Home Reviews First Drives 2022 Nissan Pathfinder: Blister-Fenders Are Back, Baby.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder: Blister-Fenders Are Back, Baby.

It has been over 35 years since the release of the legendary original Nissan Pathfinder, and it has changed dramatically since that iconic rugged boxy design was unveiled. But now, with the 2022, we’ve been granted an all-new design that looks back to its roots. This is an in-depth look and drive of the upcoming 2022 Nissan Pathfinder.

SwerveAutos Score: 79.5/100

Nissan Pathfinder pictured infront of mountains

Styling 8/10

Perhaps Nissan realized the Pathfinder had strayed too far from its heritage, so when they went to the drawing board for this new model, they revisited history. It has what they call “reimagined proportions with truck-like brawn”, and that’s largely true. The 1986 example was considerably smaller and had iconic blister fenders that jutted out above and around the wheels.

Nissan Pathfinder wheel

They brought that design cue back with this new one, though still retaining much of the modern Nissan design ethos which is angled and muscular with subtle curves. The top of the grill has a 3-notch design paying tribute to the original Pathfinder grill, but with the rest of it retaining the “V-Motion” Nissan grill that has become a staple in their line. The C-shaped headlights and slender taillights wrap around the sides into the blister fenders. The tailgate hosts the bold “PATHFINDER” text across the back, a design element we are seeing more and more with SUVs, and I welcome the trend.

Nissan Pathfinder rear window

What you see here is the Platinum trim, equipped with 4WD and dawned in a beautiful Obsidian Green Pearl color and black roof. Nissan says there will be 14 colors/color combinations, including five new two-tone options like this one. The C-pillar is thick and carries the body color almost to the roof, being the only part where body color extends above the “waist” of the vehicle. The wheels are 20”, wrapped in all-season tires, with 18” as standard for lower trims. This earns an objectively good 8 out of 10 in the style department.

Interior 8/10

Nissan Pathfinder front seats

Simply put, the interior is a nice place to be. We’ve reached a point in vehicular society that I expect either faux wood or real wood, but there’s a curious lack of wood whatsoever in the Pathfinder, and I’m fine with that. They made up for it with an extensive amount of leather, a nice saddle brown color to complement the green exterior. Beyond that you have some metallic touches and an unfortunate amount of piano gloss black. The interior layout is well-executed, with clear sight-lines to the 3 displays, and a dedicated climate control panel sits just above the center console area. The head-liner is a light tan, making it appear even more open and spacious within. 

The Platinum trim gets you this semi-aniline leather-appointed seats, with cloth and leather as lower-trimmed options. Also, for the first time for Pathfinder, you have second-row captain’s chairs as an option, with a center console that is removable without need of tools. Otherwise, you’re given a full 8-seat interior that claims adults will fit in every seat. I of course tested this theory, and found it to be impressively true. I was able to sit behind myself, and then behind myself again. The 3rd row is a bit tight, and the seats aren’t nearly as comfortable as the captain’s chairs, but it’s feasible and one of the best 3rd rows I have experienced. 

Nissan Pathfinder interior

The 2nd row captain’s chairs have buttons to “launch” them forward, with what Nissan dubs as “EZ Flex”. It allows for very good entry/exit room to the 3rd row, but it’s not power-operated back into place. It’s simply a button that triggers the 2nd row seats to move forward dramatically. All in all, a very functional interior, equipped with a 3rd zone climate, USB ports and cup-holders galore. 8 out of 10.

Performance 6/10

Nissan Pathfinder v6 engine

The most discernible weak point of the Pathfinder is the power. Standing alone, the naturally aspirated 3.5L V6 making 284 hp and 259 lb-ft of torque is a solid power plant. But combined with the ~4,500 lb 3-row SUV, it isn’t necessarily quick, in any sense of the word. That being said, I should note all my testing took place between 5,000-8,500 ft. altitude, so it would most likely be a bit more lively at sea level. But a turbo would have been a welcome addition to help it along. The 7 driving modes are somewhat overwhelming, but the ones I was able to test seemed to work as well as they could given the vehicle’s limits.

