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Nissan has totally revamped its three-row Pathfinder SUV, with a new look inside and out, a new transmission, and a new four-wheel-drive system.
In the early days of the SUV, about 30 years ago, the Nissan Pathfinder was one of the first models to gain popularity as mainstream family transportation. But other manufacturers joined in, and the field got crowded. Now, the current Pathfinder lags behind its competitors in Consumer Reports’ tests and member surveys.
The competing Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride, for example, combine a ton of value and luxury in attractive packages, and the Toyota Highlander Hybrid’s superb fuel economy improves on one of the biggest drawbacks to driving a three-row SUV. By comparison, the current Pathfinder doesn’t distinguish itself in any meaningful way.
We’ll find out whether an all-new Pathfinder can compete with those class leaders as soon as we buy and test our own, after it goes on sale this summer.
Consumers already have a lot of great choices when it comes to mainstream three-row SUVs. We’re happy to see that Nissan gave the new Pathfinder a lot of standard safety features, an attractive interior, and available convenience features. But how well it drives and what kind of fuel economy it gets will be major factors in determining how it stacks up against the competition.
Nissan says the Pathfinder has been totally redesigned “from the ground up,” and most consumers will notice the significant exterior redesign. It’s front-end styling looks like a larger take on the recently redesigned Nissan Rogue. Slab-sided with flared fenders and a shorter front overhang, the new Pathfinder is actually an inch and a half shorter than the current model but looks more rugged. With a “floating” blacked-out roof, the side view is reminiscent of a Land Rover Discovery. But a massive Nissan badge in front and lettering spelling out “Pathfinder” across the rear clearly show the make and model of this SUV.
Similarities to the Rogue continue on the inside with the overall design and layout of controls. There’s a touch screen at the top of the dashboard that the automaker says is positioned for ease of use by both the driver and front passenger. We like that Nissan kept plenty of physical buttons and knobs for key climate and infotainment functions, so they can be easily adjusted by touch without searching through onscreen menus. The Pathfinder’s dashboard is accented by visible stitching across the passenger side.
The center console has hidden storage under the armrest, plus a space to prop up a phone and room for a small bottle of hand sanitizer or loose change toward the front. Underneath the gear selector—which is now electronic and has a button for Park instead of a traditional design—there’s even more space for storage.
With a standard second-row bench seat, the Pathfinder can seat eight. A seven-passenger version is an option. It comes with second-row captain’s chairs and a removable center console for easy cargo hauling. The bench seat has a one-touch folding mechanism with buttons on both sides of the vehicle. USB type A and C chargers are standard for second-row passengers. As is the case with the current Pathfinder, Nissan says the rear seat can still slide forward even if a child seat is installed, which makes for easier access to the third row.
Cargo room is up a smidge from the outgoing Pathfinder. But according to numbers provided by Nissan and measurements from the Environmental Protection Agency, it still doesn’t have as much storage space in the back as CR-recommended SUVs like the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, or Toyota Highlander.
Every Pathfinder gets thicker glass and more noise insulation compared with the outgoing model, which Nissan says should reduce wind, road, and engine noise. Options include heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, and three-zone climate control. Buyers can choose cloth, leather, or quilted leather upholstery that’s become a popular upscale option on mainstream vehicles. Unlike most vehicles with quilted leather, the pattern is one of interlocking chevrons rather than repeating diamonds.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come standard; Wireless CarPlay is optional, as is wireless phone charging and an available 12.3-inch all-digital gauge cluster. Perhaps these updates will make the Pathfinder a nicer place to be and improve the model’s low owner satisfaction score in our surveys.
What Drives It
There’s only one powertrain available. The same 284-hp, 3.5-liter V6 found under the hood of the outgoing model has been carried over for 2022, but it now sends power through a nine-speed automatic transmission instead of a continuously variable transmission (CVT). We didn’t have any major complaints about the CVT, so it will be interesting to see how the new transmission differs. Unlike other three-row SUVs, there’s no turbocharged four-cylinder option, but we had no problems with the V6 the last time we tested a Pathfinder. Towing capacity remains at a class-competitive 6,000 pounds when equipped with the optional tow package.
Front-wheel drive comes standard, and a new all-wheel-drive system allows drivers to customize traction control for different types of terrain and inclement weather. We hope it’s an improvement over the outgoing Pathfinder’s all-wheel drive setup, which tended to stay in front-wheel-drive mode and was slow to ask the rear wheels for help—even when help was needed.
We measured the outgoing Pathfinder’s fuel economy at a lousy 18 mpg combined. No EPA estimates are available for the new model, but it would be great if that number went up. We’ll test the Pathfinder’s real-world fuel economy as soon as we purchase our own.
Safety and Driver Assistance Systems
Even the least-expensive Pathfinder will come with an impressive list of safety features including standard forward collision warning (FCW), automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning (BSW), rear cross traffic warning (RCTW) with AEB, and lane departure warning (LDW).
In Platinum trim, the Pathfinder gets Nissan’s ProPilot Assist advanced driver assistance system. It combines some functions of automated steering and adaptive cruise control for hands-on driver assistance. New on the Pathfinder is what Nissan calls Door-to-Door Navigation, which will automatically adjust the vehicle's speed to prepare for highway curves, junctions, and off-ramps based on what it knows about the route as long as a destination is set in the navigation system.