Downside: In bringing the Pathfinder back to its truck roots, Nissan could wind up shooing away buyers who want something that looks like an SUV but drives like a wagon or sedan. The new Pathfinder has acceptable on-road manners. But make no mistake about this one: After miles on the highway, you will know that it's a truck.

Ride, acceleration and handling: On-road ride and handling are good, acceptable. Off-road behavior is excellent, rivaling that of more expensive SUVs. On-road acceleration is excellent. (Only drivers in goofy TV commercials, or professional off-road racers, or people who don't know what they are doing, try to speed off-road.)

Head-turning quotient: Family-friendly, neighborhood-acceptable.

Body style/layout: The new Nissan Pathfinder is a front-engine, four-door, truck-based SUV with a rear hatch and available four-wheel drive (including a four-wheel low gear) and automatically locking hubs. There is an optional "All-Mode" automatic drive system that can be switched to two-wheel drive.

Engine/transmission: The new Pathfinder comes with a standard 4-liter, 24-valve V-6 engine that develops 270 horsepower at 5,600 revolutions per minute and 291 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm. The engine is linked to a standard, electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission.

Cargo and fuel capacities: The new Pathfinder has seating for seven people. Maximum cargo space is 79.2 cubic feet. It can carry an onboard weight of 1,308 pounds and tow a trailer weighing up to 6,000 pounds. Gasoline-tank capacity is 21.1 gallons. Regular unleaded is recommended.

Mileage: I averaged 17 miles per gallon in combined off-road/on-road driving.

Safety: Side air bags and head/curtain bags with rollover sensors are optional. Buy them. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes and traction and stability control are standard.

Price: Base price on the tested 2005 Nissan Pathfinder SE is $27,850. The dealer's invoice price on that model is $25,756. Price as tested is $31,780, including $3,370 in options and a $560 destination charge. (The side and curtain bags are part of a $1,700 premium options package.) The dealer's price with options and destination charges is $29,225, according to information from Nissan,, and The last is an affiliate of The Washington Post.

Purse-strings note: Compare with Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Trailblazer, Dodge Durango, Toyota 4Runner, Honda Pilot and Mercedes-Benz M-Class.