Home » You Used To Be Able To Buy A Nissan Pathfinder With A 5.6-Liter V8

You Used To Be Able To Buy A Nissan Pathfinder With A 5.6-Liter V8

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How many times has an automaker gone from body-on-frame to unibody, then back to body-on-frame, then back to unibody? At least one, which is shocking on its own. However, not only did the Nissan Pathfinder revert from unibody to body-on-frame construction at one point in its life, that body-on-frame model could be had with a thumping-great V8 normally found under the hood of Nissan’s full-size pickup truck. Perhaps best of all, this rare bird is still reasonably priced on the second-hand market, making it an intriguing base for an overlanding rig.

Welcome back to Beige Cars You’re Sleeping On, a weekly series in which we raise the profile of some quiet greats. We’re talking vehicles that are secretly awesome, but go unsung because of either a boring image or the lack of an image altogether.

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While the unibody second-generation Nissan Pathfinder sold well enough on its own, Nissan wanted to get ambitious with the next model. For 2005, the Pathfinder returned to a body-on-frame platform in search of SUV dominance. The new F-Alpha platform shared with the Titan, second-generation Frontier, second-generation Xterra, and Infiniti QX56 enabled substantial component sharing and made the Pathfinder feel properly rugged once again, yet it still featured refinements like four-wheel independent suspension and a punchy four-liter VQ40DE V6.

2005 Canteen 04 Source

On first glance, the third-generation Pathfinder was a radical change from the second-generation model’s evolutionary styling. It adopted an even more upright silhouette with monolithic surfacing punctuated by gargantuan wheel arches. There’s a strong link to the Frontier pickup truck, just with a touch more refinement thanks to plastic bumper covers, and it was hard to mistake this machine for anything other than a truck-based SUV.

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P2006 51 2005 Pathfinder Source

Moving inside, the third-generation Pathfinder firmly made the jump to the 21st century with all the hallmarks of the noughties — silver trim, a proper screen setup on top models, flush-fit interior panels, and touches of rugged practicality. From dual gloveboxes to clever seat-side pockets for rear passengers to storage in the tailgate, Nissan really went to town revising its midsize SUV’s image. It clearly worked for Motor Trend, with the mag declaring the Pathfinder a serious contender.

While driving the new Pathfinder, we were impressed with the upgraded interior materials that are normally a Nissan weak point, as well as the overall tight fitment of interior panels and trim pieces. Road vibrations are down and the new 4.0L is a definite class-leader. Released mpg estimates seem a little high with city around 16 and highway at 23. Complete pricing is not currently available, but look for a well-equipped SE 4×4 to sell for $30-$32,000. Look out 4Runner, TrailBlazer, and Explorer, Nissan has done its homework and is ready to compete against the big guns.

These days, it’s unthinkable that a Nissan Pathfinder would usurp the Toyota 4Runner, but Motor Trend’s prediction was a sign of things to come. In a 2005 Car And Driver comparison test, the Pathfinder vanquished the Ford Explorer, Toyota 4Runner, Mitsubishi Montero, and Volkswagen Touareg, coming in second only to the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Needless to say, it garnered positive impressions, with Car And Driver writing:

This Nissan, complete with leather, sunroof, three rows of seats, and a darn good music player, checked in with the lowest as-tested price of the group, $34,160. The Pathfinder is a brash looker, all slab-sided and blunt in front. There’s a bluntness in the way it behaves, too. It’s straightforwardly trucky. It’s honest.

So, here was a deceptively good SUV with strong value and rugged good looks. Sounds like a slam-dunk, right? At the time, it was, but one basket doesn’t always win a game. See, Nissan wasn’t quite done cooking just yet.

Pathfinder 19 Source

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Things got really good in 2008 when Nissan started bowling with the bumpers down and shoved a V8 engine into its midsize sport-ute. Called the VK56DE, this 5.6-liter V8 cranked out 310 horsepower and 388 lb.-ft. of torque, competitive numbers by the standards of the Great Recession era. Hitched to a five-speed automatic transmission and harnessed by an available full-time four-wheel-drive system with low range, it could tow 7,000 pounds, haul five adults and two children, and do it all in relative luxury.