Nissan Pathfinder gear shift

The 9-speed automatic transmission was quick and responsive, and it always stayed out of my way. I never truly had to interfere, unless I wanted an excuse to use the paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Having 9 gears at its disposal, the first 2 have excellent torque and get you moving from a stop quickly. Around town and at highway speeds, it seems to have the capability it needs, and these are arguably the most common use-cases. The only notable struggle is passing speed on a highway, and getting up to speed on an uphill on-ramp. Though I would have liked a bit more power, it did perform admirably and kept chugging along through all my tests. I can grant it a 6 out of 10.

Practicality 8.5/10

Nissan Pathfinder with trunk open

I typically weigh two major components with practicality: fuel economy and storage capacity. But there are certain times where one has to take a back-burner for the greater good of the cause. Most people buying a 3-row SUV, especially one capable of carrying 8 adults, would not expect the gas mileage of a Prius. The Pathfinder is rated for low to mid 20’s around the city and highway, and given its size and usefulness, that’s not half-bad. The real benefit, practically speaking, is the storage capacity. Nissan improved interior space by over 10 cubic feet, up to 164.6 total volume. There is a plethora of interior storage, cubbies, and cup-holders throughout the cabin. 

Nissan Pathfinder rear brown leather seats

The trunk is also immensely practical, allowing for up to 4 golf bags or a 120-quart cooler with the 3rd row upright. 16.6 cubic feet in this configuration, with 45 cubic feet when 3rd row folds flat. With all back rows down, you get over 80 cubic feet of massive capacity. The width within is 4 feet, which Nissan did intentionally to allow for transport of plywood sheets. A final Easter egg is the hidden storage behind the 3rd row under the floor, with 54 liters in an easy-to-clean plastic luggage compartment, complete with dividers. Sure, it’s not the most fuel efficient vehicle on the road, but it certainly is practically minded for capacity, giving it an impressive 8.5 out of 10. 

Comfort 9/10

Nissan Pathfinder steering wheel

The cabin itself is very comfortable, especially the driver, passenger and rear captain’s chairs. The leather is nice, and the seats are simultaneously supportive and cozy. Bearing in mind some of this is specific to the Platinum trim, it is still a tremendous value. Heated and ventilated power-adjustable seats, heated steering wheel, three-zone climate control, heated second row seats, all factors to provide comfort no matter what temperate and seating position. On longer drives, I did not find it exhausting in any way. I did notice the panoramic moon-roof, even with shade closed, was quite warm on a 90 degree day, and it let a fair amount of heat into the cabin. The strong A/C could keep up, but that’s something to keep in mind especially with a dark-colored car. Massaging seats would have been a nice touch, but I have to remind myself this is a sub-50K 3-row SUV, and this easily deserves 9 out of 10 in the comfort department.

Tech 8/10

Nissan Pathfinder dash

The Pathfinder is quite fully featured when it comes to technology. My Platinum example was featured with an all-new 12.3” driver’s display, replacing the standard gauges and smaller 7” display included with other trims. It has a very unique take on tachometer and speedometer, with a 3D effect making them appear tilted towards the back middle of the display. Above the gauge screen and dash is a 10.8” Head Up Display (HUD), a first for Pathfinder. It’s large, colored, and full of features and content. It seems to work quite well, though at night the “blacks” of the screen aren’t truly black, so I found it more distracting than helpful at times. 

To the upper middle of the center console is a 9” center screen, complete with all of Nissan’s infotainment suite, Android Auto, and wireless Apple CarPlay. This is 8” on lower trims, but I think even the 9” is barely big enough given the size of the interior. It’s fairly smooth, though it crashed a few times and froze. But I will assume that’s largely in part to the prototype software on this particular pre-production vehicle. I think I might have preferred the standard gauge cluster, though this was an interesting take on it.

