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Old 01-14-2015, 12:13 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Xterra vs. Pathfinder?

I am looking to replace my 1995 Suzuki Sidekick 1.6L, 4x4, 4 door, with either a Nissan Xterra or a Pathfinder V6. I have been searching online for each that would serve my purpose. I do lots off roading all four seasons and am looking for a good vehicle for back country Montana, BC,AK and NW USA roads. A 4x4 is a must along with good tires and gear for which I have lots of getting unstuck equipment. My question what does this knowledgeable forum prefer and what can any and offer in information that might help my decision. I prefer an automatic with manual hubs but am open to standard and auto hubs. MTG
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Old 01-14-2015, 04:53 PM   #2 (permalink)
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It really depends on what year and price range you are working with.

Xterras 2001-2004 are considered "1st generation". Weak but reliable V6, auto hubs (except for one special edition), body-on-frame, fairly robust drive train. Good aftermarket support as it shares a lot of parts with 98-04 Frontiers and drive line parts with Nissans dating back to 1986.5.

Xterras 2005+ are 2nd generation. Powerful V6, no hubs, just as thirsty as the old ones. Front driveline is weak. Decent aftermarket support right now.

Pathfinder 1996-2004 is unit-body construction with old-school driveline. No hubs, but you can add them if you want to (stock is drive flanges). 96-00 has same V6 as Xterra, 00.5-04 is 3.5L V6 which is much better on power. Rest of drivetrain is solid. Four-link rear so it rides nicer. Hard to get aftermarket parts like bumpers and etc, some driveline aftermarket cross over with early Xterra and Frontier.

Pathfinder 2005-2012 is back to body-on-frame but fully independent suspension front and rear. Can be had with the V8 for a few years, which has a stronger front axle (V6 has same issues as Xterra 2005+). No real off-road aftermarket for this other than a few bits you can use from same generation Xterra/Frontier.

For sheer ruggedness it would have to be the 1st gen Xterra for me. The 00.5-04 Pathfinder comes in a close second.
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Old 01-15-2015, 11:29 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Chris you forgot the first gen 88-95 Pathfinders....

Body on frame, anemic but reliable 3.0 motor - 1991+ models have a little more HP. 5 link rear.

On all 88-95 Pathfinders and 00-04 Xterras, steering is the weakest link, but aftermarket kits are available, as well as many homegrown solutions to address that.
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Old 01-15-2015, 12:35 PM   #4 (permalink)
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First gen Pathfinders have a notoriously weak automatic trans and they are a major pain to swap and expensive to rebuild. I would definitely find a manual if you go that route. First gen Pathfinder and Xterra have the torsion bars on the bottom so they are in the way a lot and the adjusters are vulnerable for rock damage and like to seize and strip for no logical reason. There are a few companies that make skids so as long as you are willing to do that (or stay out of the rocks) then just keep spare adjuster bolts around just in case. The aforementioned steering upgrades are good advice also.

It all depends on what you really use it for. If it's just backroads and camping that's one thing. If it's rockcrawling and hard trails that's another. If you're doing hard stuff and beating on it I would say first gen X. If you're just doing back roads and stuff get something newer and comfortable, like a newer X or Pathfinder. The weak front diff can be swapped with a Titan one. Budget would be a nice bit of info too...

BTW all of this stuff will probably get half the fuel mileage of your Sidekick if you're lucky.
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Old 01-15-2015, 02:01 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Question 1st gen X...

I do not go out of my way to rock crawl, but some of the areas that I access in NW MT and the NW USA are difficult country. I do mostly back roads and trails, but need something reliable and strong. I will build my own sliders, rock pans all over, install aftermarket steering upgrade for safety and conyrol. I guess my decision will be 1st gen X. Will the 1st gen Pathfinder and/or Xterra maintain 65 mph highway without too much struggle? Not all that concerned about MPG. Just need a good reliable off road rig to replace my '95 Sidekick. BTW, if my Sidekick had a 3.0L or larger engine I would keep it. But, not so. I will sell it locally this coming May.Thanks all for the valuable input. MTG
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Old 01-15-2015, 02:21 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Yeah they'll easily do highway speed especially if you stay with 31-33" tires.
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Old 01-15-2015, 04:33 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Thank you for info...