Pathfinder 12 Source

Yes, the Pathfinder V8 was available in LE trim, so it got a heated steering wheel, heated leather seats, a ten-speaker Bose stereo, automatic climate control, and even a backup camera. Not bad by the standards of the day. The crazy part? Aside from some subtle V8 badges, the V8 Pathfinder was outwardly indistinguishable from the V6 model. This sort of capability was made to whisper rather than shout.

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Thanks to being launched during an economic downturn and a period of high gas prices, along with a relatively short production run from 2008 through 2012, the Pathfinder V8 is somewhat elusive on the second-hand market. Despite this, pricing is downright reasonable compared to what a good V8 Toyota 4Runner will run you. Here’s a 2008 Pathfinder V8 LE up for sale in Houston for $7,295, and while it may have 165,109 miles on the clock, these are fairly tough rigs so it should have plenty of life left in it.

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Perhaps blue isn’t your color. No worries, here’s a 2008 Pathfinder V8 SE up for sale in Wichita for $9,999. That might be significantly more money than the blue LE in Houston, but this red example has 143,621 miles on the clock, more than 22,000 fewer than the blue one.

Pathfinder 6 Source

By now, you might be wondering what the catch is to this secretly awesome V8 SUV. Well, there is one, commonly known in the Nissan community as the Strawberry Milkshake of Death. Basically, defective radiators on Frontiers, Xterras, and Pathfinders would mix coolant with automatic transmission fluid, resulting in seriously expensive repair bills. The same combined heat exchanger was used on V6 and V8 models, but there are two ways to avoid this potential headache — periodically replace the radiator as a maintenance item, or run a separate automatic transmission cooler and never worry about it again.

Pathfinder9 Source

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Beyond that, the VK56DE is a tank of a V8, the five-speed automatic transmission holds up well so long as regular maintenance is performed, and the only real enemy of the V8 Pathfinder is rust. If you want a badass V8 overlanding rig and don’t want to pay the Toyota tax, it might be worth putting this interesting Nissan on your shortlist.

(Photo credits: Nissan, Autotrader sellers)

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TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
13 days ago

the craziest part to me is the 2005 Grand Cherokee winning anything from Car and Driver

Alec Harvey
Alec Harvey
13 days ago

Would have loved to have the V8 option here in Australia, The VK56 is a sweet sounding engine. I have a 4.0 Pathfinder.

Fruit Snack
Fruit Snack
14 days ago

A high mileage 2000s Nissan is a terrible recommendation. You can’t pretend that parts are cheap for these.

Crimedog
Crimedog
13 days ago
Reply to  Fruit Snack

I don’t see the parts as any more expensive as anything else. Was that the reason you say it is a terrible recommendation? Or, are those separate statements?

BurntClutches
BurntClutches
6 days ago
Reply to  Fruit Snack

I have a 2012 Titan, which is largely the same truck as the ’04 edition. Parts relatively cheap and Nissan shared a ton of parts among different models, meaning that availability is generally good.

Jmfecon
Jmfecon
15 days ago

Had the 4.0. Great car, it was an excellent for almost everything. Really miss it. Confortable to drive, to haul things and family, As bonus, it was excellent to sleep in because the rear seats and 3rd row folds in a flat surface, just find something relatively soft and you have a very good bed.

Goblin
Goblin
15 days ago

So is it a 5.6 liter, or the 4.0l Motor Trend mentions ?

Alec Harvey
Alec Harvey
14 days ago
Reply to  Goblin

4.0 is the V6. the V8 is 5.6l

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
15 days ago

> run a separate automatic transmission cooler

How does one achieve this? (I’ve got some guesses but I’ll spare myself the embarrassment of writing them down.) Right off the bat I have to ask, is it another radiator and if so where the hell does it go? If not, are we talking about burly aluminum fins, a la a diff? Something else?

Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
15 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Your first instinct is correct.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgH4JaI8YmM

or re-routing things, as in certain Pathfinders:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oy-YUu5MH9U

Last edited 15 days ago by Dead Elvis, Inc.
Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
15 days ago

I’ve been in the market for a tow pig for a recently bought travel trailer. My required towing put me between entry full size SUV and V8 midsized. This was on the list but they are hard to find. I find them ruggedly handsome and a 5.6 in a mid size is damn decent.
I was also considering Dodge Durango/ Chrysler Aspen and Jeep Commander V8. I ended up buying a Kia Borrego V8. A rare bird indeed.

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
15 days ago
Reply to  Ariel E Jones

I ended up buying a Kia Borrego V8.

Holy shit. Oh you know, the Pathfinder and Mopar SUVs were so hard to find so I bought a single model year Kia instad!

How do you like it, and how is the Tau V8 holding up? I’ve always really liked the Borrego and I think Kia seriously missed their chance bringing it back as a 4Runner rival considering it’s still being sold in South Korea after a couple facelifts as the Mohave.

Last edited 15 days ago by Alexander Moore
Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
15 days ago

I literally bought it Thursday, so for durability, time will tell. We won’t drive it much at all, so that’s a plus. I really am surprised by the fit and finish though. I think I just expected a 2000s Kia to be much, uhh, shittier. But it’s not, it feels tight. It definitely doesn’t try to hide it’s truck underpinning. So, yeah, it rides and handles like a truck. That V8 is a selling point though. It definitely has some grunt.

TheDrunkenWrench
TheDrunkenWrench
15 days ago
Reply to  Ariel E Jones

I came very close to buying a V8 Borrego for a family rig. Parts availability made me shy away.
The V8 pathfinder I’ve also been shopping, as parts are available and it absolutely suits my usage needs.

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
15 days ago

I would’ve been happy to find Pathfinder V8. I even considered the 4Runner V8, but there was that Toyota tax. This was a vehicle I was trying to find on the cheap. You do bring up a good point. I didn’t consider the vehicles rarity affecting parts availability and cost. The day before, I wasn’t considering a Borrego, and then I thought of it and there happened to be one close by, in the right spec, for the right price. So I jumped. I had gotten tired of looking for two months and having anything good get bought before I could get there.

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
14 days ago
Reply to  Ariel E Jones

I doubt the parts are going to be that tricky considering the model is still in production in South Korea and that V8 was used in lots of Genesis and Equus models, but I will be interested in your ownership experience going forward!

Cranberry
Cranberry
13 days ago
Reply to  Ariel E Jones

I was looking for a Borrego for a while and settled on a newer 4Runner instead. I hold the Borrego as the pinnacle of Kia engineering and midsize three-row BOF SUV’s.

The engineering generally seems solid and it missed the engine troubles, fires, anti-theft cost-cutting that started a couple years later and continued until recently – maybe even continuing at a lower level.

It was the most modern BOF design in the segment too with crossover-style fold-flat seating when competitors needed to flip up the second row seat bottoms.

Independent-rear suspension made for a flat load floor like this Pathfinder without needing to pull a Toyota and slap the third row on top. of course Toyota retains a solid rear axle for other reasons.

I was torn between the Lambda II V6 + Nissan-y 5 speed and Tau V8 + ZF 6 speed as fuel economy was reportedly similar.

Ultimately lack of examples that interested me combined with not many 4WD Pathfinders of this era being around meant 4Runner was the easier choice.

Auto 4WD was a plus too but it’s a clutch system I believe. I’m sad Toyota kept it to Limited trim in the 5th gen since I don’t fit in it.

Fun fact: More 2009 Borregos were sold than 2009 4Runners.

Last edited 13 days ago by Cranberry
Mborodc
Mborodc
15 days ago

Nissan had trouble with several suppliers in that era. Besides the radiator, there was the leaking power steering hoses, the self destructing power window regulators, the leaking rear axle seals as well as the exhaust manifolds. The manifolds are 6 hours of labor per side and are $1300 per side in parts. They also mounted the starter motor in the v of the engine underneath the intake manifold. Incredible power in the engine though.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
14 days ago
Reply to  Mborodc

$1300 per side just in parts? Did they make the manifolds from silver and the gaskets from gold?

