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MSRP Range: $26,300 - $39,300
Fuel Economy: 15 MPG city / 22 MPG highway

Boost in power and technology complement fresh styling.

Never the shy one, the Nissan Pathfinder bounds into 2008 with freshened styling, a subtly but substantially revised cabin, and technology upgrades such as a backup camera and hard-drive music storage.

All of which pale in comparison to the real headliner: The Pathfinder gets its first V8 engine option for 2008, a 5.6-liter from the Titan full-size pickup with 310 horsepower and more torque than GM's 6-liter or Dodge and Jeep's Hemi.

The Pathfinder was winning SUV comparison evaluations long before SUV became a household word, and this heavily updated fourth-generation version merely puts it in a bigger, seven-seat house. Built like a truck and unstoppable by most reasonable endeavors (Baja, anyone?) the Pathfinder is a capable mid-size SUV for those who require a genuine truck, compete rather than watch, yet still want some degree of style and comfort during the week.

If your off-road driving consists of graded dirt roads, you desire all-wheel drive for bad weather, or tow something as light as personal watercraft, Nissan's Murano might be better. But if your path has tree stumps, rocks, ruts, mud or all of the above, your boat or RV weighs a couple of tons, or you like your Xterra but want more luxury, the Pathfinder may fit.

However, don't let the truck talk fool you. Thanks to independent rear suspension and large tires, the Pathfinder rides well and the rack-and-pinion steering works precisely and turns tighter than many mid-size sedans. Also, the Pathfinder doesn't require a climb to get into and will fit easily in garages and standard parking spaces.

The mid-size SUV market isn't as huge as it once was, but many of the contenders, such as the Chevy TrailBlazer, Dodge Durango, Mercedes ML-Class, Mitsubishi Montero, and Toyota 4Runner, can't offer the mechanical combinations, nor in some cases the aggressive styling, that the Pathfinder does.

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