I will be looking for an Xterra this spring. Need time to outfit my rig long before hunting season. MTG
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Old 01-15-2015, 04:46 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I had a 00 xterra 5 speed on 33's and it went anywhere i wanted. Only had calmini shackle lift. Freeway was sluggish with 33s and around town it got like 12/13mpg. An auto would be worse
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Old 01-16-2015, 08:36 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I had an 88 pathfinder and I loved it. had the h233b rear axle, 4 wheel disk brakes. motor wasn't over powered or anything

with 31s a mild lift and some bouncing off road (nothing hard at all) the tie rods bent. then when the starter went out it it was a huge PITA to reach and fix. the only way I'd get another one is to have a solid axle swap on it. but I love the looks of these things.

I think you can't go wrong with the xterra with a mild lift. weak point is idler arm and carry spare tie rod ends and front CV shafts.
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Old 01-18-2015, 06:34 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Chris you forgot the first gen 88-95 Pathfinders....

Body on frame, anemic but reliable 3.0 motor - 1991+ models have a little more HP. 5 link rear.

On all 88-95 Pathfinders and 00-04 Xterras, steering is the weakest link, but aftermarket kits are available, as well as many homegrown solutions to address that.
I excluded mentioning the 87-95 Pathfinder on purpose because I figured he wanted something newer than his '95 Sidekick. The old Pathfinders are fairly bullet proof but the engines are terribly weak and thirsty. For the money I would just do a 1st gen Xterra, gaining some power, a little more creature comfort, the stronger double-wishbone front suspension, and it keeps the durability of the older Pathfinder which was really its predecessor. The 1st Gen Pathy had a lot of rust issues in the floor pan and frame and up where he is that will probably be an issue.
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Old 01-19-2015, 03:33 PM   #11 (permalink)
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It really depends on were you live. Xterra to 2004 is really the improved leaf sprung pathfinder with solid drive train. The pathfinder became a piece of shit after 95 except for engine and rear axle. But of course if you live in the Bad Lands of Indiana or up North the pre 96 pathfinder was pretty solid but the frame is by now all salvage. There were certain vehicles that had a serious problem and escaped a recall somehow. So pick the Xterra for several reasons. Just certain things I know.



No matter how good a truck maybe a rusty frame can take it out and If you can't get to it to fix it than you may just junk it!

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Old 01-20-2015, 11:33 AM   #12 (permalink)
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First gen Pathfinder and Xterra have the torsion bars on the bottom so they are in the way a lot and the adjusters are vulnerable for rock damage and like to seize and strip for no logical reason.
I've been around a lot of Nissans and I've NEVER seen a torsion bar anchor strip out that wasn't caused by incorrect installation. I've seen it happen on several where whoever put the Tbars in didn't seat them all the way into the splines.

D22 trucks have roughly the same torsion bar setup.

Adjustors are also tucked into the crossmember if indexed properly and are not that vulnerable to damage.

I'll speculate that your experiences here are due to back yard bubba wrenching more so than the vehicle design.
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Old 01-20-2015, 01:03 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Old Pathfinders have the longest torsion bars of all to allow more possible torsional twist, in my book a good thing. The Xterra and 4x4 Frontiers on the other hand have much shorter stiffer bars with more vehicle weight. Longer springs / bars provide more torsional travel and can reduce stress on torch and anchor arms.

This was part of the down grade to re pivot the lower arm. One thing better & one thing worse. On the other hand old Nissan torsions made of quality spring steel are pretty durable helping to protect other components and stabilize the front chassis and lower arm bushings.

I would say the front torch arm is probably the weakest link on most models. I thought of using pathfinder bars using a secondary cross member if the splines are the same. Just a Idea for a better ride. I shall send the idea to Myth Busters and let them figure it out. But I think he is right about the pathfinder being a bitch to work on due to the bars in the way and all that shit crammed in there is what he's talking about. I like the fact that the Exterras are leaf sprung with lengthy spring packs over the coil bucket pathfinder shit that adds rear frame stress but rides nice.

