For 2006, the Nissan Pathfinder receives All-Mode four-wheel-drive on all models, a mid-grade six-CD stereo is standard on the SE, leather is now available on Off-Road trim, there’s a new Majestic Blue exterior colour, and the base XE trim line is renamed the S.

Now in its third generation, the Pathfinder sits on an F-Alpha platform with body-on-frame construction, which it shares with the full-size Armada, Xterra and Titan pickup truck. The suspension is independent double-wishbone front and rear. All models use a 4.0-litre V6 with five-speed automatic transmission; the All-Mode 4WD can be ordered with hill start assist and hill descent control for off-road use.

All models offer seven-passenger seating; Nissan claims the three rows of seats can be configured into 64 different seating choices. The 50/50 split third row can be folded into the floor.

The Pathfinder starts with the newly-renamed S model, which includes four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake force distribution, lower radiator skid plate, 16-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, heated mirrors, roof rack, cloth seats, air conditioning, CD with six speakers, cruise control, power locks with keyless remote, variable intermittent wipers and intermittent rear wiper.

The SE adds fog lights, roof rail crossbars, side step rails, front tow hook, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and temperature display, easy-clean cargo floor, power-adjustable pedals, dual-zone automatic climate control with second-row controls, six-CD changer, cargo nets, eight-way power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls, and first aid kit.

The Off-Road package adds heavy-duty Rancho shocks, full skid plates, BF Goodrich Rugged Trail tires, HomeLink garage door opener, hill start assist, hill descent control and automatic headlights.

The LE line adds 17-inch alloy wheels, power sunroof, heated leather seats, four-way power passenger seat, wood interior accents, driver’s position memory, Bose six-CD/MP3 player with ten speakers including subwoofer and wheel-mounted controls, and side and curtain airbags.

The Pathfinder is remarkably civilized, with an excellent ride, gutsy engine and more agile steering than expected for its size. It looks like a scaled-down version of the Armada, and its bold grille bars and bumper treatment are echoed in the Xterra, as well as in the Frontier and Titan pickup trucks. Nissan has succeeded at beefy and brawny, but it hasn’t forgotten that all the stuff on the outside doesn’t matter if it isn’t worthwhile on the inside.

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