Edward
Edward
13 days ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Apparently the V8 Pathfinder uses manifolds with built in catalysts. However, Rock Auto carries the better quality CARB certified replacement manifold/catalysts for $604 right side, $664 left side. So you’re not chained to dealer parts in this case. Cheap crap EPA manifold/converters are $312 per side, right or left.

NebraskaStig
NebraskaStig
15 days ago

This is the first ‘beige car’ feature that I completely forgot about! Kudos

Steve_the_Nomad
Steve_the_Nomad
15 days ago

Had ’08 and ’11 Pathfinders, identical in spec (white w/ beige interiors, 4×4 Silver Editions). Pretty solid the boxy shape provided good passenger and cargo room. Had the radiator issue (resolved) and had to put in adjustable camber bolts myself. Also some rust and paint issues although it was a So Cal car. Biggest thing related to this article however is that we consistently got 12-13 MPG with the V6 in our somewhat hilly area; I can’t imagine what the V8 would have returned.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
15 days ago

What’s the difference between beige cars you’re sleeping on and a holy grail?

Also, too bad they never made a Frontier V8. It would’ve been a good competitor to the Colorado SS.

NebraskaStig
NebraskaStig
15 days ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

There not ‘rare’ they just exist in the ether. This one I completely forgot about until this post as I thought only the 4Runner had a V8 option for mid-sized BoF SUVs in the aughts.

V10omous
V10omous
15 days ago
Reply to  NebraskaStig

There were others:

Explorer
Trailblazer family
Kia Borrego

NebraskaStig
NebraskaStig
15 days ago
Reply to  V10omous

Kia Borrego is a good one, but my thought was leaning towards JDM manufacturing. Usdm is a low bar for expecting V8 rumble.

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
15 days ago
Reply to  NebraskaStig

I literally bought a Kia Borrego EX V8 last night. I’ve never driven a Kia or Hyundai before this. It’s a one owner with 137kmi. I was pleasantly surprised at how well screwed together it feels. Really tight, no rattles. The V8 feels strong. For 2009 standards its pretty loaded out and for $6600 its a lot of truck and capability. Not too shabby.

Last edited 15 days ago by Ariel E Jones
Bassracerx
Bassracerx
15 days ago
Reply to  NebraskaStig

to be fair the explorer and aviator also had a v8. you could also get a v8 in the GMC envoy.

MP
MP
12 days ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

While Nissan never made it from the factory, because the Pathfinder is the same platform, and it shares a lot of the basic architecture as the Titan/Armada, the V8 swapped Frontier market is surprisingly decent. For the period of time that I owned a 2015 Frontier, I was very seriously considering swapping mine instead of replacing it with a full size truck for towing reasons. Had covid not sent used truck prices skyrocketing, I probably wouldn’t have sold the Frontier and likely would have been well on my way to a V8 swap by now.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
15 days ago

As cool as these are, the engine bay is not a fun place to work as the engine is wedged in there pretty tight.

Random Shots
Random Shots
15 days ago

Ah the infamous strawberry milkshake. You know which other SUV is known for that? The legendary reliable 3rd gen 4runner. Like it is said in the article, tackle it proactively and it should be fine.

On the other hand, I have read that the Nissan 5.6 engines have a reputation for catalytic convertor contamination working their way back into the cylinder heads and leading to catastrophic failure. Do not know how prevalent it is or if the internet making a mountain out of a mole hill.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
15 days ago
Reply to  Random Shots

I appreciate your comment. The legend of Toyota reliability has, to a degree, outlasted itself and taken on a life of its own.

Unfortunately, I can’t speak as to how widespread it is, but I do know that catalytic converter debris consumption is a known thing with the otherwise dandy Nissan QR25DE as well. Not sure if it’s Nissan’s cat supplier or something funky with their emissions system or what. I’d imagine if you keep up/proactive on maintenance, it shouldn’t be a big problem.

