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2009 Nissan Pathfinder ReviewThe Good
Powerful and rugged, the 2009 Nissan Pathfinder offers better-than-average towing and hauling capacity, as well as an attractive cabin, with ample storage and comfortable seats.The Bad
A hefty price, gas-guzzling V8 engine, unrefined ride, and cramped second- and third-row seating might cause buyers to pass up the ’09 Pathfinder in favor of more civilized and economical competitors.
The CarGurus View
The 2009 Nissan Pathfinder is a more-than-capable hauler, as well as a superb off-road vehicle. This does not, however, make it particularly adept around town or on the highway. Though touted as family-friendly, the ’09 Pathfinder is far from refined and suffers from being mired in a dying breed.
At a Glance
Nissan has decided that less is more for its 2009 Pathfinder. As the only significant changes from ’08, the automaker removed the rear-wheel-drive SE-V8 and the rear-wheel-drive LE-V8 from its ’09 lineup, leaving the Pathfinder 4WD LE-V8 as the sole bearer of an eight-cylinder powerplant. For 2009, all but two of pathfinder’s trims will be available in both rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive configurations; the SE Off-Road and LE-V8 are now offered in 4WD. This year's Pathfinder, though running a tad leaner, still features five trims: S, SE, SE Off-Road, LE, and LE-V8.
With a body-on-frame construction based on the full-size Nissan Titan pickup and the brutish Armada SUV, the ’09 Pathfinder is a load-hauling, trailer-towing mule, with plenty of power, able to carry all the toys, and all the family, to the mountains or the lake.
Though a capable off-road vehicle, most reviewers find the ’09 Pathfinder not quite so friendly on asphalt. The Pathfinder’s harsh ride and truck-like handling on paved roads make many of the newer and more refined crossovers, such as the Dodge Durango, Kia Borrego, Toyota 4Runner, and Ford Explorer, a better choice for seven-passenger comfort and refinement.
All but one of the 2009 Nissan Pathfinder trims come equipped with a standard 4.0-liter DOHC V6 engine that puts out 266 hp at 5,600 rpm, and 288 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The EPA estimates the Pathfinder to get 15/22 mpg with the 4.0-liter V6 in the RWD configuration, and 14/20 with AWD.
Reviewers note the 4.0-liter V6 engine to have adequate acceleration (0-60 in 7.8 seconds) and reasonable power for passing and merging, but also find it noisy and coarse-sounding at full acceleration. The 4.0-liter V6 is also noted by at least a couple of reviewers to struggle a bit when tasked with any sort of hill-climbing.
The 5.6-liter DOHC V8, standard in the ’09 Pathfinder LE-V8 and optional with all other trims, is a far more performance-oriented engine. This capable V8 pounds out 310 hp at 5,200 rpm, and 388 lb-ft at 3,400 rpm, and enables the ’09 Pathfinder to tow an impressive 7,000 pounds, when properly equipped. EPA-estimates for the V8, however, are a gas-gulping 13/19.
Both of Pathfinder’s engine offerings are combined with a five-speed automatic transmission that professional reviewers find a touch slow on the downshift, but which allows all the available horses in either the V6 or V8 to come to a full gallop when needed.
All four-wheel-drive Pathfinder trims mount shift-on-the-fly, on-demand 4WD capability and auto-locking hubs. Additionally, the SE Off-Road comes with a transmission hill-holder and hill-descent control.
Ride & Handling
A body-on-frame construction results in what most reviewers and owners agree is a harsher ride for the ’09 Nissan Pathfinder. Though this rugged design does make for a more off-road-friendly Sport Ute, rough pavement can be a challenge, and agility around town suffers.
The ’09 Pathfinder’s four-wheel independent suspension is claimed to mitigate much of the bumping and jarring, and a double-wishbone suspension, front and rear, as well as front and rear stabilizer bars keep the Pathfinder on the straight and narrow even over the roughest terrain. Professional reviewers note, however, a disturbing lean and noseplow in even moderate corners, and the Pathfinder’s wide turning radius makes it difficult to handle in tight spaces. Steering is found to be true, and braking noted as effective with good pedal feel.
The ’09 Pathfinder S and SE Off-Road trims are each equipped with standard 16-inch alloy wheels, the SE with 17-inch alloys, and the LE with 18-inch wheels. The SE Off-Road mounts standard all-terrain tires, which reviewers find excessively noisy on the highway.
