quinta-feira, 28 de março de 2024

1990 Nissan Pathfinder: Rugged for real life

Ahead of its time: Looking back at the origins of Nissan’s instantly recognizable SUV

 Revealed in August 1986, the Nissan Pathfinder – called Terrano in the Japanese market – was developed with a bold goal in mind. As written in the original press release

Opens in a new tab, "vigorous efforts were made to create the characteristics of a passenger car in an off-road 4WD model."

Today, SUVs and crossovers dominate the new-car market. Yet nearly 38 years ago, Pathfinder's ambition to conquer both city streets and remote trails was a provocative demonstration of the brand's efforts to thrill and innovate.

Like the iconic Hardbody pickup truck and many other legendary Nissan modelsOpens in a new tab, the original Pathfinder was designed in California by Nissan Design International, Inc. (now known as Nissan Design America).Opens in a new tab.

In fact, the first Pathfinder shared many of its mechanical components with the Hardbody and its "D21" mechanical platform. The model pictured here has a 3.0-liter V6 engine and part-time four-wheel drive. Underneath the surface, double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension contributed to capable performance on almost any surface.

Original Pathfinder interior

Note two retro features: a cassette deck and a five-speed manual transmission.

A warm welcome

After its introduction to the U.S., the original Pathfinder quickly racked up positive reviews from the press and consumers alike, particularly for its off-road prowess; it was named "4x4 of the Year"Opens in a new tab by 4 Wheel & Off-Road Magazine and "Four Wheeler of the Year"Opens in a new tab by Four Wheeler Magazine in 1987.

Of course, the new model also impressed on the asphalt. The Opens in a new tabNovember 1986 issue of Car and Driver concluded, "The Pathfinder really does ride almost as smoothly and quietly as a normal passenger car on paved roads and seems to set a new standard for comfort and civility on unpaved ones," adding that, "Its interior is very carlike and exceptionally roomy both front and rear." In a time when most SUVs were more utilitarian, those were high compliments.

Timeless design

The shape of the first Pathfinder resonates strongly with car enthusiasts and designers alike, making well-preserved versions a hot commodity for collectors.

Hiren Patel, senior manager, Nissan exterior design, recalled spotting the original Pathfinder on the road when he was growing up: "All the cool kids had them, and over time I began to appreciate them for their design a lot more." Today, he has one of his own: a 1988 SE-V6 model with a four-speed automatic transmission.

"For me, the stance and balance of the first-generation Pathfinder are still great," he said. "The family SUV segment was just starting in the 1980s and many products were just a cap thrown onto a truck; they looked purely functional. Pathfinder was unique because it felt wholly integrated and offered an elevated design sensibility in its segment."

Unforgettable design elements include the angled side windows and unique wheel designs (also seen on Hardbody). Today's Pathfinder incorporates subtle references to design elements like the three slots above the original model's grille.

1993 Altima sketch
Altima One Profile

Several design cues from the original Pathfinder (left) are evident in the 2023 Pathfinder Rock Creek model (right).

Path found: a five-generation heritage

The Pathfinder remains a core part of the Nissan lineup, and it has evolved significantly over the past decades to incorporate the company's latest and greatest design, technology and convenience features.

The first-generation Pathfinder (1987-1995) was introduced in the two-door body style shown here, adding a four-door version for the 1990 model year. It was offered with a 2.4-liter inline-four engine or a 3.0-liter V6.

The second-generation modelOpens in a new tab (1996-2004) switched to more crossover-like unibody construction. It was a little lighter and more aerodynamic, with greater interior space and safety enhancements.

Offered from 2005-2012, the third-generation PathfinderOpens in a new tab debuted at the 2004 North American International Auto Show and went back to a more rugged, body-on-frame design. For the first time, Pathfinder had an available third row for seven-passenger capability. A 4.0-liter V6 was standard, with a 5.6-liter V8 – Pathfinder's first – introduced for the 2008 model year.

2005 Pathfinder with F-Alpha chassis

The new-for-2005 Pathfinder used a version of the tough "F-Alpha" chassis employed by the contemporary Armada.

The fourth-generation PathfinderOpens in a new tab (2013 – 2020) invoked a crossover-like unibody design and introduced an unprecedented level of premium style, comfort and thoughtful technology. For the 2017 model yearOpens in a new tab, Pathfinder was significantly refreshed with a new exterior look, additional available driver assistance features, more power and enhanced towing capacity.

Today's fifth-generation Nissan Pathfinder (2022-present) was revealed in 2021Opens in a new tab and once again elevated the SUV's appeal with a bold new design inspired by the original Pathfinder, additional premium technologies and even more comfort for passengers.

Notably for those looking to venture beyond the pavement – and a nod to the 4x4 capabilities of the original – the 2023 Pathfinder added a Rock Creek modelOpens in a new tab that helps owners take more adventurous journeys with a raised, off-road-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels with all-terrain tires and a tubular roof rack.

Original Pathfinder side profile

This 1990 Pathfinder was used in a 2022 Pathfinder commercialOpens in a new tab and donated to the Nissan Heritage Collection after filming.

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