Nissan’s Pathfinder set a new benchmark for Swiss Army knives in 1986.

from Car and Driver’s November 1986 issue.

You don’t require this car. You wouldn’t need a Nissan Pathfinder in your life for it to continue. Similar to how you could survive a day without carrying a Swiss Army knife.

But what if you suddenly have the impulse to clear some small wooded area? or play in the sand and muck around? Imagine having to quickly saw through a snowbank. If you don’t carry a handy small tool like this on your hip, how are you going to corkscrew up a canyon, bore over stones, or file down a defile?

The so-called sport-utilities are all about doing everything. Nearly everyone now manufactures compact sport-utilities, and according to Nissan surveys, 489,000 of them were sold in this country in 1985. These vehicles include the Chevy S-10 Blazer, Ford Bronco II, Jeep Cherokee, Toyota 4Runner, Mitsubishi Montero, Dodge Raider, and Isuzu Trooper II. They have gained popularity since they combine numerous vehicle functions into a single, compact tool. With such a car, everyone feels prepared for everything, whether they are commuting, camping, carrying, cruising, or carousing. Even if the owner never actually takes advantage of all the opportunities, it doesn’t matter. The allure of these little “utes” is that the possibilities are there, wrapped neatly away, and always available.

So enticing that Nissan, which claims to be the top importer of both cars and trucks, has now released its first sport utility vehicle for the American market. The new Pathfinder, which is only available in the United States and will only be manufactured in Japan, is essentially the six-month-old new-generation “Hardbody” pickup with an incorporated sheetmetal shell at the back. It shares the majority of the truck’s optional gear, including a fuel-injected V-6 engine, four-wheel drive, brush guards, etc., and was designed concurrently with the new truck (at Nissan’s California design studios). Nonetheless, Nissan goes to considerable lengths to dispel any notion that the Pathfinder is a truck.

Nissan's Pathfinder
Nissan’s Pathfinder

[HDquiz quiz = “1179”]

Sport-utility vehicle purchasers are, per market data, a more affluent demographic than truckers. They have higher levels of education, higher incomes, and more affluent lives. They are also older. All of this Nissan sees as meaning that, despite the fact that people may purchase trucks in order to obtain the tough cars they need, what they actually want are difficult cars.

So, for a smoother ride, the Pathfinder’s rear axle utilises coil springs rather than semi-elliptic leaf springs. Its interior is unusually spacious in the front and back and highly reminiscent of an automobile. The top of the three possible trim levels includes features like electri¬≠cally adjustable mirrors, shock absorbers, and windows. All variants come standard with power steering and part-time 4WD. Nissan anticipates that the 140-hp 3.0-liter V-6, which is derived from the 300ZX, will be selected by about 75% of Pathfinder purchasers. In comparison, the 106-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is offered with almost four out of every five of the company’s trucks.

The largest optional factory-available tyres, the widest luggage area, and the longest wheelbase in the field are among the Pathfinder’s selling points: They have a tread depth of more than eight inches and a circumference of more than 30 inches, measuring 31×10.5R-15.

We confirmed that the Pathfinder truly does travel almost as smoothly and silently as a typical passenger car on paved roads and seems to establish a new bar for comfort and civility on unpaved ones at a quick, quite well planned press introduction in California’s San Bernardino Mountains. Given the vehicle’s primary functions, the driver finds visibility, steering feel, and overall handling to be good. Despite the power, the car isn’t very quick, but the torquey V-6 has no issue kicking the back end out at will. Because of the gentle springing and spacious leg- and headroom, passengers, including those in the back seats, may genuinely relax and enjoy the ride.

Although we were unable to test anything like to the Rubicon’s rock-filled terrain, it is safe to conclude that the Nissan will be more than adequate for the harshest backcountry roads that the average owner is likely to travel. Also, since 99 out of every 100 miles will presumably be driven on asphalt or concrete, the manner this new sport-utility vehicle cradles its crew should make it successful.