The first generation Nissan Pathfinder made its debut as a small sports utility vehicle in 1986. While the pathfinder name was used in North America, it was known as the Terrano in the rest of the world. It was numbered the WD21. The vehicle was a two door vehicle until 1990 when the Pathfinder then became a four door (Terrano's remained two door). Until 1990, the vehicle derived its power from a VG30I V6 engine that was rated at 145 horsepower or a Z24 engine rated at 106 horsepower. The V6 engine was upgraded to a multi-point fuel injection system engine in 1990. The Z24 engine was replaced by the KA24E engine in 1990. In 1990, the two door version was dropped in the North American lineup and anti-lock brakes were added, while leather seats was an option. In 1992, the bumpers and fender flares of the pathfinder were redesigned and the refrigeration in the vehicle's air conditioning became CFC free. A LE model was added to the lineup in 1994. The LE was equipped with an automatic transmission, leather seats, heated front seats, storage rack, air conditioning that was semi automatic and a CD player. In 1995, a two wheel drive version of the SE was added to the lineup.
The second generation Nissan Pathfinder made its debut in 1996 (designated "R50"). The vehicle was now upgraded from a small to normal sized sports utility vehicle. It was now powered by the 3.3 Liter V6 engine rated at 168 horsepower. It came in the entry level XE, SE, and LE versions. The XE and SE versions were equipped with a five-speed manual transmission and The LE version was equipped with a four-speed automatic. The SE version was equipped with a part time four-wheel drive that could not be used on dry pavements. The XE and LE models were equipped with rear-wheel drive. In 1997, a QX4 version joined the lineup. In 1999, the LE version got fenders, tires and side steps in the same color as its body.
Some changes were made for the 2001 model year. It was now being offered in the entry level XE, SE, and LE versions. It was powered by a 3.5 Liter V6 having twin cams and rated at 240 Horsepower. All three versions were equipped with either a rear-wheel drive or a part time four-wheel drive. While the SE and LE versions were equipped with music system buttons located on the steering wheel, power seats with memory, and a navigation system that was satellite linked. In 2002, the entry level XE model was dropped and the Pathfinder got a newly designed grille, bumpers that were body colored and 17 inch tires. In 2003, airbags in the side for those seated in the front, a system to control traction and avoid skidding and a new steering wheel were added.
The fourth generation Nissan Pathfinder made its debut in 2005. The new model was powered by the same V6 engine but its horsepower ratings increased to 270. It was equipped with a five speed automatic transmission and was available in four versions. All four versions were available with rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. While the LE version was equipped with 17 inch tires, the other versions were equipped with 16 inch tires. All versions were equipped with airbags in the side for those seated in the front, a system to control traction and avoid skidding, anti-lock disc brakes, and a third row of seats that were split. The facelifted 2008 Nissan Pathfinder added new models with a V8 engine from the related Nissan Titan.