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2005 Xterra vs 2012 Pathfinder - Comparison+Contrast

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 2:30 pm    Post subject: 2005 Xterra vs 2012 Pathfinder - Comparison+Contrast Reply with quote

The 2005-2015 Xterra and the 2005-2012 Pathfinder are on paper very similar vehicles and are from roughly same timeframe.

They are both Nissan SUVs built on the F Platform, featuring a VQ40 engine mated to the RE5R05A 5 speed automatic transmission.
They feature the same steering wheels , they share much of the dash, 100% of the front suspension, they have the same transfer case and share seat designs.

The Xterra has often been called the "SUV version" of the frontier but the same moniker would also be apt for the R51 Pathfinder.

..... now that I own both vehicles however I find that they not only fill different niches in marketing but actually feel and act very different when being used in real life.

The soft off-road suspension of the Xterra contrasts sharply with the Pathfinder Highway friendly set up and this is the primary source of the difference.

Some salient points on the Xterra as it compared to a R51 Pathfinder:

- super tight turn radius due to shorter wheelbase
- soft suspension makes for great off road performance but also for low payload.... when I fill the Xterra with 4 grown men (800 lbs) I am only 81 lbs short of max payload for this trim (4x4, auto, OffRoad) .. And the vehicle definitely feels weak in the knees over bumps from the load etc . Even tho I have brand new rear leafs (which are generally perceived to be the primary culprit in this on this board) the phenomenon persists even after the new parts.
This tells me its a design choice and not a issue of worn out springs.
- The Xterra is short.. one of the shortest body on frame SUVs on the market, period. This makes it very nimble in in town traffic, parking garages and also lets it shine on tight trails.
I've taken my XTerra on some ATV type trails and it worked great... impossible with say a Tahoe or a Raptor and I would not want my Pathy on those trails either...
-XTerras in general and this OffRoad trim (also called PRO4X in later model years) in particular enjoy solid ground clearance of 9 and a half (ish) inches.
This is especially good when considering how short and relatively narrow the vehicle is, making the ground clearance even more effective as less chance of "hanging up" due to breakover angle being reached. A 9.5 inch ground clearance is MUCH more effective on a 90 inch wheelbase than a 110 inch one (to use classic Land Rovers as an example) The approach and departure angles are also very good.
- Due to its short wheelbase and soft suspension the XTerra is not a real good highspeed hiway cruiser... Fast sweepers start feeling very touchy as you approach 80mph.. expansion joints barely felt in other SUVs definitely impact the truck at speed.
- The truck dives quite a bit under braking .... slowing vehicle reaction... It does have VBD so brakes are clearly much more effective than SUVs of yore, however
- The Xterra features the easy to read and intuitive dash and controls so typical of Nissan vehicles.


- The Pathfinder is not a real large and heavy SUV by todays standards but it does feel quite a bit larger than an Xterra when parking or driving for that matter.
- It has the same 4.0L but this one is tuned for premium gas .. Even though the Pathy is 400 lbs heavier than the Xterra and the numbers are almost the same this engine pulls as hard as some V8s and the Pathy seems to rush ahead like a unstoppable locomotive.
- The Pathfinder feels bigger and heavier and more unstoppable for that reason.. while I rather have the XTerra for driving on tight trails (or jumping curbs) with the Pathy I feel like i could in an emergency push lesser vehicles out of the way with my bumper...
- The Hiway behavior of the Pathfinder is soooo much better than the Xterra. Its amazing given they share so many parts... The on road optimized suspension really shows... Also my Pathfinder has typical road type light truck tires vs my Xterra has more terrain oriented tires (tho not true ATs)
- 4 grown men in the Pathfinder ... you cant even feel it.. Even though nominally the payload is only 270 lbs more (in my "Silver Edition" ) than a OffRoad Xterra seat of the pants it feels like the difference in payload is much larger as the vehicles behaves no different than w/ one guy in it.
- The behavior at hiway speeds is great as is the sharpness of the turn-in in curves.. I've driven cars that felt less precise... Just amazing for a body-on-frame SUV on an elderly platform

In summary despite sharing so many components they have very different feel to them.
When I know I am going Off road, or doing an emergency Bug out during SHTF, I am taking the Xterra, when I have a long hiway drive its the Pathy, in daily driving I switch them up.
"Rifle first, Rifle last, Rifle always"

