Wrong Path? The Recalibrated 2022 Nissan Pathfinder Found the Good One

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Hard to tell if the Japanese were happy or not with sales of the previous Nissan Pathfinder generation, but we have serious doubts these cars managed to convince the expected number of customers. Now, having a look at the 2022 model, we feel an optimistic vibe in the air, and there are some concrete reasons for this.
The debut of the Nissan Pathfinder model series took place about 35 years ago. Its first iteration had a timidly progressive kind of design wrapping a fairly traditional technical configuration: ladder chassis, longitudinally mounted engine, switchable 4x4 transmission with transfer box, and low range, with available manual and automatic gearboxes.

The second generation was launched in 1995 and had a unibody structure, yet the transmission’s concept was of the same type. In evolutionary terms, the model's lineage was interrupted by the first generation of the Nissan X-Trail, a decidedly modern SUV (unibody configuration, transversely mounted engine, transmission without low range).

Later, the Pathfinder name was kept in the brand’s registry to describe a rather heavy SUV built from 2004 according to the traditional concept: body-on-frame layout, non-permanent 4x4 transmission, and low range included. Actually, this Pathfinder was a close relative of the contemporary Nissan Navara pickup. The fourth generation of the Pathfinder came in 2012, changing everything once again with its modern unibody design, comfort-oriented functionality, and limited off-road abilities.

In fact, its technical platform (FWD-based, CVT transmission) was also used for the Infiniti QX60, Nissan Altima, Maxima, Quest, and Murano. This generation was modernized twice, in 2014 and in 2017. There are only two certain aspects to mention regarding this evolution, from its beginning to present day: there's no way to get bored because it featured surprising radical changes and, from the customers' point of view, it was as baffling as it could be.

Things are getting clearer now

What does the “Pathfinder” name have to tell? It tells that the car should be able to find paths in a savage land. Trying to do something like this using an FWD, road-oriented SUV equipped with a CVT transmission would be a big mistake. Well, it looks like somebody at Nissan figured that out, so the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder adopts a technical configuration better suited to the message given by its name.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder
Photo: Nissan
Jared Haslam, vice president, Product and Services Planning, Nissan North America, confirms the idea. “Thirty-five years after the launch of the original model, Pathfinder has returned to its rugged roots, loaded with the benefit of everything learned along the way.” Rugged roots? That's a bit too much to say. Even if the new design of the 2022 Pathfinder makes you think it is the direct successor of the 2005 Pathfinder (body-on-frame, low range, etc.), that’s not really the case.

The technical platform under this promising appearance is still FWD-based, with a transverse engine, and it has the same wheelbase as the previous model. The V6 engine was also carried over (3.5 liters, direct injection, 284 hp, and 259 lb-ft/351 Nm of torque). But the big steps forward are: getting rid of that CVT in favor of a 9-speed automatic transmission provided by ZF and adopting the all-new Intelligent Nissan 4WD system with a 7-mode Drive and Terrain Selector.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder
Photo: Nissan
These modes are called Standard, Sport, Eco, Snow, Sand, Mud/Rut, and Tow. The name of the one you engage is displayed as a pop-up notification on the meter cluster. The 4WD system features direct coupling, allowing for torque transfer directly on the clutch pack using oil pressure. This function emulates what a classic lockable coupling would do, allowing for a confident and accurate start in low-grip conditions.

That premium touch…

Attitude matters, and now we know that the 2022 Pathfinder has (almost) all that matters for fans of holiday adventures; it is also discretely larger. Equally important is the fact that its design contains references to cars known to be part of the off-road genre. The new Pathfinder looks a bit like a smaller Nissan Armada, while its dynamic profile might bring a hint of Land Rover Discovery; both of those are upscale references. There are no blingy ornamental details to mention, whether on the exterior or interior.

Inside, the contours of the dashboard are rather simplistic but definitely not square. The virtual instruments cluster (optional, 12.3 inches) and the multimedia touchscreen (9.0 inches) on the center console give the feeling of advanced tech always being at your service. In fact, it is not just a feeling: NissanConnect, featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all four trim levels, which are called S, SV, SL, and Platinum.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder
Photo: Nissan
The Platinum trim is equipped with a 10.8-inch head-up display. Also available are a wireless smartphone charging pad, WiFi hot spot function, Bose Premium Audio with 13 speakers, NissanConnect Services powered by SiriusXM, Nissan Door-to-Door Navigation, and Intelligent Around View Monitor. All versions of the 2022 Pathfinder are equipped with Nissan Safety Shield 360, a pack of advanced assistance functions including Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Assist, and Rear Automatic Braking. The Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Driver Alertness, and Rear Door Alert are also standard, while Blind Spot Intervention, Intelligent Lane Intervention, and Traffic Sign Recognition are optional.

Ten airbags are standard. Among the available options, you'll find a 10-way power driver's seat, climate controlled front seats, Tri-Zone Automatic Temperature Control with 2nd row climate control, and heated rear seats. To make the choice easier, two equipment packages are available: SV Premium and SL Premium.

Up to 7 or 8 passengers can be accommodated inside on three rows of seats. For the first time on the Pathfinder, the second row may consist of captain's chairs with a no-tool-required removable center console. The second row bench seat offers a one-touch release fold/side with push-button activation from both the driver and passenger sides, while the 60/40 split-folding third-row seat provides maximum flexibility for carrying passengers and cargo. With the third row of seats folded, the trunk volume reaches 45 cubic feet (1,274 liters). Folding the second row will raise the volume to 80.5 cubic feet (2,265 liters).

How much do they ask for it?

The expected price range goes from $30,000 up to $50,000. Definitely, the 2022 Pathfinder won’t be the bargain kind of SUV, yet it may come with very attractive price/equipment versions and with a tempting premium-flavored design. Life for its competitors, which include the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot, for instance, won’t be as easy as it used to be.
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