A new transmission is but one of many major improvements to the three-row family hauler.
Nissan is on a mad tear lately, replacing its dated lineup with significantly improved products right and left. The latest recipient of the so-called Nissan Next revitalization plan is the 2022 Pathfinder, which gives the mid-size three-row crossover interesting new styling, an attractive interior, more space, and perhaps most importantly, a nine-speed automatic transmission replacing last year’s continuously variable unit.
We recently spent a day driving the new and improved 2022 Pathfinder around Missoula, Montana, the route marked by late-spring rain and snow that did its best to unsettle the family SUV. And while the conditions might not have been ideal for scorching up the pavement, they certainly made our time with the Pathfinder more consistent with what customers have to deal with on their own commutes. Even battling the sleet, the sharp new Nissan has clearly attended more than a few courses at the Rogue Finishing School for Mediocre Crossovers, emerging from its redesign as a family-friendly SUV with a few surprising features.
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Something Old, Something New
From overcoat to underoos, the 2022 Pathfinder wears a totally new set of clothes. Nissan’s latest arrow-shaped headlight design, first seen on the facelifted 2021 Armada, features narrow LED accent lighting at the top of the front fender and bold LED high and low beams below. Nissan looked to the first-generation Pathfinder for a few styling Easter eggs, like the three narrow slots in the upper portion of the front grille that invoke the original SUV’s hood vents and an angular C-pillar meant to recall that of the old three-door.
Other design cues include a Rogue-like front grille, which seems to inch farther away from Nissan’s old V-motion design with every new product. The squarer front opening looks nice on the Pathfinder, so we won’t complain. The 2022 model’s fender flares are also boxier than before, a departure from its predecessor’s rounded forms. Slim, horizontal tail lights appear out back, framing the modernized Nissan emblem above a PATHFINDER wordmark – Platinum models sport a wide, bright-finished lower bumper garnish that adds more flash to the departing view. Overall, the new Pathfinder looks a bit like the Rogue, no bad thing in our eyes.
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Inside, the deja vu continues. The flat-bottomed steering wheel, sliding shift selector, and optional 9.0-inch infotainment display and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster are plucked straight from the smaller crossover. That said, the Pathfinder infuses its interior with some rugged style, particularly the more angular center stack and squarer dash fascia. A flow-through center console, large armrest bin, and slim shelf in front of the passenger seat (perfect for phones and wallets) give the three-row crossover even more small-item storage than the already-impressive Rogue.
Notwithstanding its totally redesigned exterior and cabin, the Pathfinder still rides on a revised version of its predecessor’s platform, even sharing the same 3.5-liter V6 engine with 284 horsepower and 259 pound-feet (though mated to that blessed nine-speed auto). In spite of these aging bones and a slight 0.8-inch decrease in overall length, the new Pathfinder is larger inside than before, with combined cargo and passenger capacity jumping about 10 cubic feet over the old SUV.
Even draped in rugged-ish styling cues, the new Pathfinder still finds ways to appeal to indoorsy types, especially if they spec the flagship Platinum trim we drove through Montana’s country highways and winding backroads. The Platinum comes standard with second-row captain’s chairs with a no-tools removable rear center console, panoramic roof, semi-aniline quilted leather, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats, enough for even the most sybaritic family groups. The first and second rows offer plenty of room for four adults, and the rear center console gives passengers more places to stash their gear.
Space in the third row is adequate for adults over short jaunts, thanks to more head, hip, and shoulder room (though less legroom) than the spacious Hyundai Palisade. But like other vehicles in this class, the Pathfinder’s rearmost seats are best left to kids and tweens over longer distances. Accessing that third row is easy in the Pathfinder, thanks to the unique EZ-Flex second-row seat mechanism that tilts and folds either the driver- or passenger-side seat forward, even with a child restraint installed on the LATCH anchors.
Even draped in rugged-ish styling cues, the new Pathfinder still finds ways to appeal to indoorsy types.
Once buckled in and on the road, we appreciated the 2022 Pathfinder’s 50-percent-stiffer structure, thanks to increased use of high-strength steel. That enhancement, combined with a revised suspension design that better resists body roll, leads to a much more confident and secure driving experience. The Pathfinder isn’t sporty in the slightest, but it drives down the road with more authority than its somewhat flexy predecessor. Adding to the feeling of solidity is the snappy new nine-speed, which puts power down much more convincingly than the old CVT.
Instead of that transmission’s slushy, obviously fake shift points, the new gearbox offers quick, decisive, and smooth gear changes, perfect for a two-lane overtake. Speaking of, the carryover V6 is grunty enough for most traffic conditions, but it does get a bit wheezy at higher speeds, so plan those passes in advance. We wonder how long it might be before Nissan swaps in the powerful 3.8-liter V6 found in the Frontier, which would likely take the Pathfinder’s merging confidence from adequate to nearly best-in-class.
In 2013, the Pathfinder abandoned its former tough-trucklet status in favor of a transverse V6, unibody construction, and optional front-biased all-wheel drive. The 2022 Pathfinder is much the same, nominally speaking, but engineers managed to pull some additional rough-road capability from the three-row CUV. The optional all-wheel-drive system is more advanced than before, using pneumatic clutches in its center differential to engage the rear axle more proactively when wheel-speed sensors detect slip. The old system required the front driveshaft to spin a bit before clocking the rear driveshaft into play.
