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3/4 Front Glamour 2012 Nissan Pathfinder

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Expert's Rating


MPG 14 City / 21 Highway
  • Powerful engine options
  • Well designed controls
  • Lots of cargo space
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Significant body roll through turns
  • Ride may be too rough for some
, Automotive Editor -
The Nissan Pathfinder stands out among other midsize SUVs because it adheres to the old philosophy of basing this three-row vehicle on a truck platform, rather than a car. While that may sacrifice some comfort and fuel economy, it gives the Pathfinder off-road capability and towing capacity most car-based crossovers can't touch. At the same time, it's a more manageable size than a full-size SUV but also offers a powerful V8 option. If you need a vehicle to tackle arduous terrain, do regular towing and need space for up to 7 passengers, the Pathfinder is worth a look.


All Pathfinders get a standard 4.0-liter V6 with 266 horsepower and a five-speed automatic. Power goes to the rear wheels unless the four-wheel drive option is specified. Most Pathfinder 4WD models have a part-time system, but the LE has a full-time system. The LE also has the option of a 5.6-liter V8 engine with 310 horsepower, bringing towing capacity up to 7,000 lbs.

Standard equipment on the base Pathfinder S includes air conditioning, power windows, locks and mirrors, remote keyless entry, privacy glass, cruise control, six-speaker audio system and seating for 7.

See our picks for best SUVs in the CarsDirect SUV Buying Guide.

The SV adds a power driver's seat, 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control with a rear air conditioning setup, backup camera and AUX input.

The Silver Edition gets leather seats, keyless entry and start, heated front seats and Bluetooth. Finally, the luxury LE trim gets 18-inch alloy wheels, memory settings for the driver's seat and mirrors and a navigation system.

The Toyota 4Runner offers an off-road oriented Trail Edition and has a nice V6, but is smaller and doesn't offer a V8. The Jeep Grand Cherokee has better engines, nicer interior and is more fuel efficient, but lacks a third row. The Dodge Durango has a bigger third row and is nicer to drive, but lacks the Pathfinder's off-road credentials. Finally, the Ford Explorer is much better on-road and has better in-car technology, but its car-based platform limits off-road and towing abilities.

While it's old by today's standards and can be heavy on fuel, the Pathfinder is a worthy alternative to the car-based crossover and likely meets the needs of people who need a sturdy SUV to transport passengers or cargo over lots of different terrain. All models are well-equipped and have better towing capacity than most crossovers.

Which Style To Buy?

2012 Nissan Pathfinder
Starting price

2012 Nissan Pathfinder LE

Recommended for: Buyers who want a V8 in a midsize SUV package

The LE is the most luxurious Pathfinder and packed with features that make for a rather opulent off-road vehicle. It's also the way to get a V8 in the Pathfinder and boost power and towing capability. Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, silver trim on the bumpers and a power sunroof on V6 models. Inside, Nissan's 7-inch navigation system with hard drive music storage is standard, as is SiriusXM traffic and weather, a driver's memory system, heated steering wheel and wood trim. The V8 adds a 5.6-liter engine with 310 horsepower and brings towing capacity up to 7,000 lbs. A full-time four-wheel drive system is optional on both V6 and V8 models. The DVD Entertainment Package adds a 7-inch screen, DVD player, remote control and two wireless headphones. The Value Package combines that with a power sunroof for V8 models.

2012 Nissan Pathfinder
Starting price

2012 Nissan Pathfinder S

Recommended for: Shoppers interested in lots of seats and towing ability

The Pathfinder S comes well-equipped for buyers trying to get the most space and capability for their buck. The S comes standard with the 4.0-liter V6 with 266 horsepower and a five-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive is standard. A shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive system is optional. Sixteen-inch alloy wheels are standard, as are roof rails, power windows, mirrors and locks with remote keyless entry, privacy glass, a flip-up tailgate window, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, trip computer and six-speaker CD audio system. The third-row seat is standard, as is a tow hitch so the Pathfinder can haul up to 6,000 lbs.

2012 Nissan Pathfinder
Starting price

2012 Nissan Pathfinder SV

Recommended for: Buyers who want more comfort features in their SUV

The SV adds a number of convenience features. SV models get 17-inch alloy wheels, running boards, automatic headlamps and a manual mode for the automatic transmission. Inside, there's a 7-inch multi-function display incorporating a backup camera, dual-zone automatic climate control and a rear air conditioning system, power adjustable pedals, Homelink, power driver's seat, illuminated vanity mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel and six-disc CD changer. Four-wheel drive is an option.

2012 Nissan Pathfinder
Starting price

2012 Nissan Pathfinder Silver

Recommended for: Buyers looking for more luxury with off-road capability

The Silver Edition adds some more luxury features to the SV. It gets unique 17-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights and chrome trim. Inside, there's keyless entry and start, leather seats, Bluetooth, a four-way power front passenger's seat, heated front seats, a 10-speaker Bose audio system with six-disc CD changer and SiriusXM satellite radio. The DVD Entertainment Package adds a second-row mounted 7-inch screen with a DVD player, remote control and two wireless headphones. A power moonroof and four-wheel drive are also options.

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