There's an old saying in the culinary arts: "If you want to make your dessert better, stuff it with a creamy filling." Nissan followed the automotive version of this philosophy: It stuffed 5.6 liters of mouth-watering torque into the refreshed Pathfinder.

To its credit, Nissan isn't just stuffing something bigger in because it can. In fact, it's specifically tuned the Titan's powerful 5.6 liter Endurance V8, rated at 310 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 380 pound-feet of torque at 3400 rpm, for the size and specific towing needs of the midsize-SUV buyer. When asked about all the recent attention given to rising fuel prices and the need for better fuel economy, the marketing guys are quick to identify an active and affluent group of middle America that likes having midsize SUVs for their family, but are limited in the toys they can tow, specifically the size of the boats they can take to the lake. Toyota, Ford, and Chevy all have midsize SUVs with available V 8s, but Nissan had been left out in the cold. Although the numbers for those vehicles aren't huge, it is a lucrative segment.

So the truckmaker shoehorned the V-8 into the engine bay to give tow addicts almost 400 pound-feet of torque and lifted the tow rating up 2000 pounds for a max towing capacity of 7000. More important, Nissan was able to fit the bigger and stronger five-speed transmission in as well, fixing what's been our least favorite link in Nissan's powertrain chain. Combined with the all-wheel-drive system (an option on SE and LE models), the new setup feels muscular and exceptionally grippy during hard (yet legal) cornering. The steering box and ratios have been modified to accommodate the bigger, quicker loads, and the front and rear suspension bushings are beefed up a bit as well. Our only regret is that, although the engine has been tuned slightly differently from the bigger Titan for better fuel economy, we still wish Nissan had found a way to fit a bigger fuel tank as a better match for the thirstier engine. We were told Nissan has made the most use of all available space and the only way to accommodate a bigger tank would be to offer a longer-wheelbase version. (Hmmm...)

Nissan doesn't expect to sell huge numbers of the Titan motors but is making it available in the midlevel SE 2WD ($31,300) and LE 2WD ($37,200) models. The V 8 option is likely to cost about $1800 over the 4.0 liter V 6. Expect fully loaded models equipped with nav, DVD entertainment, leather, and premium sound package to run upward of $42,000. But that's still a lot less than a loaded 4Runner or Explorer.


2008 Nissan Pathfinder
Base price $26,400
Price as tested $39,200
Layout Front engine, RWD/4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
Engines 4.0L/266-hp/288-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6; 5.6L/310-hp/380-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8
Transmission 5-speed auto
Wheelbase, in 112.2
Length x width x height, in 192.5x72.6x72.5
Base curb weight, lb 4500
GVWR, lb 6500
Max payload capacity, lb 1500
Max towing capacity, lb 7000
Max cargo capacity, cu ft 80.1
0-60 mph, sec 6.8 (TT est)
Fuel econ, city/hwy, mpg 15-16/21-23
CO2 emissions, lb/mile 1.05-1.13
On sale Currently


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