NISSAN Pathfinder (1993–2002) Rating: Above Average Body styles: 2-door wagon o 4-door wagon Engines: 3.0L V6 (1993–1995) • 3.3L V6 (1996–1999.5) • 3.5L V6 (2000–2002) Transmissions: 5-speed manual • 4-speed automatic/rear-wheel drive • four-wheel drive Fuel consumption: 1993 model: 3.0L V6 with 5-speed manual: 15.7L/100km (18 mpg); with automatic: 16.0L/100km (17 mpg) • 1998 model: 3.3L V6 with 5-speed manual: 14.7L/100km (19 mpg); with automatic: 15.6L/100km (18 mpg) • 2001 model: 3.5L V6 with 5-speed manual: 14.7L/100km (19 mpg); with automatic: 15.6L/100km (18 mpg) The Pathfinder was first launched in 1987 as a derivative of Nissan’s pickup truck line. Available initially as a two-door, it was joined by a four-door version in 1990, which has been the sole body style since 1991. The original Pathfinder changed very little on the outside during its life, but was treated to a new dash and interior design in 1994. Whereas the first-generation Pathfinder was a body-on-frame design, the all-new 1996 Pathfinder featured unibody construction. In mid-1999, the Pathfinder, designated as a 1999.5 model, was face-lifted and moved upmarket. Nissan slotted its new Frontier pickup-based body-on-frame Xterra into the space in the lineup vacated by the old base model Pathfinder. The 1993–1995 Pathfinders were powered by a 153-hp 3.0L overhead-cam V6 teamed with a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. The Pathfinder was essentially a rear- wheel-drive truck that had part-time four-wheel-drive capability that was not meant to be driven on dry pavement. The 1996 Pathfinder was powered by a 168-hp 3.3L overhead-cam V6 that transmitted power to the wheels through a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. The drive system was still rear-wheel-drive, with part-time four- wheel-drive, but the new model had shift-on-the-fly capability that permitted switching from four-wheel back to two-wheel drive on the move, without stopping. For 2000 the Pathfinder’s engine size was increased from 3.3L to 3.5L, and it gained 72 horsepower for a total of 240 (250 horsepower when equipped with the manual transmission). The 1987 Pathfinder was a very clean, softly rounded design for Nissan at the time, which offered only severely rectilinear styling on its sedans. The square theme, however, defines the interior. The square dashboard was exorcised in 1994 and replaced by a less angular dash that offers easier-to-use controls. The Pathfinder has adequate space inside, but access to the rear seats is hampered by the small door openings and shallow full-open angle of the rear doors. Cargo space is sufficient but not ample, especially if the rear tire is placed upright in the cargo area instead of on a cradle on the tailgate door. The exterior- mounted spare improves cargo space but makes loading cargo a hassle. The all-new 1996 Pathfinder is a unibody design with no separate frame. The dividends are greater rigidity and a lower floor in the interior, with no loss of ground clearance. The 1996 Pathfinder is larger than the previous generation; it has a 2-inch-longer wheelbase and is 2.2 inches wider and 6.7 inches longer. These increases amount to a roomier interior and more luggage space, which is helped further by location of the spare tire underneath the floor. Though larger than before, the Pathfinder is still not as roomy as the Explorer or Grand Cherokee. Regardless of space constraints, the 1996 Pathfinder has an elegant, functional and well-made cabin that is assembled using quality components, and the exterior is beautifully finished. The styling of the 1996 Pathfinder shares the same silhouette as the 1987 truck but is fussier in detail. The 1999.5 facelift gave the truck a more cohesive visage. The interior received detail changes in 2001. The Pathfinder has always been one of the nicest sport-utilities to drive. The 1993 truck combines a decent ride with predictable handling, precise steering and good off-road capabilities. While a pleasure to drive, the Pathfinder is a chore to park because of its large turning radius. Both transmissions function very well and make the best use of the available 153 horsepower. That said, the engine is perhaps the Pathfinder’s least satisfactory component, as it is neither powerful nor quiet. The part-time four-wheel-drive system is less than ideal as well, because you have to stop and then reverse a few feet to unlock the front hubs when switching from four-wheel back to two-wheel drive. If four-wheel-drive traction is needed, the Pathfinder displays considerable prowess in bad conditions. The four-wheel-drive system on the 1996 Pathfinder is still part-time, but it can be disengaged on the fly, though sometimes reluctantly (for models through 1998). The 1996–1999 Pathfinder is one of the more satisfying vehicles of its type to drive, and with rack-and-pinion steering it steers even better