Test drive: Has the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder found its way?

The Nissan Pathfinder has been searching for its roots.

The all-new 2022 Pathfinder is the largest one ever made, but incorporates some styling and spirt from the original 1987 Nissan truck.

It remains a front-wheel-drive crossover with available all-wheel-drive like the outgoing edition, but has been engineered to handle a little bit of off-pavement driving and highlights that point with bulging fenders, a forward-slanted rear roof pillar and three rectangular vents above the grill that all hearken back to the compact SUV that first carried the name.

The 2022 Pathfinder is the first to offer seating for up to eight passengers and can even fit three child seats across the second row. Its interior is among the most spacious in the three-row SUV segment and is also available in a seven seat configuration with second-row captain’s chairs and an easily-removable console between them. Its cargo area can accommodate four golf bags even with the third row in use.

Starting prices range from $34,560  to $47,340 and the cabin trimmings take a step upmarket to near-luxury in top Platinum trim. Standout amenities include Nissan’s “Zero Gravity” comfort seats, a full digital instrument cluster, a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay, a head-up display and a 360-degree bird’s-eye-view camera.

The Pathfinder carries over the previous generation’s 284 hp 3.5-liter V6, but switches from a CVT automatic transmission to a 9-speed due to customer feedback. CVT’s are good for efficiency, but can have a lazy, disconnected feel. The new transmission shifts crisply and helps provide a maximum 6,000-pound tow rating that outdoes competitors like the Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer.

The engine is strong enough, but not overpowering, and tuned with the exhaust to make that signature high-register Nissan note, but the well-insulated passenger compartment is mostly silent as you cruise along. That’s the best thing to do in the Pathfinder, as it isn’t the type of vehicle that elicits enthusiastic driving.

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A suite of electronic driver aids including front and rear automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist is standard on all models, including the base trim, while the SL adds Nissan’s ProPilot Assist adaptive cruise control and lane-centering system.  The higher and SV and Platinum trims add Navi-Link, which can automatically adjust the vehicle speed as you approach zones with new limits, curves and exit ramps along your route.

If it happens to take you onto a dirt road, you don’t have to worry. Much. The Pathfinder has a stronger suspension than before that’s designed to handle a little gravel, plus a traction control system with sand, snow and mud/rut settings.

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However, it also has low ground clearance, a stretched wheelbase and long overhangs at both ends, so it can easily bottom out on very uneven surfaces. Don’t even think about following any old Pathfinder trucks on to the rocks, but the body control over small bumps is unexpectedly good and the traction control makes the most out of slippery surfaces. There seems to be a lot of potential for Nissan to offer a much more rugged version in the future.

Until then, the Pathfinder is a marked improvement over the mode that it replaces, which had fallen to the back of its competitive set in recent years.

The new one deserves a seat near the front of the class.


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