by Ian Wright
Nissan has been hard at work updating its current lineup, and the new Pathfinder arrives to complete the carmaker's family vehicle portfolio. The three-row family hauler arrives with a more rugged appearance, a new drivetrain, added off-road ability, and a towing capacity that maxes out at 8,000 pounds. The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder isn't all-new, but it is comprehensively redesigned. Under the hood is the familiar and reliable 284-horsepower naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter V6, but power is dispersed now by a new nine-speed transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, but those that have to deal with bad weather regularly or want to venture off-road can opt for the Pathfinder's intensely developed four-wheel-drive system. Inside, it can be configured to seat seven or eight people and is loaded with standard driver assistance and infotainment technology.
The new Pathfinder is a bold update to Nissan's lineup. It seeks to go toe-to-toe with segment leaders like the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, and the ever-present Toyota Highlander. Nissan invited us out to Montana to spend a day with the big SUV exploring its roads and trails.
See trim levels and configurations:
3.5L V6 Gas
If we're kind, the previous generation Pathfinder was bland to look at. The design gave no sense of purpose other than being destined for rental fleets. The redesigned 2022 model is a completely different beast to lay your eyes upon. It's handsome and chiseled with blistered fenders and a lower front overhang, while the new V-motion grille, floating roofline, and C-shaped headlights add definition and modern style. At the back, the "boxed out" lift gate references the original Pathfinder while adding to the general aura of ruggedness. The LED headlights and slim upper daytime running lights (DRLs) are standard as are the slim wide-aspect LED taillights.
A total of 14 colors and color combinations are available, including five new two-tone combinations, including the Scarlet Ember with Super Black Metallic of our test car in the photographs.
Power-wise, the 3.5-liter V6 in the new Pathfinder makes the same 284 hp and 259 lb-ft of torque as the previous generation, however, its grunt is now unlocked with the new nine-speed transmission. It always felt like the variability of the CVT transmission was fighting with the V6 engine's variable timing in the outgoing model. However, the new transmission fixes that with a strong, smooth, quiet, and direct response. Front-wheel-drive is the standard configuration, but an all-new Intelligent 4WD system is available, complete with a direct coupling system with torque transfer taken care of by a clutch pack using oil pressure. When equipped, the new Pathfinder also boasts an impressive 6,000-pound maximum towing capacity, while Trailer Sway Control is offered as standard.
Fuel economy is EPA rated at 21/26/23 mpg city/highway/combined for front-wheel-drive models and 21/27/23 city/highway/combined for all-wheel drive. However, Platinum trim models see a drop in highway mpg to 25. Those numbers compare favorably with the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade but aren't quite up the Toyota Highlander's 21/29/24 mpg city/highway/combined in front-wheel-drive form, while the 20/28/23 mpg in all-wheel-drive configuration is comparable.
The 2022 Pathfinder is happy to get up and go when it needs to join or overtake traffic, and the transmission is easy to forget about as it's quiet and habitually finds the right gear for the situation. The Pathfinder is confident and controlled on the road, noticeably firmer and flatter in corners due to the redesigned suspension, but still provides a compliant and comfortable ride. The new steering system is direct, responds quickly, and nicely weighted as a balance between freeway driving, navigating a trail, or maneuvering a trailer.
Nissan isn't pretending the new Pathfinder is a dedicated off-road machine, but the all-wheel-drive system is designed to help get families up to those out-of-the-way hiking trails and camping spots. The intelligent all-wheel-drive system uses a direct coupling system for torque transfer between the front and rear of the drivetrain, and in the dry slippery conditions we encountered, it delivered smooth and stress-free acceleration.
Ground clearance is the only issue on more arduous trails but the suspension and all-wheel-drive system ensures the Pathfinder is sure-footed and precise. It's unlikely many Pathfinder families will venture into steep climbs and rocky ground, but it's good to know a wrong turn doesn't necessarily spell disaster. Nissan also told us about its testing in the desert of Death Valley and its ability to deal with soft sand, which explains the Sand setting being one of the options on the 7-position Drive and Terrain Mode Selector. The others are Standard, Sport, Eco, Snow, Mud/Rut, and Tow.
If the drivetrain and exterior styling are significant steps forward, then the interior is a giant leap. The design is modern and truck-like, emphasizing that the new Pathfinder is a crossover in the truest sense of the term. The interior looks great and is packed full of practical touches. There are more storage and cubbies now, including a 13.4-liter capacity area under the center console accessible by the driver and front passenger. There's plenty of room in the traditional center console storage box and a total of 16 cupholders. That's two holders for each occupant unless the two captain's chairs are optioned for the middle row to make the Pathfinder a seven-seater.
The new Pathfinder is shorter but wider now with 164.6 cubic feet of total interior volume, up from the previous model's 154.0 cubic feet. The extra width means you drop all the seats and transport 4-feet wide plywood sheets with ease. With all three rows of seats up, Nissan points out the there's enough room to store either six suitcases stacked in two piles, a 120-quart cooler, or four golf bags. Then, under the cargo area is an easily accessible luggage box with 54.1 liters of storage available.