Nissan Pathfinder safety features

And the HUD could have benefited from being monochromatic or OLED, but otherwise there is more tech than most could ask for. Lastly, the upgraded Bose stereo is quite good, though not incredibly bass-rich as most Bose units are. Granted, it is a large vehicle so some of that may be absorbed. All in all, it’s fully featured for most people, providing an 8 out of 10. 

Connected Services 9/10

Nissan Pathfinde infotainment center

NissanConnect is standard on all Pathfinder models, giving you Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You can also opt for a vehicle WiFi hotspot, wireless Qi phone charging, wireless CarPlay, Sirius XM, Nissan Door-to-Door Navigation, and the Intelligent Around-View Monitor. I really couldn’t think of any major connected service missing, and there’s even a weather app. They’re not all the easiest to use, especially with Nissan’s infotainment system style. But functionality is impressive, and their new Around-View Monitor (in layman’s terms, a 360º camera) is detailed and very helpful in parking. Wireless CarPlay is always my most-valued connected service, so I was happy to see it on this one. 

Nissan Pathfinde rear bumper

Pathfinder Platinum brings the new ProPILOT Assist with Navi-link, Nissan’s combination of their adaptive cruise control with navigation information. By linking ProPILOT Assist with Nissan’s advanced Door-to-Door Navigation System, the system can proactively reduce speed for highway curves or junctions and help slow the Pathfinder for freeway exits. This is an interesting and unique take on bringing adaptive cruise control a step further. It wasn’t very noticeable on my unit, but I imagine they are still working on the functionality for public release units. But for everything else, an impressive 9 out of 10 in connectivity.

Active Safety 8/10

Nissan Pathfinde dash

Nissan provides their Safety Shield 360 on all trims, including Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Assist and Rear Automatic Braking. Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Driver Alertness and Rear Door Alert are also standard, while Blind Spot Intervention, Intelligent Lane Intervention and Traffic Sign Recognition are available. Ten airbags are standard (11 on Platinum), though I’m not sure which one is removed for lower trims. I do understand the company value of reserving certain features for more money, but I reserve my highest safety scores for those who give everything to every trim. Still, this gets an 8 out of 10 for having most important safety materials across the board.

Value 8/10

Nissan Pathfinder front grill

Price is hard to gauge, as there are so many price brackets and varieties of customers and expectations. With that in mind, I am still impressed at the quality of materials and built, as well as the full suite of features, technology, and comfort at a top-trim 3-row SUV, all for just under $50,000 MSRP. I make a habit of guessing the price of each vehicle I review, and I had expected closer to $60K for this specific configuration. At the time of writing, we don’t yet know the entry price, but I can imagine I will be impressed with the value at all price points if even the highest trim undercuts my expectations. 8 out of 10 for an impressive, achievable value.

Editors Influence 7/10

Nissan Pathfinder from the rear

Nissan is hit-and-miss for me personally, but I always approach every new car with maximum objectivity despite my inherent subconscious automotive biases. I found myself liking this the more I drove it, and my only personal qualm was the slightly weak power train. However, for most people, I think this is set up well and meets or exceeds expectations of a large, capable SUV. It’s not quite my style, but the color scheme, wheels, and overall design are well-executed. It has earned my respects, especially with their attempt to pay homage to the original infamous Pathfinder of the 80s. My personalized influence grants this an adequate 7 out of 10. 

Previous article2021 Honda Accord Hybrid: Perfectly Fine
Next article2021 Mustang Mach-E: Technically, a Mustang 
I love the trajectory of transportation. It's always fascinating to see the emergence of technology within vehicles, and how they compete. I have a tremendous appreciation for EVs and old British all-mechanical roadsters alike. My personal daily driver is a NC Miata, but hoping to add an EV to the mix soon.