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The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder Is New and Improved, but Possibly Not Improved Enough

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder Is New and Improved, but Possibly Not Improved Enough

  • Nine-speed automatic transmission replaces previous CVT
  • Available 12.3-inch digital dash and 9-inch touchscreen
  • Nissan's Safety Shield suite of driver aids now standard
  • 2022 model will kick off the fifth Pathfinder generation

What is the Pathfinder?

The Nissan Pathfinder is a midsize three-row SUV that we've long praised for its spacious cabin and strong towing figures. Outside of those attributes, however, the current Pathfinder struggles to make an impact amid a competitive set of rivals that include the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot and Kia Telluride. Aiming to boost interest, Nissan has redesigned the Pathfinder for the 2022 model year.

Compared to the 2020 Pathfinder (there's no 2021 model), the new Pathfinder has more muscular and upright styling, a new nine-speed automatic transmission that replaces the previous continuously variable transmission, retuned suspension and steering, additional interior storage and new technology features.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder

2022 Nissan Pathfinder

How does the Pathfinder drive?

The new Pathfinder uses the same engine as its predecessor: a 3.5-liter V6 making 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque. This isn't quite as much power as what some rival SUVs offer, but the Pathfinder's full-throttle acceleration is certainly adequate for an SUV of this size.

Less appealing is the lack of responsiveness when you're just casually getting on the gas from a stop or going up a hill. You might want a downshift to help with acceleration but the Pathfinder is reluctant to give you one. Nissan says that the new nine-speed automatic transmission is more responsive than the previous continuously variable automatic, but it didn't really seem that way to us. Also, there's an odd coasting sensation for a few seconds when you lift off the gas before you feel the slowdown from engine braking.

The Pathfinder comes standard with front-wheel drive, but you can also opt for an all-wheel-drive system with additional driving modes. These include Snow, Sand, Mud/Rut and Tow — with different driving characteristics for each. The AWD system is primarily FWD until slip is detected and the rear wheels are engaged. Combine hill descent control with the Mud/Rut mode, for example, and the Pathfinder holds its own off-road. With 7 inches of clearance, however, it's closer to the ground than the Toyota 4Runner, Subaru Ascent and Kia Telluride.

How comfortable is the Pathfinder?

We're happy that Nissan looked to enhance the Pathfinder's suspension tuning for 2022. The previous model's ride quality, in particular, could be overly choppy. Thankfully, the 2022 Pathfinder rides smoothly over most surfaces. The cabin remains acceptably quiet at highway speeds too. But we're less impressed with the front seats. Initially, we found them overly firm, almost to the point of discomfort, though they became more comfortable the longer we sat in them. This might be something to pay attention to if you're taking a Pathfinder out for a test drive.

How's the Pathfinder's interior?

Mirroring its blocky exterior design, the interior of the new Pathfinder has adopted an adventurous motif. Large, wide panels emphasize the breadth of the cabin, while the available digital instrument panel and large central touchscreen offer a touch of modernity. The traditional console-mounted shifter is out and replaced by a smaller electronic version that takes up less real estate. Rounding out the dash upgrades is a new steering wheel with a thin outer rim and flat bottom. It's a serious visual upgrade over the droopy-looking predecessor.

The new Pathfinder has a sleek center button layout, and while some automakers can overdo it with gloss black veneers, the mirror-like trim appears to work well here. Our first experience with the interior materials, especially on the upper trim levels, is a good one. All frequently touched surfaces are soft and pleasing to the touch while the use of hard plastics is limited to areas that don't get much attention anyway.

One new addition for the 2022 model are available second-row captain's chairs. This setup features a removable center console for better third-row access, which is further improved with an available one-touch button that folds and slides the second row. Third-row access was adequate in the previous Pathfinder, and it's slightly better now thanks to improved headroom.

How's the Pathfinder's tech?

All 2022 Pathfinders will come equipped with a solid set of tech features. Standard equipment includes a 7-inch digital instrument cluster and an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Nissan's Safety Shield 360 suite of driving aids is also included, and it's packed with features including automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning.

Upgrade to a Pathfinder SV for ProPilot Assist, which consists of adaptive cruise control and lane-centering assist. The system relieves the stress of driving and works well in other Nissan vehicles, and we expect the same from the Pathfinder. The SL trim further bolsters ProPilot Assist with a feature called Navi-link, which uses mapping to adjust the cruise control speed on the fly, such as braking for an impending sharp turn.

Upper trims will come with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and an upgraded 9-inch touchscreen, though we'll have to wait for details on which levels they're available. Other optional features include wireless Apple CarPlay, a wireless charging pad, a Wi-Fi hotspot, a surround-view monitor and a head-up display.

How are the Pathfinder's storage, towing and hauling?

Most Pathfinders will be able to tow a maximum of 3,500 pounds and feature standard sway control that can help with trailer stability while towing. Optional for the SV and SL grades — and standard on the Platinum — is a towing package that increases this capacity to 6,000 pounds. That capacity puts the Pathfinder near the top of its class, beating out rivals including the Ford Explorer (5,600 pounds) and Honda Pilot (5,000 pounds). However, the Dodge Durango bests all with a mighty 8,700-pound tow rating.

Cargo capacity was one of our biggest gripes with the previous-generation Pathfinder, and Nissan appears to have only made marginal gains for 2022. Large door pockets, a storage nook below the shifter, and underfloor storage all help in this regard. Otherwise, room behind the third row grows from 16.2 cubic feet to 16.6 cubes. With both the second and third rows folded down, space has only increased from 79.5 cubic feet to 80.5 cubes. On paper it trails the Toyota Highlander (84.3 cubic feet) and Volkswagen Atlas (96.8 cubes) substantially, but odds are you'll find the Pathfinder to have plenty of functional cargo space.

Edmunds says

Yes, it looks like a wall of sheer granite, but there are notes of finesse and nuance to the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder. Especially in the area of technology, this SUV has grown up quite a bit. It's worth checking out if you're shopping for a family-friendly three-row SUV, but know that you can get more driving pizzazz from rivals such as the Honda Pilot and Kia Telluride or more interior space from a Chevrolet Traverse or Volkswagen Atlas.