Folding Three-Row Seating
The Pathfinder converts quickly and easily from seven-passenger troop transport to cavernous cargo hauler.
SE Off-Road Model
Distinguished by its purposeful collection of features and technologies, the specialized SE Off-Road model is certainly Nissan's most sophisticated off-roader to date.
The big story for the 2009 Pathfinder continues to be its roomy interior, especially as third-row seating has become a requirement of the mid-size category. Like most SUVs in this class, the Pathfinder's third-row seat is better suited to small children or, for adults, quick jaunts across town. Unlike many, the Pathfinder's third-row folds completely into the floor, and center and third-row seats fold flat without requiring removal of the head restraints. Combined with the folding front passenger seat, the cabin is able to swallow lengthy cargo, but the Pathfinder's interior is just as well suited to everyday commutes, and delivers a roomy, comfortable environment.Exterior
The Pathfinder's design features mesh easily with Nissan's current philosophy in creating a rugged, purposeful exterior befitting the vehicle's lineage and ability. The bold front end mimics other Nissan models such as the Armada and Frontier, tying in a familial theme. The Pathfinder has grown larger over the years – the latest growth spurt necessary to accommodate its optional V8 engine – but overhangs both front and rear remain appropriately short. The factory roof rack looks rugged, but it might not match the weight ratings or versatility of some aftermarket units.Notable Standard Equipment
Noteworthy as standard on all four trim levels are the impressive V6, fold-flat third-row seating, five-speed automatic transmission, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) system, front side and side curtain airbags and a tire pressure monitoring system. SE and LE trims add a RearView monitor with seven-inch LCD screen, power-adjustable foot pedals and dual-zone climate controls. The SE Off-Road model adds hill descent control and hill start assist and 16-inch alloy wheels with P265/75R16 tires.Notable Optional Equipment
Options available on select models include a 310-horsepower V8 engine (SE and LE only), powerful Bose sound system, XM Satellite Radio, leather seating, navigation system with 9.3-gigabyte hard drive, DVD entertainment system, Bilstein off-road shocks (SE Off Road only) and moonroof. Also, every trim level is available in either two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.Under the Hood
The Pathfinder's standard 4.0-liter V6, which is a Nissan workhorse, is a powerful and torque-happy engine that's well-suited to the needs of the average SUV owner. For those who need extra horsepower and towing ability, the optional 5.6-liter V8 is the obvious answer, adding an additional 100 foot-pounds of torque and 44 more horsepower.
266 horsepower @ 5600 rpm
288 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/22 (2WD), 14/20 (4WD)
310 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
388 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/19 (2WD), 13/18 (4WD)
Available in four trim levels, S, SE, SE Off-Road and LE, the Pathfinder's pricing is consistent with others in this category. Prices range from just over $28,000 for a base two-wheel-drive S to nearly $44,000 for a nicely equipped four-wheel-drive LE V8. Before you head out to buy a new Pathfinder, be sure to click on Fair Purchase Price to see what consumers are currently paying for their new vehicles. The Pathfinder's resale value is expected to stay on par with the Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Trailblazer, while below the Hummer H3 and Toyota 4Runner.