The reworked 2022 Nissan Pathfinder SUV (sport-utility vehicle), beefed up and aimed squarely at Ford’s Explorer and, to a lesser extent, Toyota’s Highlander, is a big improvement over the lacklustre and aged Pathfinder it replaces. But should you buy it?
Not if you want a full-size gasoline-electric hybrid SUV that mitigates the pain of exploding pump prices. This is not a small matter. After just a few days of driving my $57,408 (as tested) Pathfinder Platinum tester, the hit came to nearly $70 to replenish barely half a tank.
Ugh. At least this was a spacious, premium rig. More on that in a bit.
First, let’s talk fuel efficiency and costs.
The Pathfinder gets 10.5 litres/100 combined, versus 6.7 litres/100 combined for the thriftiest of Toyota Highlander hybrids. The base Highlander Hybrid has a slightly pokey but survivable 2.5-litre gas engine paired with hybrid electric drive (240 net horsepower) which is just fine for everything but towing.
Nissan does not yet sell a hybrid Pathfinder and might not ever bother; the only engine available today is robust 284-horsepower 3.5-litre V-6 paired with a new 9-speed automatic gearbox with robust responses and smooth shifts.
The dollars and cents story boils down to this: the cheapest Highlander Hybrid ($46,000) will save you somewhere around $1,000 a year on fuel – more if prices keep skyrocketing — versus any of the V-6 Pathfinders, even the base model at $44,000.
But, of course, almost no one buys the starter Highlander Hybrid. It’s a pretty bare-bones model. So, I might be whistling in the dark here.
Instead, most zoom upmarket to at least the Highlander Hybrid XLE with a 3.5-litre gas engine that is stunningly inefficient: 11.8 city/8.6 hwy. Ford’s Explorer Hybrid gets 10.1/9.0 or 9.6 combined, BTW. I wouldn’t bother with either of them; the fuel savings are a disappointment; they most certainly do not justify the cost and complexity.
In short, the non-hybrid Pathfinder is thriftier than the most powerful Highlander Hybrid and a near-match for the Explorer Hybrid. I’d spend my money on the base Highlander Hybrid with its three-row seating, unless I needed to tow something hefty.
Then the Pathfinder gets a long look, thanks to max towing capacity of 2,722 kg or 6,000 pounds.
While examining this rig, it’s worth taking your time going over all the changes and improvements for 2022. Because after taking an eternity to reinvent its core SUV model, Nissan has done some fine work, though as usual with this automaker, a few things fall short of the mark.
For instance, it’s unit-body chassis construction delivers a tight and quiet ride at highway speeds, but it’s a ponderous truck in the corners. The slow, heavy responses are sub-par. In sum, this Pathfinder is ideal for a long, straight drive across the Prairies, not a twisty blast through the Rockies.
Indeed, the ProPilot Assist cruise control maintains speed and delivers driver-selectable distance control with the car ahead, while also keeping you centered in the lane. All useful. Except the steering wheel jiggles and warns delivers an unnerving warning if you stray from your lane or take your hands off the wheel.
Moving on, there is an available and terrific 10.8-inch heads-up display and a customizable 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster to go with it. But the interface story has a disappointing ending at the 9.0-inch infotainment screen. This piece isn’t much bigger than many of today’s smart phones. It’s sub-par in a world of Tesla-sized infotainment screens.
Yes, the infotainment set-up is easy enough, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and all that. But honestly: 2017 is calling, Nissan, and it wants that 9.0-inch screen back. On the other hand, a huge, long list of safety aids – blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts and such – are very much 2021-2022.
As for the design, the outside is an unabashed nod to truck-like SUVs, the Explorer first among them. It’s boxy and hard-edged, only slightly softened by LED lighting and what’s called a “floating roof” designed to lessen the heaviness of the thing.
Nissan appears convinced that today’s SUV buyer not only wants to drive something that looks like a police assault vehicle, but also demands Range Rover off-road abilities. This Pathfinder has in fact seven driving modes: Standard, Sport, Eco and Tow for on-road, and Snow, Sand and Mud/Rut for off-road.
Yes, this Pathfinder is a front-driver (to save fuel) until there’s a need for the rears to engage. But thanks to smart software, AWD responses are very snappy and totally unintrusive. You will not notice them.
You will find yourself agog at the enormous cabin. All Pathfinders come with seating for eight, save the Platinum with its middle-seat captain’s chairs, and there is room for up to five child seats for when the quintuplets arrive. The so-called EZ Flex middle row affords one-touch access to the rears in a lift-and-slide operation.
The storage saga is compelling, too. Yes, you can load a 4×8 plywood sheet into the flattened rear, but almost no one needs that. What is more useful is cargo capacity for six roll-aboards in back, even when the third row is up and occupied. The storage space under the front console is perfect for purses, and there’s also a wireless charging station and 16 cupholders. The armrest locker between the front seats is also quite large and the door pockets are generous.
Finally, material and build quality. Both are very good. The luxurious Platinum model does indeed offer a up-market look and feel at a fair price.
Should you buy it? If fuel economy is somewhere down on your list below space, utility and straight-line comfort, yes. There’s value here. Otherwise, the Highlander Hybrid base model is the clear choice in rigs of this size.