Keen to strut the SUV’s stuff, Nissan sent us down a narrow trail in an all-wheel-drive Pathfinder SL. Even with the dusty surface that turned slightly muddy by the time we were done, the system shuffled power rearward as soon as we encountered slip. Some thanks could go to the all-wheel-drive model’s seven-position terrain selector, which features Sand, Mud/Rut, Snow, Normal, Sport, Eco, and Tow modes. Admittedly, the course wasn’t technical enough to tax the Pathfinder’s middling 7.1-inch ground clearance and highway tires, but the SUV will still happily get families to most outdoor activities.
Instead of that transmission’s slushy, obviously fake shift points, the new gearbox offers quick, decisive, and smooth gear changes.
More impressive than its adequate off-roading talent is the 2022 Pathfinder’s maximum towing capacity of 6,000 pounds, a number that only the Dodge Durango can out-tug in the three-row crossover class. The new gearbox is part and parcel to the Pathfinder’s newfound muscle, as is an optional towing package that includes a transmission cooler, wiring harness, and hitch receiver. The towing pack is standard on the Platinum and part of a premium package on the SV and SL, which also includes captain’s chairs and a panoramic roof, as well as a power liftgate on the SV that’s already standard on the SL.
The Safety Dance
Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, rear automatic emergency braking (a segment exclusive) and lane departure prevention are standard on every Pathfinder, with the mid-grade SV model adding ProPilot Assist adaptive cruise control and advanced lane centering. The SL and Platinum add navigation-linked cruise, preemptively slowing the vehicle for bends in the road.
Testing conditions for the safety tech weren’t ideal, and it seemed as though the Pathfinder got slightly confused by glare on the rain-soaked road. As such, it had a difficult time centering itself in the lane, straying onto the shoulder if we allowed it to do so. We’ve never had that problem with other Nissan products – ProPilot Assist is usually stellar – so we wonder if the adverse weather conditions had something to do with this particular pre-production tester’s merely adequate driver-assist performance.
I Need My Space
Not being a serial production vehicle might also explain a few disappointing interior materials. Like the Rogue, the Pathfinder’s shift selector wobbles around too much in its tracks. And it’s not difficult to find hard, unyielding surfaces (particularly in the second and third rows). However, the interior’s construction is largely competitive with the class, beating out the plasticky Ford Explorer but not quite matching the posh Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride, and while overall room is a bit less than some rivals, it’s still good enough for most families.
Cargo space with all seats up is 16.6 cubic feet on the Pathfinder, compared to 21.0 on the Kia and 16.0 on the Pilot. Drop the third row and space goes up to 45.0 on the Pathfinder and 46.0 on the other two. Max cargo room in the Pathfinder is 80.5, down on the Honda (82.1) and the Kia (87.0). The Pathfinder’s primary selling points are its easy-folding second row, and the cargo area is large enough to fit 4x8 sheets of building materials flat on the floor. A cargo basement behind the rearmost seat opens up another couple cubic feet of organized storage, good for a first-aid kit, winter gear, or hidden valuables.
Cold Hard Cash
The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder starts at $33,410 for the base S model that comes with automatic emergency braking, blind spot assist, and an 8.0-inch infotainment screen, while moving into the SV costs $36,200 and adds ProPilot Assist and WiFi. The luxurious SL model costs $39,590 thanks to standard leather, wireless CarPlay displayed on a larger 9.0-inch display, and a surround-view monitor. The top-dog Platinum is $46,190, coming with the towing package, rear captain’s chairs, and quilted leather standard. All-wheel drive costs $1,900, and with a few inexpensive options, our loaded, two-tone green and black Pathfinder demanded $50,290.
The top-dog Platinum is $46,190, coming with the towing package, rear captain’s chairs, and quilted leather standard.
That’s not an insignificant amount of cash, but it’s less than a comparably equipped Ford Explorer or Honda Pilot. Still, the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride remain the value champs of the segment, asking about $46,000 even fully loaded. However, the Pathfinder Platinum AWD gets 22 miles per gallon combined, beating out the 21-mpg South Koreans and tying the 22-mpg Honda Pilot and Dodge Durango. Only the Toyota Highlander and four-cylinder Ford Explorer beat the Nissan at this game, with 24 combined mpg.
When the 2022 Pathfinder arrives in dealers later this month, it’s joining a lineup that’s become far more desirable in the last 12 months than any time in recent history. That it feels so similar to the Rogue will likely be a boon for Nissan, allowing repeat customers to grow with the brand as their families get larger. Headlined by useful interior features, an excellent infotainment package, and enough room to stretch out, the newest Pathfinder is yet another win for Nissan.
Pathfinder Competitor Reviews:
- Chevrolet Traverse: Not Rated
- Dodge Durango: Not Rated
- Ford Explorer: Not Rated
- Honda Pilot: 8.7/10
- Hyundai Palisade: Not Rated
- Kia Telluride: 9.3/10
- Mazda CX-9: Not Rated
- Toyota Highlander: 7.9/10
- Volkswagen Atlas: 7.5/10
2022 NIssan Pathfinder Platinum