Cabin & Comfort
Standard features for the 2009 Pathfinder base S trim include seven-passenger, three-row seating, cloth front bucket seats, reclining second-row seats, manually adjustable driver’s seat lumbar support (a hit with several owners), remote power door locks, power windows, power mirrors, cruise control with steering-wheel-mounted buttons, tilt-wheel steering, air-conditioning, speed-proportional power steering, an overhead console with storage, and a single-CD player with six speakers.
The ’09 Pathfinder SE trim is equipped with an outside temperature display, roof rack, running boards, an eight-way power driver’s seat, a fold-flat front passenger seat, cruise and audio controls on the steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and a 6-CD changer with MP3 capability and speed-sensitive volume control. The SE Off-Road adds a universal garage door opener, a rear backup camera system, simulated aluminum alloy dash trim, and the Bose premium audio system, with 10 speakers, a subwoofer, and XM satellite radio.
The ’09 Pathfinder LE sports such additional standard features as leather upholstery, heated outside mirrors, a heated steering wheel, Nissan Intelligent-Key remote keyless entry and ignition system, four-way power adjustable front passenger seat, with multi-level heating, alloy and simulated wood dashboard trim, Bluetooth hands-free communications technology, and seat and mirror memory settings. The LE V8, of course, features the 5.6-liter V8 engine and five-speed automatic standard.
Optional equipment for the ’09 Pathfinder S includes rear-seat DVD entertainment, a portable navigation system, floor mats, and splash guards. For the SE and SE Off-Road, options include a tilt-and-slide power moonroof, premium leather appointments, the Bose premium audio system, heated front seats, XM satellite radio, and Bluetooth hands-free communication technology. Both Pathfinder LE trims offer such available options as an in-dash navigation system, with XM satellite traffic, and a moonroof wind deflector.
Most reviewers find the ’09 Pathfinder’s gauges and controls easily readable and accessible, and cabin storage to be above average. The Pathfinder also offers an impressive 79 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the rear seats folded flat.
Comfort and convenience features in the ’09 Pathfinder are noted to be family-friendly, if not exactly plush. Reviewers do note that the Pathfinder's seats are comfy, and head and legroom are ample in front, about average (a bit cramped) in the rear seats.
For 2009, the Nissan Pathfinder offers a plethora of standard safety and security features. These features include four-wheel disc ABS, traction and stability control, dual front side-mounted airbags, front, rear, and third-row head airbags, driver and passenger head-restraint whiplash protection system, passenger airbag occupant-sensing deactivation system, rear child-seat anchors, and rear-door child safety locks, anti-intrusion, side-impact door beams, fog/driving lights, and a remote anti-theft alarm system.
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the ’09 Pathfinder four stars in frontal impact testing, and three stars in rollover tests. Side impact test results are not yet available for the ’09 Pathfinder, but testing of the 2008 Pathfinder resulted in a five-star rating in side impact driver and passenger protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2009 Nissan Pathfinder its best rating of Good in both front and side impact tests.
What Owners Think
Too few creature comforts, a stiff and bumpy ride over uneven pavement, poor gas mileage, a loud and coarse-sounding V6 engine, and an annoying vibration over 60 mph are all common complaints from owners of the 2009 Nissan Pathfinder. As well, a number of owners complain about the lack of legroom in the Pathfinder’s rear seats. Some disturbing quality issues were also mentioned by a few owners.
These complaints were mitigated, however, by the compliments garnered from owners of the ’09 Pathfinder. Such pluses as its rugged construction, exterior styling, hauling and towing capacities, responsiveness, V6 or V8 power, as well as its legendary off-road capabilities, make the Pathfinder well worth a look.
Niceties like ample storage and cargo space, and a super Bose stereo system, plaudits for the five-speed automatic, and raves about the V8 engine are a definite plus with owners. Other notable details, such as the manually adjustable driver’s lumbar support and the Pathfinder's high stance, are specifically mentioned by more than a few owners.
Have Laptop, Will Travel. I'm retired and travelling the country in a 34' motor home. I'm really digging meeting people . . and sometimes their cars . . . getting a sense of what makes this nation tick. The plan is to visit all the national parks in the continental US, then cruise to Alaska to visit Denali, and to Hawaii to check out Haleakala and the Hawaii Volcano's national parks. Anyhow, when I'm not horsing the motor home around the roadways, I'm tooting around in the 2012 Ford Focus that we tow behind, or making runs to Home Depot and various malls with the 2004 F-150 that just won't die.
What's your take on the 2009 Nissan Pathfinder?
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