Sensual Bugling Elk
Sensual Bugling Elk
15 days ago

The QR25DE had exhaust gas recirculation that worked by leaving the exhaust valves open during the intake stroke, which would suck exhaust gas back from the manifold into the cylinder. That vacuum pressure would dislodge chunks of catalyst from the inside of the catalytic converter, and sucking bits of catalyst into a cylinder is a great way to destroy the piston and/or the head.

The QR25DE in my Altima is a revised design that, according to the internet, doesn’t have the same issue. But the combined manifold/catalytic converter weldment is seemlingly made of toothpicks and marshmallows. I had to replace the whole thing when the catalytic converter literally split open as if it was the Hogwarts’ Sorting Hat about to launch into song.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
15 days ago

Boy howdy. My SE-R Spec-V wrecked two cats and was trying to eat a third by the time I pulled it apart as a learning exercise, then sold it to LKQ once I admitted I was never going to try to resuscitate it. Piston rings were also apparently an issue on the QR25DE (ha! my autocomplete knows that string), but I never dug that deep into the engine. Once I started getting into things that advised “engine out” I quailed and it sat there for years.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
15 days ago
Reply to  Random Shots

It’s a big problem with all 5.6 V8 powered Nissan/Infiniti trucks/SUVS (at least until 2015/16).

Every… damn… one… has the exhaust manifolds crack which introduces the smallest bit of outside air which the O2 sensor reads as the engine running a little bit leaner (which is false) so it adds more fuel. Not enough to usually cause a check engine light, but you can hear it.

Doesn’t sound like too big a deal, right? Welp, what happens is that the cost to replace the manifolds is north of $2k, maybe north of $3k now. So owners think, why not just keep driving it and not give a shit? Which most do, and they get away with it (thankfully I did before I sold)

What can happen, in somewhat less likely circumstances, is that enough carbon builds up from the extra fuel being fed from the false O2 sensor readings… eventually some chunk of that carbon build up in the catalytic converter and can get sucked back IN the engine through the exhaust valves… causing expensive internal engine damage or it can just kill the motor completely.

Why do the manifolds crack/fail this badly? They aren’t cast iron or cast steel manifolds like all other truck engines… they are sheetmetal manifolds, which isn’t up to the job. But what makes it SO MUCH WORSE (and really compounds the issue of cost) is that the shitty sheetmetal manifolds are welded to the catalytics converters… so if you replace the manifolds… you have to replace the cats too… which is pricey. Not to mention the labor time on this repair adds a lot more cost to. Oh.. and if your vehicle is located in a CARB state, you now have to get CARB approved replacment cats that are connected to the manifolds.

Even the updated Nissan manifold design is sub-par and still cracks.

TL:DR don’t bother buying something with this motor.

Here is the car wizard video describing some poor guy getting in to financial trouble with this issue:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_Y6P_6LFMo

B3n
B3n
15 days ago

Way overblown as usual when it comes to Nissan problems.
The cracks can be welded up in most cases, they all tend to crack at the same place. It’s also more of a problem with the earlier years.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
15 days ago
Reply to  B3n

Idk man, “you could possibly weld this nominally engine-lifetime part back together” isn’t a convincing argument against Nissan build quality or reliability issues being overblown.

Factor in the fact that there were a great many cat issues, including some I personally experienced, and it doesn’t seem overblown to me, just a reality check.

It’s a pretty common theme in Beige Cars You’ve Been Sleeping On; the paper specs are sound, even great, there’s a little nod to what to look out for, and then the comments bring the scorching hellfire of reality down on why nobody should get into a $7,700 Pathfinder if they aren’t damn sure what they’re getting into.

B3n
B3n
15 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

I think it’s important to accept and understand that there is no perfect vehicle.
Just off the top of my head, lots of LS V8s have issues with manifolds cracking and the manifold studs breaking in the heads.
Even Toyota’s 2UZFE which I think is one of their greatest engine, has manifold cracking issues. My 02 sequoia had that.
I consider these things normal maintenance.
Body on frame V8s and V6s are more vulnerable because water can splash from the wheel wells onto the scorching hot manifold. After many such cold-heat cycles they just crack.

Edward
Edward
13 days ago

CARB legal manifold/cats are about $600 for one side and $650 for the other side from rock auto, I just checks.

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