2002 Nissan Pathfinder

    2002 Nissan Pathfinder Expert Review:New Car Test Drive

    Pathfinder leads the way.


    Nissan's Pathfinder is a powerful, quick performer. Its demeanor is more carlike than other SUVs. The Pathfinder has become more of a premium SUV as the Xterra has filled the value role. Last year, a new V6 engine gave the Pathfinder dramatically more powerful engine. New styling two years ago gave the Pathfinder a handsome, more contemporary look. 

    New for 2002 are redesigned front seats, a new grille, body-colored bumpers and fender flares, titanium-accented step rail and roof rack and 16-inch alloy wheels. 


    Pathfinder comes in two trim levels, each available in two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive versions: SE 4X2 ($28,649); SE 4X4 ($27,649) with a five-speed manual (the only model with a manual transmission); SE 4x4 automatic ($28,649); LE 4X2 ($28,999) LE 4X4 ($31,499). The former XE base model is gone. 

    All Pathfinders are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine, which provides 250 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque with the manual transmission and 240 hp and 265 pound-feet with the four-speed automatic. 

    Two-wheel-drive Pathfinders are propelled by their rear wheels. Buyers can chose between part-time, shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case or, with the Pathfinder, a push-button All-Mode 4WD system. 

    Pathfinder SE comes with eight-way adjustable driver's seat, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, cruise control, automatic on/off headlights, air conditioning, power windows and locks and heated power mirrors, an AM/FM/cassette/CD audio system, remote keyless entry, flip-out liftgate glass with intermittent wiper, tilt steering wheel, large cupholders, dual front air bags and child safety seat anchors. 

    Pathfinder LE adds mud and snow-rated tires, halogen fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rack cross bars, wood-tone trim, Bose audio system with an in-dash, six-CD changer, automatic temperature controls, HomeLink Universal Transceiver, a cargo net and retractable cover and the availability of push-button 4WD. 

    Options include leather seats, a one-touch sunroof, mobile entertainment and navigation systems and a limited-slip differential. 


    The Nissan Pathfinder's body and interior accommodations were redesigned for the 1999 model year; the new styling represented an evolutionary rather than revolutionary change from the previous generation. Winsome and efficient, the Pathfinder's styling has a square-jawed galoot look in front, accented for 2002 with a new grille and larger Nissan badge. Elsewhere it has been nicely modernized and smoothed out, while not losing any of its former ruggedly functional demeanor. 

    Our test vehicle was the performance-oriented SE 4X4. It featured body-colored wheel flares and painted rearview mirrors, and its alloy wheels contributed to its purposeful, well-integrated appearance. Under the hood was the newly enlarged 3.5-liter twin-cam V6, which offers a whopping 70 more horsepower than its forebear. This engine was coupled with Nissan's excellent 4-speed automatic transmission. 

    Our SE had a step rail for climbing into and out of the truck. The tailgate lifts up from the bottom, and there is a separate release to allow for opening just the rear window. The liftgate can be released from the driver's position, but opening the window requires unlocking it at the rear gate. The truck had a rear bug-deflector, as well as a standard rear washer and wiper. The spare tire is mounted underneath the rear of the truck; this provides more interior space, but may result in more of a struggle changing tires. The luggage rack has adjustable sliding tie-downs, and the radio antenna is wrapped in swirled wire to reduce wind noise at speed. 


    Just as the exterior was redone in 2000, so was the interior, and it has been updated again for 2002 with new front seats and revised audio system. 

    The main instruments follow Nissan's trademark black-on-white pattern and are extremely easy to read. 

    In addition to central/remote locking, the Pathfinder had one-touch up/down windows and a one-touch open/close sunroof. 

    These are a welcome convenience, because the vast majority of the time we want to open or close the windows or sunroof all the way. Mounted in our SE's overhead console were an outside temperature readout and a digital compass. Our eight-way power front seats were excellent, and the truck's black leather upholstery was sumptuous. The Pathfinder had four cupholders, two in front, two in back, and convenient grab handles for climbing in through both rear doors. 

    Driving Impression

    Nissan Pathfinder offers a relatively sporty driving experience by SUV standards. Responsive handling and quick throttle response make it enjoyable to drive. 

    The Nissan Pathfinder offers almost sedan-like acceleration. The 4x2 models with the manual transmission are capable of 0-60 mph acceleration times of only 7.6 seconds. Our SE 4x4 was equipped with the automatic transmission. Nonetheless, with 240 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, it produced 0-60 times in the mid-8 second range, vastly more spirited than most foot-dragging SUVs. Throttle tip-in was a bit sensitive, however, so we had to train our feet not to lurch away from intersections. 

    The Pathfinder is a capable off-road vehicle as well. It's built for rugged terrain and is ready to go anywhere, especially if you order the limited-slip differential. 


    Nissan's Pathfinder delivers quick acceleration performance. It is a modern, all-purpose sport-utility of the first order, delivering comfort, toughness and that tall, looking-down-atcha stature that SUV buyers value so highly. 

    Model Lineup

    SE 4X2 ($26,649); SE 4X4 5-speed manual ($27,649); SE 4X4 automatic ($28,649); LE 4X2 ($28,999); LE 4X4 ($31,499). 

    Assembled In

    Oppama, Japan. 

    Options As Tested

    limited-slip rear differential ($250); Popular Package ($699) includes Bose audio with 6-disc in-dash CD changer, fog lights, steering wheel audio controls; Sunroof Package ($1099) includes one-touch sliding/tilt sunroof, dual lighted vanity mirrors, compass and outside temp gauge, Homelink Universal Transceiver; Leather Package ($1999) includes leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, eight-way power driver seat, four-way power passenger seat, side-impact airbags. 

    Model Tested

    SE 4X4 ($28,999). 

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    Read 2002 Nissan Pathfinder SE 4dr 4x4 reviews from auto industry experts to gain insight on the Nissan Pathfinder's drivability, comfort, power and performance.
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