2008 Nissan Pathfinder LE V8
2008 Nissan Pathfinder LE V8. Click image to enlarge
Competitors
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Dodge Durango V8
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Ford Explorer V8
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Jeep Commander V8

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Nissan Canada

Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2008 Nissan Pathfinder

Oshawa, Ontario – When it comes to vehicle makeovers, the Nissan Pathfinder has been around the block. In its three generations, it started with a body-on-frame design, morphed into a unit body, and then went back to a full frame. Now, for 2008, it receives its very first V8 engine.

The 5.6-litre powerplant is borrowed from the Titan pickup, with which it also shares its frame, as does the Xterra and Armada. The Pathfinder’s 4.0-litre V6 is carried over as well, but its 266 horsepower and 288 lb-ft of torque are dwarfed by the V8’s 310 horses and 388 lb-ft. The bigger engine provides substantial power and increases the Pathfinder’s towing capacity from 2,721 kg (6,000 lbs) with the V6 to 3,175 kg (7,000 lbs) with the V8. The V6 is a fine performer in its own right, and you may well end up asking yourself if you really need the bigger engine, especially given the current price of gasoline.

2008 Nissan Pathfinder LE V8
2008 Nissan Pathfinder LE V8. Click image to enlarge

The V8 is officially rated at a thirsty 17.1 L/100 km in the city and 11.4 L/100 km on the highway; in combined driving, I averaged 16.3.

As with most Nissan products, handling is sportier overall than you’d expect from something this large, although you’ll get a fair bit of body roll around hard corners, and the ride is very stiff for the segment. I also found too much travel on the brake pedal: the binders stop the truck just fine, but they feel uncomfortably mushy as they do. The SE and LE include a rearview monitor, and it’s a handy thing to have when backing up this tall, bulky truck.

The new engine isn’t the only change. There’s new interior and exterior styling, several new standard or optional features, and most importantly, seat-side and curtain airbags are now standard equipment on all models; previously, they were optional on the lower trim lines.

The V8’s inclusion also changes the trim lines. Previously, the base S, midrange SE and top-of-the-line LE all used the V6, but now the S and SE use the six-cylinder, while the LE becomes exclusively V8-powered. That’s no doubt due to economies of scale for Canada – Nissan sells only about 2,500 Pathfinders each year up here, while the larger U.S. market gets a total of eleven variants. Nissan’s betting that most people who opt for the V8 will also want all of the toys, and it is possible to load up the V6 SE with premium items including a rear-seat DVD player, but such standard items as 18-inch wheels, driver’s-side memory, and heated steering wheel, plus an optional package of navigation system, keyless entry and Bluetooth, are only found on the V8 LE.

2008 Nissan Pathfinder LE V8
2008 Nissan Pathfinder LE V8
2008 Nissan Pathfinder LE V8
2008 Nissan Pathfinder LE V8. Click image to enlarge

American buyers also get a choice of two- or four-wheel drive, but in Canada, the Pathfinder is strictly 4WD, using an all-mode system with two-speed transfer case. A dial on the centre stack allows you to choose rear-wheel, an “Auto” mode that automatically distributes torque from up to 0/100 to 50/50 as needed which can be used on all road surfaces, and 4High and 4Lo for loose terrain. This true 4×4 system is one of the Pathfinder’s key points for those who are taking a few friends and their gear out into the wilderness for the weekend.

The number of friends you take depends on how much you like them. All Pathfinder models contain three rows of seats, for seven-passenger seating. The first and second rows are very comfortable; put someone in the third row, and they’d be justified in contacting Amnesty International. Along with almost no legroom, the cushions are hard, flat and very short. You’re better off just folding it down and going for the cargo space. With all seats upright, you’ve got 40 cm of cargo length; fold the third one and you’re up to 110 cm, while pushing down the second row gives you a generous 180 cm of cargo length, all of it flat. On the Limited, it’s all carpeted; the mid-range SE is the only model that comes with an “easy clean” cargo space.

The oversized centre stack contains simple, easy-to-use controls, although it seemed odd to find the stereo volume control on one side and the tuning button far away on the other side. My tester’s optional navigation system looked complicated at first, but it proved very intuitive, operational through either a controller or the touch-screen. Driver and passenger are separated by a wide centre console that, exclusive to the LE, is covered in an awful red woodgrain trim that looks like MacTac from the 1970s.

2008 Nissan Pathfinder LE V8
2008 Nissan Pathfinder LE V8
2008 Nissan Pathfinder LE V8. Click image to enlarge

It’s the only jarring note on an otherwise well-done interior.

Storage space abounds on the Pathfinder, including open and covered cubbies in the centre console, a big double glovebox, an alcove with a little net that’ll securely hold a jug of washer fluid, a plastic storage compartment under the rear cargo floor, and large centre console box. There is also storage compartment under the floor, with two lids and a removable centre divider, but you have to tip the second-row seats forward to access it. The liftgate includes a flip-up glass, so you can easily toss items in without having to open the gate completely.

If there’s anything wrong with this new Pathfinder, it’s in the timing: as gas prices climb, big V8 engines make even less sense, especially since the V6 is more than enough for the stuff most drivers will ask of it. With so few of them going off Canadian lots, Nissan had to make a hard decision about trim lines – time and the trips to the gas pump will tell if taking the V6 out of the luxury line was a good idea – or if a V8 will fly at all. This is a well-built truck that’s as capable as it looks, but be prepared to pay for what it can do.

Pricing: 2008 Nissan Pathfinder LE V8

Base price: $49,298
Options: $5,325 (DVD Entertainment System $2,000; Navigation System with 9.3GB Music Box, compact flash reader, Intelligent Key with twist start, Bluetooth and tire pressure monitoring system $3,200; metallic pearl paint $125)

A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,400
Price as tested: $56,123
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2008 Nissan Pathfinder

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  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Jeep Commander V8

    Manufacturer’s web site
  • Nissan Canada
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