The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder loses its CVT for a torque-converter automatic with actual gears. If you read nothing else, that is the reason to buy a new Pathfinder over the outgoing model. Nissan, among others, has been CVT-obsessed throughout the last decade or so. It’s been an adventure, one that seems to be fraught unless you follow strict fluid-change intervals.
Speaking of adventure, Nissan claims this new 2022 Pathfinder is “a powerful return to its rugged roots.” With fresh styling, that new transmission, and 6,000 pounds of towing capacity, I asked to spend a week with one to see how it all came together.
What Is It?
This is a 2022 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum. Claiming it’s “all new” for 2022, Nissan kept the outgoing Pathfinder’s basic “Nissan D” platform that’s existed in some way since 2007 but otherwise changed most everything stuck to it. Styling is all-new – inside and out – and a welcome change. Like it or not, it is at least distinctive and more crisp than last year’s model.
Though Nissan ditched the CVT for a ZF 9-speed automatic, the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder’s engine didn’t change from last year. That’s not a bad thing, as the 3.5 liter VQ35DD sounds great when revved and makes a competitive, healthy 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque. Power is, predictably, made at 6,400 rpm – toward the top of the tachometer – but peak torque is reached a bit lower at 4,800.
That power and torque flows through the ZF 9-speed to either the front wheels or, in most cases, an all-wheel drive system that offers up to seven drive modes and a “direct coupling” clutch. In short, the system is always active and ready to send power where it can be best used. No “slip ‘n’ grip” here.
Despite using the outgoing Pathfinder’s platform, the 2022 model employs a re-tuned suspension with increased roll stiffness, Nissan’s attempt to combat body roll through corners. Electronic power steering has been re-tuned as well to reduce effort.
Towing, of course, matters to us, and Nissan offers one of the highest tow ratings in the segment. The 2022 Pathfinder is rated to tow 6,000 pounds with 600 pounds of tongue weight. A dedicated Tow Mode influences how the all-wheel drive approaches metering power, handy for boat launches or anywhere else that traction may be limited.
MSRP of my fully-loaded 2022 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum came to $51,395.
Towing With the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder
I was immediately impressed by how comprehensive Nissan’s tow package was, as it includes under-dash wiring (and the requisite pigtail) for a trailer brake controller, sway control software, and a dedicated “hitch view” as part of the backup camera system. I elected to put it all to work with a borrowed BigTex 18′ open trailer and 1974 BMW 2002 strapped on top.
While this combination didn’t butt right up against the claimed 6,000 pound capacity, the car and trailer came in around 4,400 pounds – enough to see how the Pathfinder could do. My loaded Pathfinder Platinum featured 1,148 pounds of stated payload, pretty good for something its size. It’s important to note that not every 2022 Pathfinder is rated for 6,000 pounds – that rating requires the transmission cooler that’s part of the Premium Package on SV and SL trims, or standard on the Platinum. A basic Pathfinder S or SV/SL without the right package is rated for just 3,500 pounds instead.
On the move, the 2022 Pathfinder was relatively impressive towing the vintage BMW. The VQ is a (relative) screamer of an engine in how it produces power, but so long as I was willing to let it rev, it was happy keeping up with traffic. Nissan includes paddle shifters and a dedicated Manual mode for the transmission, but I left it in Drive and was just fine. I did encounter one “perfect storm” of an icy and steep gas station entrance with the trailer attached, and the all-wheel drive in Tow mode figured things out quickly with minimal wheelspin.
Perhaps most impressive in the Pathfinder’s towing manners was its suspension and ride quality. I found it all a bit on the stiff side in city driving, but the big crossover handled imperfections and undulations very well while towing. Body control was excellent and confidence-inspiring. Steering and stopping were similarly “just fine” with no concerns.
One irritant – it takes far too many steering wheel button pushes to deactivate rear automatic emergency braking, something that activated every. single. time I tried to back up with the trailer attached. Some logic of “deactivate in Tow mode” or an easily-accessed “press OK to disable” message would make reversing while towing far less infuriating.
Though I didn’t load the Pathfinder to the tippy-top of its stated capacity, I think it would be comfortable enough pulling such a load with an open trailer. A camper or (small, very small) enclosed car trailer would also work, as the 114.2″ wheelbase is long enough for stability, and Nissan does allow a weight-distributing hitch to be used. You just have to be willing to let that VQ sing a bit.
Daily-Driving the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder
Where I found the 2022 Pathfinder a remarkably competent tow vehicle, the whole thing kinda fell apart for me as a daily driver. Sorry, Nissan. It’s important to note that I spent a week in a 2022 Kia Telluride immediately before this Pathfinder showed up, so I had a long-standing segment champion constantly on my mind. Nissan has made big strides with this Pathfinder, but loses it a bit in the details.
I found the front seats uncomfortable for my 6’1″ frame, putting pressure on my body in strange spots and lacking sufficient thigh support from a too-short bottom cushion. The second row was a fine place to sit, with heated, sliding captains’ chairs. By comparison, the third row was tight. Even with the second row slid forward, the “way back” wasn’t as spacious as some competitors. Taller adults will want to stick to the first two rows.
Though I was glad to have a transmission with gears instead of a CVT, the nine-speed ZF was slow to downshift and eager to upshift unless driven in Sport mode. It made for quiet, drama-free motoring, but pulling out to pass in both quick city maneuvers and on the highway required Sport mode or, in Normal mode, planning ahead just a bit. Programming for “as low of RPM as possible” works better when an engine is turbocharged or supercharged – the big VQ35 here has to rev to make power, and the transmission isn’t quite in tune with the engine all the time.
Nissan has partnered with Bose for decades by now, and their premium audio system in the 2022 Pathfinder is pretty good. As always, it responds best when you feed it high-quality source material. The sound stage and tuning were both pleasing. The system is controlled by Nissan’s infotainment, which uses one font at a variety of character widths. It allows longer text to be crammed into a smaller space, but looks a bit un-designed in the process.
Ignoring font character width (because I am exactly the only one who will notice or care), more noticeable were the physical buttons below the touchscreen. The icons and words were printed sloppily, with nothing making a straight line with anything else. Conveniently, another Pathfinder was at the Washington Auto Show during my loan, and I noted that display car had similarly odd button printing, but applied differently than my test car.
Other little details seemed unfinished, too. The Pathfinder forgot my seat and steering wheel position toward the end of its week with me, powering everything backward for its Easy Exit mode and refusing to return to memory position. Nissan continues to use the key fob first introduced in 2007 or thereabouts, and what felt impressive 15 years ago feels too light and too thin now.
I realize I’m down to what many would consider an extreme level of nitpicking with roughly half of this review. My annoyances come from the price of this fully-loaded Pathfinder Platinum more than anything. At nearly $52,000, every detail needs to be exacting. That is a substantial amount of money for most buyers, and the reality is that other “mainstream” brands have figured out these small details a bit more at this price point.
Should you be in the market for a 2022 Pathfinder, you’ll likely find it just swell for your needs. It’s plenty nice inside, drives well for the most part, and tows very well for what it is. I would recommend sticking to a lower trim of Pathfinder, however, as the loaded Platinum doesn’t quite feel worth its price tag. The Pathfinder SV Premium stickers just shy of $42,000 – and makes a much more compelling case for itself.