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Old 01-20-2015, 01:39 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I've been around a lot of Nissans and I've NEVER seen a torsion bar anchor strip out that wasn't caused by incorrect installation. I've seen it happen on several where whoever put the Tbars in didn't seat them all the way into the splines.

D22 trucks have roughly the same torsion bar setup.

Adjustors are also tucked into the crossmember if indexed properly and are not that vulnerable to damage.

I'll speculate that your experiences here are due to back yard bubba wrenching more so than the vehicle design.
I may have used the wrong term. I meant the bolt not the anchor. Seen bone stock trucks have them seized and strip first time pulling them down. Maybe you just have good luck with them. All I know is at the time when I went to Nissan for replacements they said they always sell out of them because of that.
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Old 01-20-2015, 01:55 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I may have used the wrong term. I meant the bolt not the anchor. Seen bone stock trucks have them seized and strip first time pulling them down. Maybe you just have good luck with them. All I know is at the time when I went to Nissan for replacements they said they always sell out of them because of that.
It's probably due to the dumb ass mechanics at the alignment shops just sticking a impack gun on both nuts not realizing that one is to tighten and the other is a snug up bolt and the suspension is to be unloaded at the time of torch. Basically they don't give a shit because there in a crack hurry! But also in cold icy states, early Nissans are the king of rust buckets.


General rule of thumb is to never take a Nissan to a alignment shop like Tuffy or Midas or is it really just Wendy's or McDonalds! Those damn guys really know how to strip out a Nissan already done by the time you got it!

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Old 01-21-2015, 06:10 AM   #16 (permalink)
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General rule of thumb is to never take a Nissan to a alignment shop like Tuffy or Midas or is it really just Wendy's or McDonalds! Those damn guys really know how to strip out a Nissan already done by the time you got it!
Most of them also don't actually have a clue how to align a vehicle in the first place. Took mine to two shops, finally got a printout, then was able to adjust on my own to get it right.
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Old 01-21-2015, 06:41 AM   #17 (permalink)
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I've been around a lot of Nissans and I've NEVER seen a torsion bar anchor strip out that wasn't caused by incorrect installation. I've seen it happen on several where whoever put the Tbars in didn't seat them all the way into the splines.

D22 trucks have roughly the same torsion bar setup.

Adjustors are also tucked into the crossmember if indexed properly and are not that vulnerable to damage.

I'll speculate that your experiences here are due to back yard bubba wrenching more so than the vehicle design.
X2 Nissan sells a lot of adjuster bolts because idiots think they can just put a wrench on the 1st nut without loosening the jam nut and go to town with the impact. Those threads are then stripped and you then have a useless bolt and 2 nuts.
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Old 01-21-2015, 12:40 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Old Pathfinders have the longest torsion bars of all to allow more possible torsional twist, in my book a good thing. The Xterra and 4x4 Frontiers on the other hand have much shorter stiffer bars with more vehicle weight. Longer springs / bars provide more torsional travel and can reduce stress on torch and anchor arms.

This was part of the down grade to re pivot the lower arm. One thing better & one thing worse. On the other hand old Nissan torsions made of quality spring steel are pretty durable helping to protect other components and stabilize the front chassis and lower arm bushings.

I would say the front torch arm is probably the weakest link on most models. I thought of using pathfinder bars using a secondary cross member if the splines are the same. Just a Idea for a better ride. I shall send the idea to Myth Busters and let them figure it out. But I think he is right about the pathfinder being a bitch to work on due to the bars in the way and all that shit crammed in there is what he's talking about. I like the fact that the Exterras are leaf sprung with lengthy spring packs over the coil bucket pathfinder shit that adds rear frame stress but rides nice.
HUH?

Bumpstops...upper and lower are what limit all suspension travel. Lenth of the torsion bar has NOTHING to do with flex. I don't have the specs on the Tbar length, but I bet the WD21 an WD22 bars are within an inch or two in overall length.

