The mid-size SUV market is a crowded place. From a handful of competitors 10 or 15 years ago, it's grown in numbers to rival the mid-size car market. How to stand out in such a teeming mass is the challenge Nissan faced when it undertook the update of the Pathfinder, its mainstay in the heavily congested mid-size SUV fray. Nissan had the 4X4 technology, but that alone couldn't carry the burden. It needed a stronger drivetrain. The Pathfinder had long been an underdog, with barely competent power and an aging transmission. The new Pathfinder had to step up with a rejuvenated engine and a state-of-the-art gear set. The solution turned out to be right at hand: the same V6 powering the 350Z, Nissan's performance star. With the displacement boosted to 4.0 liters and its horsepower and torque curves redrawn to workhorse geometry, the new Pathfinder engine not only substantially bettered its predecessor, it also stepped out ahead of the market's benchmark, the larger V8 in the number one-selling Ford Explorer. Fuel economy is improved, too, by 2 mpg on the highway. The new, five-speed automatic, geared to capitalize on the engine's torque characteristics, completes the package. Electronic stability control comes standard, giving drivers a reassuring safety blanket by controlling skids. Get up and go is one thing. Looking and feeling good in the process is another entirely, and Nissan had fallen behind the curve here, too. For years, the Pathfinder had made do with modest, cosmetic makeovers of stale design motifs, while the market was moving toward more expressive exteriors and roomier, more accommodating interiors. Again drawing on the new Pathfinder's stablemates, Nissan dumped its predecessor's size-limiting, frame-less body construction in favor of a larger, honest, body-on-frame truck design. This opened the door to a complete re-vamp of the Pathfinder's exterior, to a bold, broad-shouldered shape more in synch with the company's all-new, full-size SUV and pickup. Likewise with the interior: With more room, there could be more comfort and more conveniences, not to mention more passengers, something that has become critical as SUVs have grown to keep pace with growing, active families. The new Pathfinder shines inside, with upgraded, less busy, more intuitive digs.