2012 V6 4WD, in Grey over Grey
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 3:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

..........thanks for the comparison
when I bought my R51 (in 2005), I had a heck of a time deciding between it and the Xterra
the deciding factor was the interior size of the Pathy
cargo area is important (I never use row 2 or 3, haven't seen those seats in many. many years!)
i felt cramped in the Xterra - just not enough space, front or rear
the prior truck was a 1985 Toyota Landcruiser [oodles of interior space, great off-road capability & traction, terrible paved mountain road manners (had to pick it up & carry it around a corner - not so with the R51)]
it was that same old decision, was the additional off-road capability of the Xterra worth the trade-off in size and road manners?
in my case, no, and I've never regretted the decision, to the point of buying a 2nd R51 for the wife in 2006
she went and test drove a whole bunch of SUVs, and concluded that none of them were as nice & suitable as the R51
& 05 SE

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A very nice write-up on both vehicles!

I too was torn between the 2 when buying my first Nissan truck in 2011 as well. I ultimately choose the Pathy, just because of its larger size.

Since then, I've added a few things and now have a capable off-road rig.
The Pathy has turned out to be a very good platform to build on.
I've seen some sick Xterras out there too!

The good thing is (at least from an off-road perspective) the years roll on and more people are getting their Nissans dirty, we are seeing more companies offer more products. We will never come close to the Jeepers and what they have available to them in the afterlife...err I mean aftermarket.
But hey, that's what customization is all about...make it your own! Twisted Evil
2011 Pathfinder LE V6 - 4X4
Bilstein Front Adjustable Shocks w/HD OME Springs, PRG Long Travel UCA's, PRG Radflo 2.0 Rear Emulsion Shocks w/HD OME Rear Springs, 3" Body Lift, Custom Rear Bumper w/Tire Carrier, K&N Intake, Skid Row & Asfir Skid Plates, Airlift 1000, SS Brake Lines, Northstar AGM Battery, 17x9 KMC Wheels, 35" Tires, Lokka Front Locker, ARB Rear Air Locker, Aluminum Winch Bumper w/ ENGO Winch, Diff Breathers & EBC Yellowstuff Brake Pads, Line-X Paint
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2017 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We have a 2007 Pathfinder and a 2011 Xterra. Definitely different vehicles. Still haven't been able to sneak the Xterra off road because she won't let me, which is a shame. When we were test driving the Xterras, I made the mistake of driving one with a manual transmission. It took a lot of willpower not to trade in the Pathfinder for it on the spot-the V6 mated to the manual offers a ton of power in the X, and I still prefer manuals for the control.

I always forget that I have 3 rows of seats. I've seen the 3rd row maybe 3 times since new. I certainly appreciate the cargo room in the Pathfinder though. May favorite was being able to put a full bath tub, in a protective wooden crate, into the back.

Still pissed at Nissan for getting rid of both vehicles. Surely even they can see the market could use another true off-road SUV since there are now only a couple of them left.
2007 Pathfinder SE-OR, OME, Supersliders
2011 Xterra PRO-4X (the girl's car)
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2017 8:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The difference in ride has a lot to do with the different rear suspensions of these two vehicles: the straight axle/leaf springs of the Xterra versus the independent/coil spring rear suspension of the Pathfinder. Pluses for the Pathfinder include availability of the AUTO-mode transfer case (in LE models), more space and third row seating as well as the availability of the V8. Pluses for the Xterra include availability of a manual transmission, more compact size and the leaf spring rear axle doesn't have the rear alignment issue concerns (like the R51) when doing suspension lifts.
2006 Pathfinder LE VQ40DE AWD, aftermarket radiator, Airlift 1000's, Bilstein HD rear shocks, Doug Thorley shortie headers and mid-pipes, Magnaflow 12580 muffler, aFe Momentum GT CAI w/ dry filter, XTP plenum spacer, Superchips Flashpaq tuner
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 5:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I drove a loaded X at my local Nissan dealer last year my father was interested in it I liked it it was quite nimble and easy to park! .. Lol.. It was not enough to make me pick it over my 2012 Pathy. My father loved it but we talked him into getting nothing at his age and driving ability we are all safer on the road!
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