Tested: 2022 Nissan Pathfinder Gets Much More Appealing

·4 min read
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

UPDATE 11/16/21: This review has been updated with test results for AWD and FWD models.

Today's three-row family haulers can either be viewed as minivans in SUV cosplay or the other way around, but the outgoing Nissan Pathfinder was the worst of both worlds. Its awkward proportions made it look just about as unappealing as a van, but its small third-row seat typified the compromised accommodations of mid-size SUVs. The new fifth-generation 2022 Pathfinder rectifies these flaws and is a far more appealing option in this segment—even if it doesn't quite reach the heights of our favorite, the 10Best-winning Kia Telluride.

Longer, wider, and taller than before but riding on the same wheelbase, the new Pathfinder looks truckier, with a blunt front end and a boxy greenhouse. We like the proportions, which remind us of the Land Rover Discovery, and interior space is improved, too. The third row is more habitable for adults, and there's now a middle seating position that brings total seating capacity to eight in a pinch. A second-row bench is standard, and second-row captain's chairs are optional. The second-row seats easily slide and flip forward to allow access to the third row, and Nissan touts their ability to do so even with a child seat installed. (Just don't try it with the little one still seated.)

Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

Another significant improvement is the Pathfinder's nine-speed automatic transmission, which replaces the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) in the old model. While the 284-hp 3.5-liter V-6 engine hasn't changed at all, this new transmission livens up the Pathfinder's responses considerably and eliminates the annoying droning that was so present with the CVT. At the test track, a 2022 Pathfinder SL with front-wheel drive got to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, a 0.7-second improvement over a heavier 2017 Pathfinder Platinum with all-wheel drive. An all-wheel-drive 2022 Pathfinder Platinum model was slightly quicker still, improving the 60-mph and quarter-mile times by 0.1 second, with a 6.6-second sprint and a 15.2-second quarter-mile at 93 mph. Those results put the Nissan ahead of class leaders such as the Telluride and Hyundai Palisade.

Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

Fuel economy has improved, too, with the 2022 model gaining 1 mpg combined, according to the EPA. The all-wheel-drive Pathfinder Platinum we tested returned a real-world 75-mph highway fuel economy result of 28 mpg, beating its EPA highway estimate by 3 mpg and outperforming the old model by 6 mpg.

Nissan increased the Pathfinder's tire width from 235 to 255 millimeters and stiffened the spring rates to improve handling. Indeed, the new model gripped better than its predecessor on our skidpad—0.80 g for the front-wheel-drive model and 0.83 g when equipped with all-wheel drive versus 0.77 g—but the Pathfinder still trails the nimbler offerings in this class such as the Mazda CX-9 in terms of on-road driving satisfaction. The steering is numb and overboosted, and the ride is bouncy with a light load. (It improves when weighed down with more people or stuff onboard.) We were impressed with the effect of the extra sound deadening and thicker glass that Nissan added, as the cabin is nicely hushed on the highway.

Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

As with the Pathfinder's smaller Rogue sibling, the interior materials are a big upgrade as well. There are many soft touch points on the dashboard, the optional leather upholstery is plush, and the front seats are comfortable and supportive. We also appreciate the large volume and tuning knobs flanking the touchscreen infotainment display, and the clearly marked climate-control knobs lower down on the center stack. The Telluride's cabin design still looks more upscale, but the Pathfinder is nicer inside than the Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander by a wide margin.

Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver
Photo credit: Michael Simari - Car and Driver

The Pathfinder starts at $34,560, an increase of $1430 over the previous generation. Our well-equipped Pathfinder SL test car carried optional extras, including a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, Nissan's ProPilot driver-assistance system, and USB charging ports in all rows. It stickered for $45,795, and all-wheel drive would've added another $1900 to that total, which means the Pathfinder is appropriately priced but not necessarily a better value than its closest rivals. The all-wheel-drive Pathfinder Platinum we tested starts at $49,240, while a Telluride SX AWD is only $45,815, and we prefer its styling, refinement, and interior to the Pathfinder's.

Even so, the new Pathfinder is a far more competitive SUV than its predecessor. We think it's now an above-average three-row crossover, and its new look inside and out go a long way toward increasing its overall appeal. Roomier, quicker, and better equipped than before, the Pathfinder is yet another step up for Nissan in an important segment of the market, and we think it will easily find more success than the lackluster model it replaces.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

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