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The Short-Lived, V8-Powered Nissan Pathfinder Is a Used Tow Rig Bargain

Few cars have had as many identity crises as the Nissan Pathfinder. The original was a typical ’80s SUV, basically a pickup with a weathertight cabin that had two rows of seats and some carpeting. Its 1996 redo was ahead of the game with unibody construction kind of like today’s crossovers, and it spawned a tony Infiniti version, one of the last new cars with 3-spoke wheels. When the third-generation model bowed for 2005, Nissan thought it had it all figured out: The Pathfinder returned to a pickup-like platform, and its engine bay could swallow a version of the 5.6-liter V8 used in the Titan pickup.

That honkin’ motor was one of the biggest ever offered in a mid-size SUV, and it turned the Pathfinder into a short-lived towing brute when it went on sale for the 2008 model year. The Pathfinder V8 was rated to tow as much as 7,000 pounds, which it could do confidently thanks to its hefty 310 horsepower and 388 lb-ft of torque. A 5-speed automatic was the only gearbox on offer, though the V8 could be had with either rear-wheel drive (RWD) or full-time 4-wheel drive (4WD). At its 2008 debut, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rated it at just 12 miles per gallon in the city and 18 mpg on the highway. That’s almost Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen bad, though the Pathfinder was actually more powerful than the 2008 G500.

Nissan Pathfinder V8 

Nissan’s timing with its V8 Pathfinder was terrible, however. The SUV arrived just as the severity of the recession was beginning to take shape, and although sales were strong enough to make V8 Pathfinders relatively common on Autotrader, the engine was dropped after the 2012 model year. The Pathfinder that followed grew considerably and returned to unibody construction. The current Pathfinder can lug 6,000 pounds, but it does so with about 130 fewer lb-ft of torque.

If occasional towing is your thing, the Pathfinder V8 is an absolute bargain used. Clean examples hover in the $12,000 range on Autotrader. The V8 was only offered on the mid-level SE and the high-end LE trim levels, and predictably most sold were range-topping models. For the era, they are well-equipped with six airbags, heated and power-adjustable leather-trimmed seats, and Bluetooth was even an option. A 2008 Pathfinder with every option ticked cost about $42,000 back then, while the final 2012s were several grand more. Find a Nissan Pathfinder for sale

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Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz is an author specializing in helping in-market consumers get the most bang for their buck -- and the best car, while they're at it. When not virtually shopping for new and used cars, Andrew can probably be found under the hood of a vintage classic that's rapidly losing fluids.

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