2003 Nissan Pathfinder
2003 Nissan Pathfinder, Click image to enlarge

Nissan has big plans for upgrading the Pathfinder sport-utility vehicle but remains coy with the details. What we do know, however, is that the current Pathfinder is a high-quality vehicle – though one a bit smaller inside than certain rivals – which was given a major horsepower boost for the 2001 model year.

You see, where the 1995-2000 Pathfinder had 170 horsepower, the 2001-2003 was given 250 (for the manual transmission or 240 for the automatic.

More importantly for those who tow things, where the 1995-2000 Pathfinder had a wimpy 200 ft.-lbs. of torque (which measures critical twisting force to the driven wheels), the latest edition has boasted 265 ft.-lbs. (automatic) or 240 ft.-lbs. (manual).

Those are impressive numbers for a new engine. Perhaps equally important, Nissan created a new interior and added other features for the upgraded 2001 Pathfinder. The result: A strong-selling SUV that has held its resale value pretty well. Yes, you’ll be hard pressed to find great deals in the used car market on a Pathfinder.

The key piece about the 2001 upgrades was the new engine. Nissan adapted the V6 from the Maxima sedan. The then-new Pathfinder engine was a lightweight powerplant made of all alloy material, one all nicely finished to reduce friction (and heat). In fact, the 2001 Pathfinder V6 is 16 kilograms lighter than the old cast iron engine in the 2000 Pathfinder. Advanced computer controls make the newer engine breath and fire quite efficiently.

So what’s the zoom factor translate into, in real numbers? Nissan has claimed a 0-100 km/h time of 8.0 seconds for the manual Pathfinder, 8.8 sec. for the autobox.

Used buyers should also note that for 2001 Nissan added a new instrument panel and centre console. It gave this unit-body truck a dressier interior look. The most expensive trucks sport steering wheel audio controls and a Bose audio system.

Nissan also made electronically-controlled all-mode or full-time four-wheel drive available on SE and LE models with automatic transmissions for 2001. The all-mode system slips from two- to four-wheel drive automatically, depending on road conditions.

This was another major improvement over the strictly part-time four-wheel system that had long been a Pathfinder staple. That system is not sophisticated enough for many buyers. Off-roaders take note that the four-wheel auto system can be locked in four-wheel drive.

On road, the Pathfinder’s ride quality is impressive. Coil springs soak up bumps and body roll is held nicely in check by front and rear stabilizer bars.

Pathfinder owners have long found that their truck is a winner for having all the functionality and user-friendliness of a station wagon. The clean styling and excellent quality, reliability and durability have also been important. In fact, the Pathfinder is a past winner in the SUV category of J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Survey. It also remains a recommended buy from Consumer Reports.

True, the Pathfinder, even the more powerful Pathfinder, is a little generic, a little bland. But it’s comfortable and if you own one, chances are it will start every day for years and years.

Just keep in mind that the basic design of the 2001-2003 Pathfinder dates to 1996. A total redesign is coming, but what exactly that will entail remains a guarded secret. But it will have to be pretty good to improve upon a winning formula made even better with the 2001 upgrades.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

Connect with Autos.ca