The first-generation Nissan Pathfinder was introduced as a two-door body-on-frame SUV in 1985. As a child of the 80s, I can remember thinking the Pathfinder along with its competitor, the Toyota 4Runner, were two of the coolest SUVs around. They were among the first import SUVs to compete with American rivals like the Chevrolet Blazer and Jeep Cherokee. Fast forward to 2022 and the original SUV category has exploded to more subsets than one can imagine. But through it all, the Pathfinder has remained and survived five generations. 2022 launches an all-new fifth generation that stylistically has the rugged appeal of the original first gen model.
Outside of the obvious exterior changes, Nissan has given the Pathfinder a new nine-speed direct response transmission that delivers 284-horsepower through a 3.5L V6. Towing capacity has increased to a maximum of 6,000 lbs, besting many competitors in the class. The interior also received an overhaul with higher quality materials, flexible seating for 7 or 8, and more technology features. Standard Nissan Safety Shield 360 is the icing on the cake as the list of driver-assist features grows.
There are four trim levels known as S, SV, SL, and Platinum. All models are available in either 2WD or 4WD. Prices start at $33,380 for a 2WD S model or $35,780 for a 4WD S and climb up to a starting price of $46,640 for a Pathfinder Platinum 4WD. It falls into the mid-size crossover segment which is booming with competition such as the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Mazda CX-9, Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander, and Volkswagen Atlas, among others. After a week in Pathfinder Platinum, here's what stood out...
Rugged Style (+)
The original Pathfinder had a rugged appeal that was lost in some subsequent generations as it shifted from a body-on-frame SUV to a more conventional unibody design. With overlanding becoming a recent trend, Nissan went back to its roots to give the Pathfinder a fresh, bold look that stands out rather than blends in. While it remains a unibody crossover, it portrays an image shift that should broaden its appeal.
All-new from the ground up it has a strong presence with good proportions. It features a wider stance with a bold front fascia that gives Nissan's V-motion grille a brawnier vibe. On either side are C-shaped headlights that stretch into the fenders with standard LEDs including the upper portion which serves as the daytime running light. Available fog lights are worked into a lower portion with contrasting materials to play into the rugged theme.
Attention to detail carries over to the side profile where a lower body cladding outlines the wheel arches and is complemented by chrome accent strips along the lower portion of the windows. An available two-tone paint separates the roofline from the body to give it a floating roof appearance. The 114.2" wheelbase carries over and remains proportionate to the rest of the exterior. Around back, Nissan adopts the trend of spelling out the model name across the hatch and does it better than most. With a bold font, PATHFINDER stretches across underneath taillights while the license plate position has dropped to the bumper. LED taillights have a horizontal, blocky feel and connect to the new Nissan emblem at the center. The rear of the car stands out in a parking lot (in a good way) and clearly sets it apart from competition.
Either 18" or 20" wheels are available in a variety of finishes. S and SV models come with 18" painted aluminum alloys while SL models get 18" machined aluminum alloys with a metallic gray finish. 20" wheels are standard on Platinum models in a machined aluminum-alloy with dark metallic gray finish and 20" painted aluminum wheels are optional on SL models. The designs are simple and strong looking. Both sizes pair with all-season tires that include a tire pressure monitoring system and a temporary spare.
A single powertrain is offered across the lineup in either FWD or AWD. All models feature a 3.5L direct injection V6 that generates 284 horsepower with 259 lb-ft torque. It's paired with all-new 9-speed automatic transmission that is a big improvement over the previous generation's continuously variable transmission. Others in the class deliver more power overall, but the Pathfinder isn't too far behind. Acceleration is adequate and the new transmission smoothly shifts through the gears as it gets going. It's slightly faster than the previous model going 0-60 in around 7 seconds. Once going at higher speeds, it does feel as though it's working harder than it should and downshifting isn't quite as smooth. Nonetheless, this is a big step forward for the Pathfinder.
Similar to the recently redesigned Rogue, the Pathfinder delivers a smooth ride with an improved suspension that handles winter roads in Chicago well. Nissan upgraded the power steering system to provide a more stable driving experience. It's easy to control with responsive steering and minimal body lean during quick turns.
Four Wheel Drive (+/-)
Nissan's new intelligent 4WD system includes a seven-position drive and terrain mode selector. Modes can be adjusted via a dial in the center console and include standard, sport, eco, snow, sand, mud/rut, and tow. The 4WD system features direct coupling, which allows torque transfer directly on the clutch pack using oil pressure, allowing for confident, immediate take-off in low-traction situations. In other words, the Pathfinder is smart and will detect low-traction situations before they become a problem. Unfortunately, there is still no low-range gear for more adventurous off-roading like the original Pathfinder. We can only hope that a more off-road ready version is in the works to match its appearance.
