2022 Nissan Pathfinder – Hopefully, Much Improved

Image of 2 2022 Nissan Pathfinders
Image courtesy of Nissan

The redesigned 2022 Nissan Pathfinder can’t come a moment too soon. Nine years ago, Nissan redesigned the Pathfinder from a rugged, truck-based sport utility into a car-based crossover. And over those 9 model years, an eternity for the mid-sized SUV segment, its styling has remained amorphous and generic. Nissan provided little reason for SUV shoppers to select the Pathfinder, reflected by its poor sales figures. Last year, Nissan sold 48,579 Pathfinders – the worst sales performance of any mid-sized three-row SUV. For comparison against the top seller in the class, Ford sold 226,217 Explorers. So most certainly, the new 2022 Nissan Pathfinder can only be an improvement over its replacement.

Side view of 2022 Nissan Pathfinder
Image courtesy of Nissan

2022 Nissan Pathfinder: Styling

The exterior styling of the new Pathfinder is a major upgrade. It looks more truck-like, more reminiscent of the capable Pathfinders of old. Gone are the anonymous soft curves of the current model. The Pathfinder wears more straight lines and looks more tough, but still cleanly styled. As for distinctive elements, the new headlight design looks cool, and on models with the contrasting black roof, the detail of the C-pillar makes the new Pathfinder recognizable at a glance.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder: Interior

Nissan’s latest interior designs have been a model of simplicity and user-friendly design, and that continues with the new Pathfinder. Although few interior design touches stand out, controls are sensibly arranged and materials look high quality. There’s seating for eight passengers, or seven with optional second row captain’s chairs. Space looks good for the first and second rows, but like most in this class, save the third row for kids. At least Nissan’s second row seats can slide forward for third row access with a forward-facing child safety seat installed – a feat many competitors cannot claim.

Other cool features include wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, and a full suite of standard advanced safety technology. A 360-degree camera system is available too, sure to make parking this big brawny SUV a piece of cake.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder: Engine

The 2022 Pathfinder’s engine is unchanged from the predecessor. It’s a 3.5-liter V-6 engine, making 284 horsepower. This engine is a tried-and-true design, and has been used in various Nissan vehicles for around 15 years with regular improvements. Nissan’s V-6 engines are smooth and refined. Consumers will likely find the new Pathfinder more than adequately powerful. Nissan has yet to release fuel economy estimates. The outgoing Pathfinder using the same engine is rated for 20 miles per gallon in the city, 27 on the highway, and 23 in combined driving by the EPA.

Rear 3/4 view of 2022 Nissan Pathfinder
Image courtesy of Nissan

2022 Nissan Pathfinder: Transmission

If the engine isn’t big news, the new transmission is. I’ve rambled on about Nissan’s continuously variable transmission (CVT) before. Nissan committed to CVTs for years for their fuel efficiency benefits, but long term durability is dubious. I made my case toward the end of this post on the 2021 Nissan Rogue. Nissan claims to have addressed issues with the transmission, but it’s challenging to see any concrete proof of this when examining reliability data.

But the 2022 Pathfinder no longer uses a CVT. Instead, a conventional 9-speed automatic is standard. Chrysler and Honda used this same transmission in some models, but it hasn’t been a model of flawless design. Its software programming can make the transmission seem confused about which gear to select, and shifts aren’t always imperceptibly smooth. It remains to be seen how Nissan programmed this transmission for application in the new Pathfinder. But it might be a win if it’s more robust over the long haul than Nissan’s CVT.

Image courtesy of Nissan

I’m curious about Nissan’s motivation for switching to a conventional automatic transmission. Maybe they found that their CVT no longer had the fuel efficiency advantage over a regular automatic that it once did, or maybe prospective buyers complained about the CVT’s unusual feel. Or perhaps the increasing frequency of anecdotes about transmission failure became too much for Nissan to ignore. Regardless, I’ll be watching to see whether this signals a shift at Nissan, and whether they start using conventional automatics in more models going forward.

What remains to be seen… Reliability

The existing Pathfinder has a spotty reliability history. According to owner survey data from Consumer Reports, the 2020 model is rated less reliable than the average new vehicle. Pathfinder owners have reported issues with the vehicle’s climate control system, and in-cabin electronics. And on 2013-2017 Pathfinders, evidence is present of issues with those pesky transmissions. Far more Pathfinder owners reported needing minor or major transmission repairs than owners of other vehicles.

Image courtesy of Nissan

In conclusion…

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder will go on sale during the summer of 2021. Pricing for the new model has not been announced, but the current Pathfinder ranges from $33,075 to $46,400 including destination charges.

The new Pathfinder looks like it should be a big improvement over the outgoing model. It has handsome styling, with a tidy and well-designed interior. And now that the potentially troublesome CVT has been replaced, if Nissan can improve reliability over the current model, the 2022 Pathfinder might be the first Nissan to be Tom the Car Pro approved.

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