When Nissan first introduced the Pathfinder SUV in 1986, it was based on their pickup truck. So it should come as no surprise that the original Pathfinder, equipped with just two doors, was very truck-like.
Over the years, and like its competitors, the Pathfinder became more and more refined, eventually gaining two more doors and replacing the truck-ish body-over-frame construction for a car-like unibody chassis.
Then, along came stable mates like the XTerra and Murano and it became time to redo the Pathfinder. Redesigned for the 2005 model year, Pathfinder now features the classic look of the previous generations - including a large, powerful hood, solid shoulder line, large integrated fender flares, short front and rear overhangs and Nissan SUV signature angled C-pillars with high-mounted rear door handles.
Pathfinder also bears a strong family resemblance to the larger Armada, especially in the angled strut-style grille and powerful overall presence.
Like the full-size Armada, and based on the full-size Titan pickup, the 2006 Pathfinder returns to a more rugged body-on-frame construction, but with a sophisticated 4-wheel independent double-wishbone suspension.
The 2006 Pathfinder features a long wheelbase (112.2 inches) for enhanced roominess, ride comfort and stability, while its manageable overall length (187.6 inches) and short front and rear overhangs enhance maneuverability for around town or driving on off-road trails.
Pathfinder is available in four trim levels and all come standard with accommodations for 7-passengers with 3-row seating. There's plenty of head and legroom for front seat occupants, but that roomy feeling subsides in the 2nd row and even more so in the 3rd row.
I like that the split fold-down 2nd and 3rd row seats can be folded down individually, combining with the fold-down front passenger seat to provide a versatile cabin.
Another unique feature of the Pathfinder's interior that I like is the hidden storage area located under the 2nd row seats. This area is designed to help hold the accessories of an active lifestyle.
Standard interior equipment includes power windows and door locks, tilt steering wheel, dual front and rear 20-ounce cup holders, four 12-volt DC outlets (two front, one rear and one in the center console box), 8-way adjustable driver's seat and overhead console with sunglass storage.
Pathfinder's cabin is functional and versatile. There seems to be a bit much hard plastic, though. And I would have liked to have been able to lower the driver's seat in our Pathfinder SE-Off Road test model just a bit.
Powering all Pathfinders is a standard 4.0-liter DOHC V6, rated at 270 horsepower and 291 lb-ft torque. The engine is part of Nissan's award-winning VQ engine series found in the 350Z, Maxima, Altima, Murano and Quest.
The engine features a longer stroke than the 3.5-liter version and has been specifically tuned for SUV and truck applications.
Every 2006 Pathfinder is equipped with a standard electronically controlled 5-speed automatic transmission. The transmission felt well-matched to the V6 and it delivered smooth, effortless shifts.
Pathfinder is offered in 4x2 or 4x4 configurations. Our Pathfinder test model was the SE-Off Road 4x4 model which included an advanced 4-wheel Limited-Slip system (ABLS), Hill Descent Control (HDC), which allows for going downhill without the constant application of the brake pedal, and Hill Start Assist (HSA), which allows the driver to stop on a slope, release the brake pedal and not roll back for up to two seconds.
My Pathfinder tester was obviously set up for the off-road enthusiast. The off-road tires on our tester were a bit knobby and noisy at highway speeds.
My Pathfinder's on-road ride was mostly good, but it seemed a bit bouncy over pothole-infested roads. Those who prefer a more refined ride should test a different trim level than the SE-Off Road. 2006 Nissan Pathfinder
SE-Off Road 4X4
Engine: 4.0-liter (270 hp) V6
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Drive Type: 4WD
Fuel Economy: 15 city/21 highway
Base Price: $31,300
As Tested: $37,095 (includes $605 for destination)