$6,262 - $9,468

2009 Nissan Pathfinder Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 Nissan Pathfinder was new.


Performance: 7.6

The 2009 Pathfinder rides on a truck-based chassis and still provides an adequate enough ride on pavement, although it's a bit choppy. But where it really shines is off the beaten track. Test drivers said it's fantastic for off-roading.

  • "The 16-inch tires iron out broken pavement better than LE's 18s or SE Off-Road's all-terrain treads. Still, bumps and expansion joints can cause some bounce and body shudder." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The Pathfinder rewards drivers with its smooth handling, decent steering feel and surprisingly-agile cornering." -- Forbes
  • "On the whole, though, this Nissan Pathfinder is less carlike than the last generation. It's heavier, and there's considerable body roll around corners, especially on SE Off-Road models, which are fitted with off-road-biased tires." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

The base engine in the S model is a 266-horsepower 4.0-liter V6, while the SE and LE models offer a 310-horsepower 5.6-liter V8. Reviewers were relatively pleased with the base V6, but loved the power that the V8 puts to the ground. According to the EPA, the two-wheel drive Pathfinder achieves 15/22 mpg city/highway with the six-cylinder engine and 13/19 with the V8. The 4WD model achieves 14/20 with the six-cylinder and 13/18 with the V8.

  • "V6 Pathfinders are peppy from a stop and around town. A 2WD SE did 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds in our testing. Passing maneuvers require brief moment for transmission to downshift, but power is ample thereafter. However, some testers feel the V6 labors to deliver brisk uphill acceleration from midrange speeds." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The new 5.6-liter V8 comes can't beat Jeep's Hemi, but comes out ahead of V8s from Ford, GM, and Toyota with 310 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque, raising the Pathfinder's towing capacity from 6,000 to 7,000 pounds." -- Edmunds
  • "Both engines shoot power through a five-speed automatic transmission, with the SE getting a manual-shift feature. The transmission upshifts smoothly, but faster downshifts would be appreciated." -- MSN
  • "[T]he engine does sound a bit archaic compared with some of the smoother V6s on offer these days, particularly from Honda. I like this engine, though -- the torque is impressive." -- AutoWeek  

Handling and Braking

Some reviewers found the 2009 Nissan Pathfinder's ride lacking because it can feel very truck-like. Most testers said that it's not bad for an SUV that's tailored for off-road duty, but they noted that shoppers looking for an SUV that will spend most of its time commuting or carpooling may be more comfortable in a crossover instead.

  • "Though it's a traditional body-on-frame SUV, the Pathfinder's all-independent suspension delivers surprising agility, as well as a smooth ride." -- Car and Driver
  • "Direct, responsive steering, but even low-effort cornering induces noseplow and body lean typical of truck-type SUVs. A wide turning radius hurts close-quarters maneuvering. Braking action is smooth and progressive." -- Consumer Guide
  • "In sweeping turns, the Pathfinder hits its stride. The steering is firm and quick and, when combined with a small-diameter steering wheel, makes you feel like you can carve up any back road that comes your way. When the corners tighten up, however, the body rolls and the tires squeal, reminding you that this Pathfinder is related to the Xterra, not the Murano." -- Edmunds
  • "On the road, the Pathfinder handles with car-like ease. The ride is smooth without feeling overly soft and though not as plush as some car-based SUVs, it's still far from stiff." -- Motor Week
  • "When you're out cruising on the highway, it is plenty comfortable and soaks up rough patches, but once again requires a steady hand and does not inspire confidence to do anything more than cruise in nice straight lines." -- Automobile.com
  • "The ride was on the harsh side, and there were some rattles heard inside as we banged over the potholes." -- AutoWeek  


Though the Pathfinder's on-pavement handling received mixed reviews, its off-roading abilities are where it really shines. A part-time "shift-on-the-fly" switch-operated two-speed transfer case is available on the S, SE and SE Off Road trims, while a full-time "all-mode" system with two-speed transfer case is available only on the LE and SE V8 models. Four-wheel drive is available on all trims.

  • "To please the off-road crowd, the Pathfinder returned to a sturdy, heavy body-on-frame platform derived from the full-size Titan pickup and Armada SUV. Nissan built in up to 9.1 inches of ground clearance, added a dedicated Off-Road trim level and offered both part- and full-time four-wheel-drive systems." -- Edmunds
  • "With an easy to use and very competent 4WD system, this truck has camping and adventure road trips written all over it (bonus points for the first aid kit that's strapped into the tailgate)." -- Automobile.com

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