than before. The engine gained some power and torque in 1996 but not enough to change its overall demeanor. The 240-hp engine, standard since 2000, makes the truck more exciting to drive. When in four-wheel drive, the Pathfinder is a good machine for tackling snow, especially when it is equipped with the skinnier tires of the base model. Luxury models of the Pathfinder sell the quickest. A fully dressed LE still commands a $4000 premium over the base XE by the time they reach five years old, compared to the $10,000 that separated them when new. Comparably equipped, the Pathfinder sells for more than the domestic SUVs (newer Grand Cherokee excepted) but it is thousands cheaper than a Toyota 4Runner. The Pathfinder offers quality and reliability that are close to the 1996 and later Toyota 4Runner for less money, and the supply is significantly better. It is priced close enough to the often-troubled American competition to be well worth the extra outlay. Reliability: Above-average on 1993–1995 models. Some problems have been recorded with the emissions system oxygen sensors. Manual transmission bearings lack durability; occasional problems with the cooling system and suspension; a few costly automatic transmission failures at high mileage on pre-1995 models. Uneven front tire wear may indicate excessive play in the ball joints or tie-rod ends. 1996–2002 models: improved over the pre-1996 model overall, with better corrosion resistance. What to check: 1993–1995 models: steering (worn, especially on vehicles with large tires), CV joints (excessive wear in case of frequent off-road usage), exhaust manifold (leaks, especially on the right side, which is often broken), oxygen sensors (defective), rear suspension trailing arms (worn bushings). 1996–1999 models: brake calipers (seized), front shocks (often sagging, weak original springs), sway bar (broken links), rear wiper (failed), exhaust manifold (leaks, especially on the right side. Rust: Poor rust resistance after four years, especially in the floor under the carpeting. Applying a grease- or oil-based anticorrosion treatment is strongly recommended. 1993–1995 models: check for advanced rust on the rear floor between the catalytic converter and the rear wheels. Exposed fuel lines are vulnerable to rust. Safety: No airbags were available until 1996, when standard dual airbags were fitted. Side airbags have been optional since late 1999. Rear-wheel only ABS was available until 1996, when all-wheel ABS became standard. The 1995 Pathfinder received one- and three-star ratings for driver and front-passenger occupant protection respectively when crash tested by the NHTSA. The 1999.5 Pathfinder received four- and five-star ratings for the driver and front passenger respectively in a frontal crash and five-star ratings for all outboard occupants in side crashes when crash tested by the NHTSA. The 1997 Pathfinder received a “marginal” rating from the IIHS, which noted that there was significant intrusion into the driver’s footwell that trapped the dummy’s right foot. The dummy’s movement was poorly controlled in the crash, which, combined with upward movement of the steering column, caused the dummy’s head to bottom out on the airbag and hit the steering wheel, which could result in a head injury. APA Alert! • Pre-1995 models with automatic transmission: to avoid costly transmission problems, it is highly recommended that you install an auxiliary transmission cooler in order to compensate for the defective transmission cooler in the original radiator. • Pre-1996 models: excessive exhaust noise is a sign of a problem with one or more exhaust manifold studs at the block. Replace the studs as soon as they become noisy or the manifold may crack. If you are unable to negotiate a free or reduced-price repair at the dealer, the APA has located a repair centre in the Montreal area that avoids inflated dealer prices (call 1-800-400-3792 for information; for the same repair in the Toronto area call 905-670-8535). Nissan has reduced the cost of replacement exhaust manifolds for this model to $110 each. For 1996 and later models it is no longer possible to perform this repair without removing the heads. The cost of the repair at a Nissan dealer is $1000 per side. • Some of the 1995–1996 production was plagued by an engine knocking problem after a modification meant to reduce manufacturing costs. Ford offered an extended warranty of 7 years/160,000 km on the Mercury Villager, which shares the same engine. Nissan sent no warnings to clients, but maintains that it has taken the necessary actions regarding this problem. • Recall covering 2001 models: brackets that connect the rear hatch door to the gas struts were improperly made and may bend under stress, allowing the struts to detach from the brackets and the door to fall. Replace the strut brackets.
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