Jalopnik Reviews: 2006 Nissan Pathfinder SE, Part 1

The Fall of the Roamin Empire is nearly complete. Full-size SUVs that guzzled while hydrocarbons burned are now paying the ultimate price. Actually, no one s paying the price; sales are so slow dealers are bestowing pet names on the behemoths loitering on their lots (like Sell You Bastard ). Theoretically, a mid-sized SUV like the Nissan Pathfinder could benefit from the jumbo SUV exodus, as SUV lovers look to downsize into something a little less piggish. Except it won t happen. I ll give you 15 reasons why

Fifteen miles per gallon. That s the Pathfinder SE s EPA urban cycle mpg. Needless to say, the figure is at least three gallons more per mile than an enthusiast could achieve without a tennis ball lodged behind the gas pedal. Use the Pathfinder to tow a boat uphill with the AC cranked-up and five adults on board, or just stick it in the high speed lane at 90mph, and the gas gauge will head for E faster than a sophomore at a college rave. V6 or no, this Tennessee SUV sucks gas with the same gay abandon as the larger dinosaurs trapped in the La Brea tar pits of today s radically evolved automobile market.

It s too bad. While lots of mid-sized SUV s are pussy-whipped soft-roaders, the Pathfinder is a genuinely trucky, ladder-framed, solid rear axle sort of beast. It may look like a Braun kitchen appliance — what with its clean lines, perfect proportions and sleek textures — but the Pathfinder will mix it with it Landies and Jeeps where Acuras fear to tread. Our test vehicle acquitted itself flawlessly at the local off-road test track, and satisfied our aversion to parallel parking by cresting curbs without complaint. You don t have to thrash the Pathfinder SE to know that it s a deeply masochistic machine, but it if you do, you will.

By the same token, the Pathfinder s up for a bit of on-road argy bargy. Like most of Nissan s VQ-engined products, the 270-horse SUV leaps off the line like a sixties muscle car. While I m not so sure that s such a good idea for a 4693lbs. vehicle destined for school parking lots, the Pathfinder has enough braking power and lateral stability to keep spirited drivers from Chitwooding into airbagland. Of course, the brick-like Pathfinder runs out of puff faster than a donut maker. And the SUV is prone to dryquaplaning over really rough surfaces at speed. But hey, it s fun while it lasts.

The Pathfinder SE s cabin reflects its mix of mechanical solidity and balls-out joie-de-vivre. It provides just enough luxury to keep passengers from pining for Lexurian pleasures, but not so much that Pathfinder parents would order their beach-departing children to exfoliate before entering. The ostensibly family-friendly tip-up third row is only suitable for misbehaving sprogs and adults schooled in the art of human origami. Even so, again, the Pathfinder is the kind of SUV you respect because you don t have to.

Ah, but can you respect a vehicle with such prodigious thirst? Nope. These days, even the relatively diminutive Pathfinder is a pariah amongst the chattering classes. Its fuel consumption also makes it showroom poison for less well-heeled drivers who used to equate cheap to buy with cheap to run. But if you re a genuine outdoorsy kinda guy/gal, live somewhere where PC still means a home computer, and don t mind throwing money at the oil companies, the Pathfinder is an excellent old school SUV. If you want one, bargain hard; the entire class has been dismissed. [by Robert Farago]

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