For the first time ever ProPilot Assist is available on SV and SL models while Platinum models add Navi-Link. ProPilot Assist is an intelligent cruise control that will identify your Pathfinder's speed and location relevant to other vehicles at the touch of a button. The system will not only adjust speeds up & down amidst traffic but will also keep it centered in the lane between road markings. If road markings are non-existent or faded, the vehicle will notify the driver that this function is inactive. The system is easy to use via steering wheel controls and the information is visible in the digital instrument cluster. The Pathfinder seamlessly maintained appropriate distances and speeds while guiding the vehicle around turns (drivers are required to maintain hands on the steering wheel for it to function). Linking it was the navigation system allows the map to proactively reduce speed for upcoming freeway curves or junctions and help the driver slow for freeway exits.
Fuel Economy (+)
When it arrived with a full 18.5-gallon fuel tank it offered a range of around 415 miles. EPA estimates are 20/25/22 MPG city/highway/combined which is above-average for the class. It runs on regular grade fuel and after a week of suburban driving, I averaged 21 MPG.
Hopping inside drivers will be treated to a completely new dash layout infused with technology. Behind the steering wheel is a 12.3" digital cluster that is easy to navigate and changes visually with the various drive modes. Graphics are sporty and easy to read. An available 10.8" head-up display is also available which can be customized to show speed, navigation, or other content on the windshield.
Adjacent to the digital cluster is a digital touchscreen that is affixed to the outside of the dash (rather than molded in) for a more industrial look. Standard screens are 8" on the S and SV while the SL and Platinum models come with 9" screens. All models utilize NissanConnect to interface with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Wireless charging and connectivity keep the center console free from cords and the charging tray is appropriately placed in front of the gear selector where it won't be in the way. An available Bose premium audio system includes 13 speakers and good acoustics throughout. Other tech features include a WiFi hotspot, navigation, and a digital intelligent around view monitor which features higher resolution and wider image viewing to minimize blind spots.
Interior Layout (+)
Nissan has done a nice job designing and laying out the space inside. Material quality is a step up and everything comes together to convey a sophisticated interior. Nissan gives it just enough diversity in materials such as the gloss black trim that surrounds the vents and climate controls. Like the new Rogue, the Pathfinder gets a new electronic shifter which looks good and functions well. The electronic shifter allows for a bridge-like center console that creates an additional 13.4 liters of storage underneath. Head and leg room is good, and the adjustable seats and steering wheel allow the driver to find the sweet spot for comfort.
Standard seats come with cloth upholstery and can be adjusted manually. Stepping up to the SV will add heated and power adjustable seats while SL and up models further upgrade to leather. The leather seats come with a unique quilting pattern and are available both heated and ventilated. Seats are supportive and comfortable.
The Pathfinder comes standard with a bench seat in the second row and seating for eight. And for the first time ever captain's chairs are offered in the second row to provide a 7-passenger option. The third row is improved over the previous generation and provides more space than many (but not all) competitors. It is, however, still best suited for kids versus adults. Access to the third row is easy via a one-touch button on either side that will slide and tip the seats forward. During my time carpooling a group of middle schoolers the Pathfinder proved to be a viable people and cargo hauler.
Behind the third row is 16.6 cu.ft. of cargo space along with a large underfloor plastic storage area that can easily be wiped clean if you utilize it for muddy soccer shoes or other types of gear. With the third row folded flat, cargo space is increased to 45 cu.ft and with the second row folded flat it totals 80.5 cu.ft. These totals fall below competitors such as the Highlander, Pilot, Atlas, Ascent, Telluride, and Palisade which all top 83 cu.ft. In real world daily usage though, the Pathfinder provided ample space.
Every Pathfinder is equipped with Nissan Safety Shield 360 which includes the following features:
* Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection
* Blind spot warning
* Rear cross traffic alert
* Lane departure warning
* High beam assist
* Rear automatic braking
* Intelligent forward collisions warning
* Intelligent driver alertness
* Rear door alert
Other available features include blind spot intervention, intelligent lane intervention, and traffic sign recognition.
Final Statement (+)
Nissan is on a roll with its latest vehicles and the Pathfinder is no exception. It's a huge step forward in exterior styling that should appeal to buyers like myself who grew up admiring the first-generation model but are now in the market for a good-looking family vehicle. The 9-speed transmission is a welcomed improvement to the overall smooth ride. Buyers will be pleased with the 6,000 lb towing capacity that stands out in the class. Inside is a much more refined interior with modern wireless technology. The new Pathfinder has an "it" factor that stands out and surprises people. Heads were turning when neighbors saw it in the driveway and passengers thought highly of their ride in it. The Pathfinder should not be overlooked in this segment as this new model has undergone a makeover that is sure to impress.
First Impression Summary:
Test Vehicle: 2022 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD
Exterior Color: 2-tone Gray / Black roof
Interior Color: Chestnut leather
Options: Running Boards ($730), Lighting Package ($795), 2-Tone paint ($350)
MSRP as tested: $51,395 (With Delivery/Destination)