1986 Nissan Pathfinder Set a New Standard In Swiss Army Knives


From the November 1986 issue of Car and Driver.

You don’t need this vehicle. Life would go on for you without a Nissan Pathfinder in it. Just like you could get through a day without carrying your swiss army knife.

But what if an unexpected urge comes over you to move away to a small woodland? Or to roll around in the sand? Suppose you suddenly have to saw through a snowbank? How are you going to corkscrew a canyon, or drill over rocks, or file down a contaminant if you don’t have a versatile little tool like this on your hip?

Doing all this is what the so-called sports utilities are all about. Chevy’s S-10 Blazer, Ford’s Bronco II, Jeep’s Cherokee, Toyota’s 4Runner, Mitsubishi’s Montero, Dodge’s Raider, Isuzu’s Trooper II—almost all now make compact sport utility vehicles, and Nissan studies show that some 489,000 here in their 1985 sale. have become popular because they offer so much automotive capability in one small, smooth-angled tool. Commuting, camping, transport, cruising, carting: With a car like this, everyone feels ready for everything. It doesn’t matter if the owner never actually uses all the possibilities. That the possibilities are thereneatly folded away, always ready, is what makes these little “utes” attractive.

So attractive that Nissan, which claims the title of number one importer in combined car and truck sales, has finally unveiled its first American SUV. Available only in the US (although, unlike Nissan’s pickup, it will only be built in Japan), the new Pathfinder is basically the six-month-old, new-generation “Hardbody” pickup, with an integral sheet metal enclosure at the rear. Styled concurrently with the new truck (at Nissan’s California studios), it’s built on an only slightly modified short-wheelbase truck chassis, and it offers most of the truck’s optional hardware: fuel-injected V-6 engine, four-wheel drive, brush guards, etc. However, Nissan goes to great lengths to make sure no one thinks of the Pathfinder as a truck.

According to market research, SUV buyers are a more upscale group than truck drivers. They have more schooling, they earn more, they have more refined lifestyles. They are also older. All of which Nissan interprets to mean that while they may be buying trucks to get the tough cars they want, what they really want are tough cars.

Ergo, the Pathfinder has coil rather than semi-elliptic leaf springs on top of its rear axle, for a smoother ride. Its interior is very car-like and exceptionally spacious front and rear. The highest of the three available trim levels offers amenities such as electrically adjustable windows, mirrors and shock absorbers. Power steering is standard on all models, as is part-time 4WD. Nissan expects about 75 percent of Pathfinder buyers to choose the 140-hp 3.0-liter 300ZX-derived V-6. In contrast, almost four out of five of the company’s vans are sold with the 106 hp 2.4 liter four-cylinder.

The Pathfinder’s selling points include the longest wheelbase in the field, the widest cargo area and the largest optional factory-available tires: Size 31×10.5R-15, they put more than eight inches of tread on the road and measure more than 30 inches in diameter.

At a short, rather carefully orchestrated press introduction in California’s San Bernardino Mountains, we confirmed that the Pathfinder really does ride almost as smooth and quiet as a regular passenger car on paved roads and apparently sets a new standard for comfort and civility on unpaved roads. set paths . For the driver, visibility, steering feel and overall handling are all satisfactory, given the vehicle’s basic purposes. It’s not exactly a quickly vehicle, despite the power, but the torquey V-6 has little trouble kicking out the rear end at will. Passengers, and that includes rear seats, can actually enjoy the ride, thanks to the soft suspension and ample leg and headroom.

1987 nissan pathfinder


We weren’t able to try anything like the rock-strewn Rubicon, but we feel safe in saying that the Nissan will be perfectly satisfactory for the roughest roads the typical owner is likely to tackle. And since 99 miles out of every 100 are likely to be on asphalt or concrete, the way this new sport utility cares for its crew should make it a winner.

Even for those not in the Swiss Army.

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1987 Nissan Pathfinder
Vehicle Type: Front Engine, Rear/4 Wheel Drive, 5-Passenger, 3-Door Wagon

$15,000–$17,000 (estimate)

2.4-liter inline-4 or 3.0-liter V-6, iron block and aluminum heads
Displacement: 146–181 inches32389–2960 cm3
Power: 106–140 hp

5-speed manual, 3-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 104.3 inches

Length: 171.9 inches
Curb weight: 3500–3900 lb

City: 15–16 mpg