Like I said, the anchors arent the weak link. Bubba Mechanics are the weak link.
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Old 01-22-2015, 03:16 PM   #19 (permalink)
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HUH?

Bumpstops...upper and lower are what limit all suspension travel. Lenth of the torsion bar has NOTHING to do with flex. I don't have the specs on the Tbar length, but I bet the WD21 an WD22 bars are within an inch or two in overall length.

Like I said, the anchors arent the weak link. Bubba Mechanics are the weak link.
So your saying a 27mm 10" long torsion bar will have the same degree of torsional twist as a 48" bar @27mm thick? Yes, bumps are to prevent maxing out the ball joint angles, shocks and possibly even the torsions.

95 Pathfinder bars are 48" long while Xterra bars are shortened to 34" do to the redesigned lower control arms from the 4x4 Hardbody. Hardbody bars are 47" long. Nissan did not want to redesign everything so they cheeped out by cutting off the bars on the later models.

Last edited by 2WD Hardbody; 01-23-2015 at 08:37 AM.
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Old 01-24-2015, 06:23 AM   #20 (permalink)
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do to the redesigned lower control arms from the 4x4 Hardbody. Hardbody bars are 47" long. Nissan did not want to redesign everything so they cheeped out by cutting off the bars on the later models.
What?

Hardbody (d21) and Pathfinder (wd21) share the same front suspension.

The Xterra and Frontier are a newer design that is 100% different.
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Old 01-24-2015, 10:04 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Pathy and Hardbody are the same. That's what I said. Tbars are 1" different just do to the cross brace set back 1" on pathy.

For the most part the suspension on 98-04 are built from the same design as the Hardbody. They just modified some of the parts from what I was told and it appears to be true. The steering systems are still the exact same designs, just larger ball tapers.

The Tbar was changed from the front pivot on the Hardbody to the rear pivot on the Frontier because of the new pivot change. The bar was in the way of the new center pivot that got that rid of the stupid strut rod setup. From my understanding the 98-04 Ball joints are just press versions and not as durable as the older ones. I am not hear to debate on what can be changed or interchange but there is some great information if you really seek the right place. I do have some Frontier parts on my 89 Hardbody and I know a guy in Canada who has some on his old Pathfinder and that's all I can say.

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Old 01-24-2015, 11:28 PM   #22 (permalink)
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The only similarity is that both are IFS....other then that it's a Completely different design.

different mounting system on the upper control arms, lower wishbones vs. strut rod, different knuckles.....no parts are interchangeable.

saying its the same design because of a similar steering setup and front Diff is pretty short sighted...there is so much more to it.
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Old 01-25-2015, 01:38 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Do you fab up long travel kits or something?
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Old 02-04-2015, 08:14 AM   #24 (permalink)
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Oddly...this is the exact swap that I just made.

I had a 4 door sidekick 1.6 auto with full OME...33s a ton of trimming. And the frame horns cut back for a prerunner bashplate.

I am now in a stockish 03 xterra 4x4. Pml lift, custom pack, adjustable shackles.

What I can tell you...

The sidekick was 1k lbs lighter...probably 1400 with all of my trimming...and you notice it. The sidekick had an approach angle which was near buggylike. The xterra is in the 20s. The sidekick had to be revved to 5-6k every gear... I rarely break 3k on the xterra. The sidekick got 19-25 mpg on 33s on road...and low teens off-road. The xterra gets 17-21 on road...depending on how I drive. While the Suzuki was bouncy, loud, tiny, and basicallyfelt like a side by side with doors, the xterra feels normal.

Biggest change for me has been abuse. That little Suzuki was just at home blasting down the streets of NYC as it was pushing trees down in the Louisiana swamps making trails. The xterra has a considerable amount of plastic out front.

Passengers will certainly prefer riding in the Nissan. And in all honesty, I like not having my spine beaten up. It has considerably more torque when above 40...but the Suzuki certainly seemed to enjoy buzzing away from the lights better. The xterra is more comfortable. Quieter. More powerful.

But nothing makes you smile like when a little Suzuki catches air when blasting through an intersection.
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