There's a ton of legroom for second-row passengers, although the third row, as is par for the course in the segment, is really only practical for kids. With the captain's chairs installed, a touch of a button will tilt the whole chair forward for easy access to the third row. Through the range, seats can be decked out in woven cloth, leather, or premium quilted semi-aniline leather in a range of colors. Also available are a 10-way power driver's seat, climate-controlled front seats, tri-zone automatic temperature control with second-row climate control, and heated rear seats. Standard, the interior is kept quiet with acoustic laminated front glass, 20 percent thicker second-row glass, and thicker carpeting backing throughout.
The new Pathfinder comes standard with an 8.0-inch infotainment screen running the latest incarnation of the NissanConnect software interface. That includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and both can be optioned wirelessly further up the trim scale. Also available is a 12.3-inch digital gauge display, a Bose audio system, an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless smartphone charging, SiriusXM satellite radio, one of the clearest head-up displays we've ever experienced, and an in-dash navigation system. The screen is crisp and clear, and the UI is fluid and fast.
For safety, a whole host of features are standard as part of the Nissan Safety Shield 360 system. That includes emergency braking, automatic rear braking, blind-spot monitoring, automatic high-beam headlights, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-departure warning. Also available is Nissan Door-to-Door Navigation, the digital Intelligent Around View Monitor, blind spot intervention, intelligent lane intervention, and Traffic Sign Recognition. Available on SV, SL, and Platinum trims is Nissan's semi-autonomous system called ProPilot Assist.
The new Pathfinder aims to compete with the segment leaders, and we're confident it will. The new exterior design is bolder and more rugged-looking, but with universal appeal. The interior is where improvement counts the most, ticking all the boxes for a large family crossover. It's spacious with plenty of storage for small items decent cargo capacity. That's great for average buyers, but the Pathfinder also caters to those who want to tow or get off the beaten track without sacrificing the benefits of a crossover for a more unwieldy body-on-frame SUV.
Standard, the new Pathfinder comes with an acceptable 3,500 lbs of towing capacity. However, the upgradeable maximum of 6,000 pounds of towing capacity (standard on Platinum trim) is plenty for most people's needs when it comes to pulling boats, ATVs, tents, or trailers. Its off-road capabilities aren't hardcore but will confidently get hikers and campers to many spots less visited. The new Pathfinder should definitely be on the cross-shopping list against the likes of the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, Toyota Highlander, and Honda Pilot.
The Pathfinder follows Nissan's typical scale of trims, starting with the base S model, then the mid-level SV and SL, and followed by the top Platinum trim level. The base model includes 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, high beams (automatic), LED DRLs, front and rear spoilers, 6-way manual seats, a six-speaker sound system, 8.0-inch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a 7.0-inch Advanced Drive-Assist gauge display.
SV trim adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated mirrors, black roof rails, 8-way power heated front seats with power lumbar, NissanConnect Services powered by SiriusXM, Intelligent Cruise Control, Blind Spot Intervention, Intelligent Lane Intervention, and ProPILOT Assist. It can also be upgraded with the SV Premium Package featuring a panoramic moonroof, power liftgate, towing prep receiver hitch, harness, second-row captain's chairs, and a second-row removable center console. It also adds enhanced transmission cooling to raise the towing capacity from 3,500 lbs to 6,000 lbs.
SL trim then adds 18-inch machined aluminum alloys, LED front fog lights, painted silver finish roof rails, power liftgate, semi-aniline leather seats, 4-way power passenger seat, 9.0-inch infotainment screen, Nissan Door-to-Door Connected Navigation with Premium Traffic information, rear door Intelligent Key, and remote engine start.
The SL Premium Package then adds a swath of extra features including the panoramic moonroof, 20-inch alloys, a towing prep receiver hitch, harness, Bose Premium Audio with 13 speakers, second-row captain's chairs, a second-row removable center console, heated rear seats, wireless phone charging. It also adds the enhanced transmission cooling for the 6,000-lb max towing capacity upgrade.
Platinum trim heads into premium car territory by adding a long list of features. They include 20-inch alloys with a dark metallic gray finish, chrome bodyside molding, a panoramic moonroof, and a motion-activated power liftgate. Inside, you'll find bronze Metallic brushed interior trim, power tilt and telescopic steering adjustment, heated and cooled front seats, Bose Premium Audio system, a 12.3-inch digital dashboard, a head-up display, digital gauges, wireless phone charging. Also added are a second-row 120-volt power outlet and a pair of third-row USB charge ports. The Platinum trim level is also equipped as standard for the 6,000 lbs maximum towing capacity.
The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is available from dealers at the end of June, starting at $35,310 (including destination and handling charges) for the two-wheel-drive S trim model. That's just $1,430 more than the outgoing generation. Leveling up to SV trim starts at $38,100, SL trim comes in at $41,490, and Premium starts at $48,090. Adding all-wheel drive to any trim costs an extra $1,900, and the range tops out with the Pathfinder Platinum 4WD at $49,990.
Keeping things nice and neat in pricing terms, there are two option packages available. SV Premium adds $2,170 to the SV's price, and SL Premium adds $2,900 to the SL trim.
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