Heading Back To Its Roots
For many, the R51 Pathfinder is the peak of the Pathfinder era. It had a stout 4.0 V6 and an optional V8. Power was run through a reliable 5-speed auto to a transfer case with a true low range. Finally it had body on frame architecture, making modifications for off-road much easier. So how does the 2022 Pathfinder stack up?
Nissan sent us a pre-production model to test for a week. As such there may be some minor flaws that are still in this vehicle that will be worked out before production begins.
For 2022, Nissan has updated the Pathfinder with chiseled looks, higher quality interior, and better performance. It has grown in nearly every way from the previous generation, making it look bigger than it is.
The large inverted trapezoid grill gives the front end a menacing look. For lighting the LED headlights are fashionable and bright. The LED fog lights mounted very low in the bumper are small when compared to the rest of the front end features.
Moving down the side, the headlights and DRLs run all the way to the wheel arch, and contain the orange side marker lights. This makes for one cohesive look, rather than having a side marker that stands out from the rest of the vehicle. The sheet metal is large and relatively flat, but there are just enough creases and curves to make the design appealing.
Down low, the split 5-spoke wheels are beautiful and match the chrome accents throughout the rest of the vehicle.
At the rear we find the 2022 Pathfinder to be reminiscent of the new Land Rover Discovery. However, it is much wider and a little shorter. The tail lights are thin and sit just below the glass, with the 3rd brake light being concealed behind the glass. For some reason many SUVs don’t have rear glass that opens, and the Pathfinder falls into that category, this needs fixed.
Inside the 2022 Pathfinder
Nissan has done an excellent job in upgrading the interior of the Pathfinder. The materials are much nicer and the fit and finish is up there with the best in this class. Our Platinum test model was equipped with a two tone dark tan and black interior. The visible stitching gave a more premium feel without being flashy.
The front seats are comfortable in all weather conditions with their heated and ventilated features. Positioning the seats is easy, they are neither too high, nor too low, and easily adjustable.
Also updated is the infotainment touch screen, which is now 12.3 inches. It is paired to a Bose premium audio system which is clear and crisp. Controlling the audio and climate is simple with the physical buttons and knobs on the dash. No need to go looking through the touch screen for these features.
The gauge cluster is customizable and has plenty of information, although we’d like to see a transmission temperature gauge. The Platinum trim adds a head up display, which is clear and easy to read both day and night.
In the middle row of the 2022 Pathfinder, the captain’s chairs are heated and of course there are separate climate controls that can be managed from this row. While our tester wasn’t equipped with ventilated seats in the second row, there were two blank switch locations that look like they could be used for that feature as an option at a later date.
It used to be that sitting in the third row of a Pathfinder was nearly impossible for full size adults, not anymore. Nissan has upped the space in the third row. While we wouldn’t want to sit there for long trips, there is certainly enough room for two adults.
For charging devices the front row offers a 12-volt outlet, one USB A, one USB C, and wireless charging. The second row has one USB A, one USB C, and a 120 volt outlet. Finally, for the third row there are two USB A ports, one on each side by the cupholders. Finally, the cargo area has one 12-volt outlet.
For storage, the cargo area is fairly small with all three rows up. However, underneath the floor is a large storage space. Also, both the 2nd and third rows can be folded, and the second row center console can be easily removed to provide for a massive cargo area.
Driving: NO MORE CVT!
Just like the rest of the 2022 Pathfinder, Nissan has improved the driving dynamics. The suspension is a little stiffer and the tires are wider than the outgoing model. This makes it handle slightly better but doesn’t make the ride harsh.
There are seven different drive modes including sand, mud/rut, snow, standard, eco, sport, and tow. Each mode adjusts shift points, throttle sensitivity, and the AWD system for optimum performance. There is no AWD lock mode, however it does engage as needed in each of the various drive modes.
engine remains the same 3.5-liter V6 with 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque as the previous model. What is new is the 9-speed automatic which makes the 2022 Pathfinder feel completely different from the CVT of yesteryear. It feels more responsive, quicker, and more connected. The 9-speed is an improvement over the CVT in almost every way, and we couldn’t be happier with the change.
Around town, the steering is light but the ride is good. Larger potholes are sometimes met harshly on the front end, but certainly on par with other crossovers. On the highway the Pathfinder is smooth with good sound deadening. At highway speeds the steering firms up nicely.
One other major benefit to the 9-speed auto, is that the off-pavement capability has increased significantly. CVT’s typically lack a low first gear, and the 9-speed certainly makes up for this.
For our high speed off-road testing the 2022 Pathfinder does well, but runs out of suspension travel quickly. This means slowing down for larger washouts and bumps, but it remains planted over washboard and smaller obstacles.
On the steep hill climb the Pathfinder struggled on the hardest line, but was still able to make it to the top on an easier line. The front and rear differentials are simply open, but power is transferred side to side using the ABS system. This takes extra torque, but the Pathfinder manages it well.
The 2020 Pathfinder Platinum has a base price of $48,090. Our test model was only equipped with two additional options, the lighting package and the captain’s chair floor mats. The lighting package includes the illuminated kick plates and welcome lighting for $795. Add in the $1,150 destination charge and the total MSRP comes to $50,290.
This price seems to be in the same range as many of the competitors. There are a lot of features that come standard in the Platinum trim, and while it’s not the cheapest in the class, it is on par with the Mazda CX-9 and Kia Telluride we’ve recently tested.
Wrapping Up the Pathfinder
In conclusion the 2022 Pathfinder is a major upgrade from the previous generation. We can’t think of a single way that the previous generation is better than the new one. Having said that, it’s not a game changing design. These changes bring it up to the same level as the current leaders in this pack.
Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he’s not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn’t true.