2001 Nissan Pathfinder

Canada’s best-selling compact import SUV gets more power for 2001. The Nissan Pathfinder offers a bigger, more powerful 3.5 litre V6 engine with the most horsepower in its class, a restyled instrument panel, a new 6-disc in-dash CD changer, and a newly available full-time 4WD system on uplevel SE and LE models.

New engine pumps up the power

Though its been Canada’s best-selling import compact SUV for a number of years, the Nissan Pathfinder has had to make do with a relatively under-powered 170 horsepower 3.3 litre V6 engine. Competitors like the Toyota 4Runner, Isuzu Rodeo and Mercedes-Benz ML320 have more horsepower and torque than the 2000 Pathfinder (though some have smaller engines), and North American competitors like the Ford Explorer, Chevy Blazer, and Jeep Cherokee have considerably larger six cylinder engines with a lot more standard horsepower and torque.

At least, they did… The 2001 Nissan Pathfinder, introduced last Spring, has leaped to the head of the pack with a new standard 3.5 litre V6 engine with the most standard horsepower and torque in its class. Equipped with a manual transmission, the 2001 Pathfinder’s engine develops 250 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 240 ft-lb. of torque at 3200 rpm. Pathfinders with an automatic transmission have 240 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 265 ft-lb. of torque at 3200 rpm.

In addition, the 2001 Pathfinder offers new All-Mode (full-time) 4WD on some models, a new instrument panel and console, increased sound insulation, and a few new features.

New engine based on Maxima engine

2001 Nissan Pathfinder - engine
The new 3.5 litre DOHC 24 valve engine is not based on the 2000 Pathfinder’s 3.3 litre SOHC 12 valve V6 engine. Rather, it’s based on a bored-out version of the Nissan Maxima’s VQ 3.0 litre V6. The ‘VQ’ V6 engine has been rated by Ward’s Auto World as one of the ten best engines in the world for the past six years.

The new 3.5 litre V6 is relatively sophisticated as truck engines go… it features an aluminum engine block, twin overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, continuously variable valve timing, a variable intake system, a new piston design, direct ignition, electronic throttle control and new double-tipped platinum spark plugs for 160,000 km service intervals. A unique feature is separate cooling flow paths for the head and block which improves thermal efficiency. The new engine is actually 16 kg lighter than the 3.3 litre engine.

With up to 40% more horsepower and 33% more torque than the previous engine, the 2001 Pathfinder offers improved towing capability, cargo-carrying ability, and off-road performance than the previous model – three things that are particularly important to SUV owners. Curiously though, towing ratings have not changed from the 2000 model: with a manual transmission, the towing capacity is 1588 kg (3500 lb.), and with the automatic it’s 2268 kg (5000 lb.) Nissan Canada’s Marketing Manager, Ian Forsyth claims that the new engine has better cooling capacity and efficiency when towing a heavy trailer in extreme conditions, such as up steep grades in the summertime.

The 3.5 litre engine’s straight-line performance is considerably better than the previous engine: 0 to 100 km/h acceleration times have been reduced by more than two seconds. 2001 Pathfinders sprint to 100 km/h in 8.8 seconds while 2000 Pathfinders take 10.9 seconds. This is fairly quick for an SUV weighing 1962 kg (4325 lb.).

Surprisingly, fuel consumption for the 3.5 litre engine is about the same as the 3.3 litre V6: 15.6 l/100 km in the city and 11.9 l/100 km on the highway, compared to 15.6 l/100 km/city and 11.6 l/100 km/hwy for the 2000 Pathfinder (with automatic transmission). However, the new engine requires Premium fuel whereas the old one used Regular. For emissions purposes, the new engine is rated as an LEV (low emissions vehicle).

Both available transmissions in the Pathfinder, a 4-speed automatic transmission and 5-speed manual transmission, have been strengthened to accommodate the extra power of the new engine.

Part-time or full-time 4WD

Base Pathfinder XE 4X4 models come with a part-time, shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system that includes a Low Range gear. For 2001, SE and LE models are available with Nissan’s ‘All-Mode 4WD’ system, the same full-time 4WD system offered on the Infiniti ‘doppelganger’ QX4.

Via a console-mounted switch, drivers can choose 2WD (rear-wheel-drive), 4WD Auto (full-time four-wheel-drive), 4WD Lock (centre differential is locked for tough situations), and 4WD LO (a low gear for steep ascents and declines).

All-mode 4WD has an electronically-controlled centre clutch which varies power distribution to the front or rear wheels depending on which wheels have the most traction. In this full-time mode, the Pathfinder can be driven on dry or slippery roads without harming the drivetrain.

An interesting side-note is that U.S. model 2001 Pathfinders are not available with the All-Mode 4WD system, just the part-time 4WD system. In addition, U.S. XE models are not offered with a manual transmission. However, 4X2 models are offered in the U.S., but not in Canada.

New interior features

Though restyled in mid 1999, the 2001 Pathfinder has been given a mild facelift including new multi-parabola headlights, body-coloured bumpers, rear taillights and tailgate design.

2001 Nissan Pathfinder - interior
Inside, is a new centre instrument panel design and console with a sportier look, a leather-wrapped shift knob, one-touch up/down front power windows, a separate clock, a dual level centre console/armrest with a built-in 12 volt outlet, larger cupholders, and a new 12 volt outlet in the cargo area. There are also two additional storage areas, one under the floor and a concealed bin in the cargo area.

