The third-generation Pathfinder comes to the U.S. with a bevy of changes and improvements, most notably a return to a body-on-frame design (excellent), the introduction of a 270-horsepower V-6 backed by a five-speed automatic (great), and toned-down Armada-like styling (the jury's still out). While improving on the vehicle's hardbody attitude with a fully boxed all-steel frame and a new 4WD system, Nissan also opted for independent rear suspension, which improves highway ride and makes third-row seating possible.

The 2005 model receives the biggest engine to date--a 4.0-liter V-6 with 270 horsepower and 291 pound-feet of torque. The engine uses electronic throttle control with settings that change once the vehicle is in four-wheel drive. The Pathfinder can tow up to 6000 pounds, and an integrated tow hitch comes standard.

In previous years, the Pathfinder strayed from its rugged, off-road roots, prioritizing a quiet cabin, cushy ride, and luxury attitude over off-road capability and utility. Now, Nissan thinks it can merge the two worlds. Seven passengers can ride in comfort, thanks to the Nissan's fully independent suspension, while exploring trails the second-gen 'Finder simply wasn't built to explore. The new sport/utility is based on a version of the Titan/Armada's F-Alpha platform, and shares those vehicles' All-Mode four-wheel-drive system, which has an electronically controlled transfer case at its core. Vehicle Dynamic Control is standard, and Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist are welcome features on steep trails.

This Nissan has gone back to its roots while offering tremendous improvements on the previous model--it has the power it needs, the comfort SUV drivers demand, and an impressive ability on the trail. But, with a longer wheelbase and a new look, consumers will be the ones who decide if the new Pathfinder has gotten too big for its britches.