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2022 Nissan Pathfinder Review

, Automotive Editor -

Return to form. The new Pathfinder suggests change is afoot for Nissan. The old model typified the brand's 2010-era strategy: jellybean styling, CVT transmission, and a focus on pricing rather than quality. They were good SUVs, but they didn't have the same level of thoughtfulness baked into them like, say, a Toyota Highlander. To add insult to injury, the prior generation also saw this SUV lose its once-formidable off-road chops.

The new model rectifies many of these shortcomings. Nissan has squared up the styling, ditched the oft-maligned CVT for a nine-speed automatic, and added an element of adventure to the whole package. The SUV as a whole takes a much-needed step forward, and the result is far more competitive among three-row midsize SUVs than the old one ever was.

Familiar motor, new gearbox. The Pathfinder's V-6 engine is about the only thing that hasn't been updated for 2022. Like last year's model, it makes 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque. It's not that Nissan needed to eke more power for their V-6, as its output is right in line with the best of the segment. But we're honestly a bit surprised the brand didn't take this opportunity to introduce something more modern and environmentally friendly. Hybridized Pathfinder, anyone?

No matter - the bigger deal is the new gearbox, a nine-speed unit that usurps the old CVT. For anyone who keeps up with these matters, Nissan CVTs have had a tough go of it. Reliability issues have plagued them, especially the earlier units built in the first half of the last decade. With the new nine-speed, we wonder: is Nissan moving back to traditional transmissions?

Regardless of their long-term strategy, we found the new gearbox is a real peach. Under normal driving the shifts are nearly imperceptible; put your foot in it and a lower gear is quickly called up. The transmission was tuned with efficiency, and so - provided you're not hauling up an on-ramp - ninth gear arrives before the speedometer touches 50 mph.

The nine-speed's most significant contribution to the Pathfinder experience? Ease of towing. This big Nissan has always been known to tow more than its fellow front-drive, unibody competition, but the CVT didn't exactly instill the confidence required to pull 6,000 pounds. With this new gearbox, however, you won't be afraid to haul three tons of trailer. A towing mode, trailer brake control, and trailer sway mitigation all help to make for a more predictable experience.

Comfortable and nicely decorated. Inside, the Pathfinder has doubled down and comfort and quality. Gone are the old, cheap-feeling materials; in their place are higher-grade plastics and fabrics, wrapped around an airy, modern design. Compared to the competition, this much-improved interior is no longer clearly second-rate.

Like before, the Pathfinder will haul up to eight passengers thanks to a standard three-seat third row. Would we want to squeeze three adults back there? Decidedly not. But three kids will fit just fine, and typically the youngest riders are the ones shoehorned into the wayback, anyhow.

For those who do stuff their friends into the third row, two adults will fit without much issue. Much thanks for this goes to the cabin's ample width, enabling the third row to boast 57 inches of shoulder room and 42 inches of hip room.

The second-row bench seat can now be upgraded to a pair of captain's chairs, and this would be our preference for their individualized comfort. With either the bench or the captain's chairs, the seat effortlessly flips forward at the push of a button to enable easy access of the third row.

Recall what we just said about the Pathfinder's ample width? Nissan considers that a high point of the design, as owners can now drop all the seats and slide in a 4x8 sheet of plywood. In terms of dimensions, There's 16 cubic feet behind the third row, 45 behind the second row, and 80 cubic feet in total.

Base models retain cloth seats, manual seat adjustments, and a plastic steering wheel, but higher trim models quickly pile on the features. At the top of the lineup, there are novelties like heated and cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, semi-aniline leather, and a power moonroof. Comfort is decidedly not in short supply in any grade of Pathfinder.

Technology and Safety. The calling card of the Pathinder's suite of technology features is the touchscreen infotainment. On base models, expect an 8.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The top two trims swap that system for a 9.0-inch unit featuring wireless smartphone connectivity and navigation. Both screens get Bluetooth and SiriusXM.

The navigation system is notable for pairing up with the adaptive cruise control, which comes standard on three of the four trims. If the GPS determines there's an intersection, on-ramp, or tight curve coming up, it relays that information to the adaptive cruise, which then preemptively begins slowing the car when it is appropriate to do so. This isn't autonomous driving - you'll still want to get on the brakes if you don't want to end up in a ditch - but it does assist with making long stints behind the wheel that much easier.

Speaking of assists, there's plenty of them included as standard fare on the Pathfinder, including automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Higher trims unlock a surround-view camera, blind-spot intervention, and traffic sign recognition.

Crash tests haven't happened yet, but we expect the Pathfinder will do well. It has to, in this especially family-friendly segment.

Final word. The new Pathfinder is more competitive than it's been in years. A modern, butch-looking design neatly complements the newly refined interior, while the carryover engine plays well with the new, nearly invisible transmission. While the Toyota Highlander, Kia Telluride, and Honda Pilot remain favorites in this segment, we're eager to see how customers respond to the new, improved Pathfinder.

We're hoping the promise of the Pathfinder isn't just confined to this one model. This new, competent SUV has us eager to see what else Nissan might deliver in the next few years - and if it can just maybe shake up the pecking order of segment favorites.

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