Dual front airbags are standard, and side airbags (built into the front seats) are available as an option on SE models and standard on LE models.

Pathfinder SE and LE models have a new standard in-dash 6-disc CD changer, steering wheel audio buttons, and SE models now have a standard power glass sunroof with automatic open and close. XE and LE models have new standard white-faced round gauges while SE models have ‘titanium’ coloured gauges. Top-of-the-line LE models add a memory driver’s seat and auto on/off headlamps.

Driving impressions

Whereas the previous 3.3 litre engine felt anemic at times, the new 3.5 litre V6 offers a broader power range and more torque, particularly at highway passing speeds. However, the difference in performance is not as much as I expected because the 3.5 litre engine develops its maximum horsepower and torque at higher engine revolutions. For example, (with the automatic transmission) the 3.5 litre engine develops 240 horsepower at 6000 rpm while the 3.3 litre engine develops 170 horsepower at 4800 rpm. In the 3.5 litre engine, maximum torque of 265 ft-lb. is developed at 3200 rpm, whereas in the 3.3 litre engine, maximum torque of 200 ft-lb. is developed at 2800 rpm. Though less powerful, the 3.3 litre engine reached its maximum power sooner.

I’m not sure why, but the 2001 Pathfinder’s ‘VQ’ engine is not quite as smooth as the Maxima’s 3.0 litre VQ engine. It’s a bit noisier and a bit rougher during acceleration, though reasonably quiet on the highway and around town.

2001 Nissan Pathfinder - dash

The All-Mode 4WD system works seamlessly, so there’s no need to change in and out of 4WD depending on the road conditions. However, since drivers have the option of choosing two-wheel-drive, it makes sense to use this mode during dry summer months when 4WD is not really needed – and you’ll use less gas when running in rear-wheel-drive only.

New to the 4-speed automatic transmission is a computer-controlled adaptive shifting mechanism that reduces ‘gear-hunting’ on long grades and improves shifting smoothness. I found this automatic transmission to be a good match to the new, more powerful engine.

With a car-like unit-body construction and improvements in noise insulation and damping, the 2001 Pathfinder offers a very comfortable, quiet ride. Nissan claims over 100 noise, vibration and harshness improvements have been added to the 2001 Pathfinder, including front liquid-filled and rear double-cushion engine mounts. The Pathfinder’s ride is not as choppy or as stiff as some mid-sized SUVs – it’s an SUV that you can live with every day, on road and off road, in part because of its compact size, ease of maneouverability and good outward visibility.

Pathfinders come with standard power steering, 16 inch tires and front disc/rear drum brakes with standard ABS that ‘reads’ the road surface to avoid wheel lockup.

Prices, features and options

The base Pathfinder XE ($34,700) includes a 5 speed manual transmission and on 4X4 models, a part-time shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system. Also standard are a rear limited slip differential, P245/70R-16 inch all-season tires with polished 5-spoke alloy wheels, body-coloured bumpers, full-size spare tire (mounted underbody), roof rack, skid plate, and front tie-down hook. Inside, are standard power windows, 4-way manually adjustable front seats, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks, air conditioning, power door locks and remote keyless entry, AM/FM/cassette/CD, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, power heated mirrors, flip-up rear liftglass, variable intermittent wipers, and rear intermittent wiper and defroster.

SE models ($38,200) add ‘dark titanium’ fender flares and mudguards, ‘eggcrate’ grille design, P255/65R-16 inch tires, larger offset alloy wheels, tubular step rails, height adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, two-tone ‘Luxsuede’ seats, rear centre armrest, and the new features mentioned above. When equipped with a manual transmission, SE models include a limited slip rear differential. When ordered with an automatic transmission, SE models include All-mode 4WD.

2001 Nissan Pathfinder
Top-of-the-line Pathfinder LE models include a standard automatic transmission and All-mode 4WD, 6-spoke alloy wheels, body-coloured fender flares, chrome grille surround, fog lamps and titanium-coloured running boards. Standard interior features include automatic climate control, Bose audio system, leather upholstery, wood-tone trim, memory driver’s seat, outside temmperature gauge and compass, illuminated mirrors in the sunvisors, and steering wheel audio switches.

Nissan’s manufacturer’s suggested retail prices for 2001 Pathfinder models are as follows: XE with manual transmission $34,700; XE with automatic transmission $35,900; SE manual $38,200; SE automatic $40,200; SE automatic with leather upholstery $43,400; SE automatic with leather and traction control $44,200; and LE with the works $44,300.

2001 Nissan Pathfinder - gauges

Technical Data:

Base price (XE) $34,700
Price as tested (SE) $43,400
Type 4-door, 5 passenger compact sport utility vehicle
Layout longitudinal front engine/all-wheel-drive
Engine 3.5 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves, variable valve timing
Horsepower 240 @ 6000 rpm
Torque 265 ft-lb. @ 3200 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Curb weight 1962 kg (4325 lb.)
Wheelbase 2700 mm (106.3 in.)
Length 4641 mm (182.7 in.)
Width 1821 mm (71.7 in.)
Height 1730 mm (68.1 in.)
Cargo volume 38.0 cu. ft. (1076 litres) seats up
  85.0 cu. ft. (2407 litres) seats down
Fuel consumption City: 15.6 l/100 km (18 mpg)
  Hwy: 11.9 l/100 km (24 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/80,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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