We already put the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder three-row SUV with all-wheel-drive through its instrumented paces. Now it’s time to get the front-wheel-drive version of Nissan’s latest Pathfinder in the hands of MotorTrend‘s test team so consumers know what to expect from the rest of the lineup.
The Pathfinder has had an interesting history and is unique in its path to reinvention, having flipped from body-on-frame to unibody repeatedly during its lifecycle. It started as a two-door SUV in 1986 on Nissan’s compact truck body-on-frame platform and added a four-door in 1989, discontinuing the two-door a year later in North America. The second-gen Pathfinder went on sale in 1995 with unibody construction. Then the third-generation SUV made a surprising return to body-on-frame in 2004 for the ’05 model year, only to pivot back to unibody for the fourth-generation Pathfinder in 2012, sharing a platform with the Nissan Altima, Maxima, and Murano, among others.
For this fifth generation, the Pathfinder actually stays unibody on the same platform, but it drops the milquetoast design in a return to the squared-off, brawny looks we’ve come to associate with this SUV, regardless of its underpinnings. The styling changes inside and out are in keeping with a resurgence in design among new Nissan offerings of late.
2022 Nissan Pathfinder Competitively Priced
The two-wheel-drive Pathfinder starts at $47,340, and at $49,865, our test model didn’t ring in much higher. That price reflects the addition of $730 running boards, a $745 two-tone premium paint scheme, a $795 lighting package with illuminated kick plates and welcome lighting, and $255 carpeted floormats. A comparable 2021 Toyota Highlander Platinum trim FWD starts slightly higher at $48,755, and a 2022 Honda Pilot Elite costs about $2,000 more but only comes in AWD.
Nissan also carried over the previous Pathfinder’s 3.5-liter V-6 engine, which generates 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque, but the previous model’s CVT has been replaced with a new nine-speed automatic transmission with a meaty shifter. It can tow 6,000 pounds and comes with a tow hitch and harness as standard equipment.
Although the pleasant-sounding V-6 feels more powerful and the new transmission snappier at propelling the lighter FWD model, the test numbers don’t bear out our seat-of-the-pants observations. The front-drive Pathfinder required 7.1 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph and 15.5 seconds to do the quarter mile. The Pathfinder with AWD was a shade quicker at 7.0 seconds to 60 mph, making it a strong performer in the segment. The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Limited powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 (293 hp/260 lb-ft) and AWD needed 7.3 seconds and 15.5 seconds, respectively.
Road test editor Erick Ayapana found the Pathfinder FWD “super-tricky to launch” because the engine easily overwhelms the tires. “With traction on, it’ll cut power to reduce wheelspin. With traction off, any hint of wheelspin results in a 1-2 upshift. Manual mode isn’t much of a manual mode because it’ll upshift to second automatically. So getting the launch right is pretty much a guessing game.”
Behind the Wheel
Ironically, the lighter, front-drive Pathfinder felt heavier to drive at times on our winding test track, and the stability control can often be too aggressive. However, tire squeal and head toss were kept to a minimum, even during hard cornering. The suspension provides a smooth ride over rough surfaces, and there is little body motion over bumps.
Out on the figure-eight course, the Pathfinder completed the loop in 28.4 seconds at an average of 0.59 g, performing better than road test editor Chris Walton expected, though he did find its steering to be unnecessarily heavy during his looping. “The chassis is quite good, but you can’t go to the power early because the front-wheel-drive system doesn’t have any sort of limited slip other than traction control, which kills the exit,” Walton noted. The all-wheel-drive Pathfinder rounded the course a full second quicker at 27.4 seconds, and the Grand Cherokee L (also with AWD) essentially split the difference at 27.9 seconds. When it comes to stopping power, the FWD Pathfinder needed 130 feet to haul itself down from 60 mph to 0. That’s slightly longer than the Grand Cherokee L at 127 feet but a ways off of the AWD Pathfinder’s impressive 114 feet, which is difficult to explain with both Pathfinders using the same tires. Ayapana found the Pathfinder’s brakes to have “adequate bite and good body control.” Walton said the medium-firm brake pedal offers “good feel and easy modulation.”
As far as fuel efficiency goes, the 2022 Pathfinder adds stop-start, which helps improve its EPA numbers slightly to 21/27/23 mpg city/highway/combined. The heavier Grand Cherokee L is predictably thirstier at 19/26/21 with RWD.
Nissan’s ProPilot Assist (adaptive cruise, steering assist, traffic sign recognition) provides excellent lane-centering steering assist. Once adaptive cruise is engaged, simply press the ProPilot button for full capability. Rest your fingers lightly on the steering wheel and feel it make minor adjustments as you’re speeding down the highway. With Navi-Link, the vehicle slows for freeway curves and exit ramps, and the system alerts the driver to changes in the speed limit. It’s without question one of the best driver assist systems on the market.
More Upscale Interior
The 2022 Pathfinder’s cabin feels premium for a vehicle that costs less than $50,000 and comes with a dose of industrial toughness: Everything is big and square and blocky. Our test model had great-looking saddle-brown seats and accents on the door and dashtop, which contrast well with the black interior; white and gold stitching help complete the upscale look. The Platinum trim comes with a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, a head-up display, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a motion-activated power tailgate, and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Open the wider-opening rear doors and climb into the heated second-row captain’s chairs fitted to this model (making it a seven-passenger family vehicle instead of eight), and you’ll find them comfortable with ample thigh support. To get to the third row, there are buttons on the base of the second-row seat and the seat back. Press one, and the seat tilts and then flies forward—even with an empty car seat installed. It’s easy enough for kids to use, but make sure they stand back while it performs its spring-loaded gymnastics. It creates a large opening for easy access to the third row, which now seats three. Space is decent in the third row, and the passengers have access to air vents and USB charging ports.
The third-row seats also fold completely flat, and the cargo area is augmented by a deep well under the floor. The rear cargo space also comes with tie-downs, bag hooks, and a 12-volt socket.
The Pathfinder faces a lot of competition, with stalwarts such as the Highlander, Pilot, and Ford Explorer, not to mention relative newcomers, including the Hyundai Palisade, the 2020 MotorTrend SUV of the Year Kia Telluride, and the newest entrant, the Jeep Grand Cherokee L. Nissan has reinvented the Pathfinder many times over the years in order to assert leadership in the segment. This time around Nissan kept the Pathfinder’s carlike platform but returned it to a truckier look in an attempt to remix the best of its past efforts. The result, as summarized by Walton: “Not bad for a grocery getter and better than it probably needed to be.”
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