The 2012 Nissan Pathfinder comes in five trims: S, SV, Silver Edition, LE and LE V8. All models except for the LE V8 come with a 266-horsepower, 4.0L V6 engine; LE V8 models get a 320-hp, 5.6L V8. Buyers have a choice between rear-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive on all models except the LE V8, which only comes with 4-wheel drive.
The Pathfinder is, as it looks to be, a boxy, traditional sport-utility vehicle, offering a combination of trail prowess, towing and hauling capability and wagon-like interior versatility. Built on a fully boxed, all-steel ladder frame, combined with a 4-wheel independent suspension, the Pathfinder manages to combine serious truck ability with decent responsiveness for daily driving on streets and highways. Coil-over shocks and a stabilizer bar keep the front in check, while in back a double-wishbone independent setup helps provide good cornering ability, even over rough surfaces. In all versions, a 5-speed automatic transmission provides smooth shifts and has a wide span of ratios to fit both off-roading and relaxed high-speed cruising.
While the Pathfinder's overall length and width are about the same as that of a mid-size sedan, which allows decent maneuverability, yet it feels considerably roomier thanks to its additional height. It offers standard 3-row seating for up to seven. The third-row seat folds flat and the second row is 40/20/40-split and flips forward easily for better third-row access. Inside, there are plenty of cubbies, as well as map pockets and eight cup holders.
Two different 4-wheel drive systems are offered in the Pathfinder: S and SV models come with a traditional part-time system, while LE models include a more sophisticated All-Mode 4WD system that can reapportion torque to the wheels that need it most. The latter includes both the expected low and high ranges in addition to an Auto mode and a rear-wheel drive mode. When properly optioned with the 17-inch BFGoodrich Long Trail tires, the Pathfinder can be an especially well-focused off-road machine.
No matter the Pathfinder model, tow ratings remain impressive when compared to car-based crossover vehicles. When equipped with the V8, the Pathfinder can tow up to 7,000 pounds, while tow ratings with the V6 are as high as 6,000 pounds.
Safety features are impressive, too. All Pathfinder models include front side airbags, side-curtain bags and active front head restraints, along with electronic stability control and a 4-channel anti-lock braking system that's been designed to also perform well on gravel and less-than-perfect surfaces.
The Pathfinder SV adds power-adjustable pedals, a power driver's seat, a trip computer, steering-wheel audio controls, a rear cargo net, automatic climate control, rear air conditioning, a center armrest in back and leather trim for the steering wheel and shift knob. Top-of-the-line LE models get larger bright machine-finished alloy wheels, added exterior chrome trim, heated outside mirrors, a rearview monitor, a HomeLink garage-door opener system, Bluetooth hands-free calling capability, a heated steering wheel, Bose premium sound and the Intelligent Key system.