EXTERIOR

The 2010 Pathfinder is unapologetically boxy. It could have been built with giant Duplo blocks. However, it's not bad-looking. It's tough, strong and doesn't fool around. This is a truck that means business.

In front, wide-set headlights anchor the corners, while a big grille is wrapped in chrome. My SE 4x4 model came on beefy 17-inch alloy wheels and serious tires designed to take on pretty much any road surface you'd care to throw at them. My newly paved suburban roads never stood a chance. In fact, I think I may have heard the Pathfinder yawn once or twice.

Getting in and out of the Pathfinder could be a challenge, but a running board provides a needed step up. In particular, it makes getting to the third row more manageable. The front doors open fairly wide and easily, but the rear door handles are set high up at window level rather than in line with the front door handles. While it's certainly no problem for adults, small children can't reach it. My 7-year-old even struggled with it occasionally. Preschool-age kids won't stand a chance.

Loading cargo into it is easier than loading kids. Once it's released, the liftgate almost lifts itself, and the cargo floor is right at hip height, meaning no lifting up or down when loading groceries or anything else from a cart. The rear window also pops open separately for easy access to cargo.

The 2010 Pathfinder comes with a 4.0-liter V-6 engine that makes 266 horsepower and 288 pounds-feet of torque. That means it can power up a hill with a loaded trailer while the air conditioner blows at full, icy blast. The Pathfinder can switch from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive at low speeds. There's no need to stop in the mud and manually switch anything.

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