September 29, 2022

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The Power of Choice

Nissan Pathfinder gets a makeover, now comes with 9-speed automatic

6 min read

Nissan’s iconic Pathfinder got a major makeover for 2022, creating the fifth generation of this popular midsize sport utility.
The biggest news is that the new Pathfinder comes with a conventional nine-speed automatic transmission, which replaces the previous generation’s continuously variable transmission, or CVT.

With the redesign, the Pathfinder also got 10 cubic feet more interior space and a boost in available seating capacity to eight people, where the previous model was limited to seven. There is also more room for cargo. 

Pathfinder is still available in a seven-passenger configuration, thanks to the dual middle-row captain’s chairs that were standard on our test vehicle, the top-of-the-line Platinum model with four-wheel drive (base price $48,640, plus $1,225 freight.
For middle-row passengers, there is an easily removable center console between the captain’s chairs.
Although the Pathfinder is mostly new for 2022, it does carry over the 3.5-liter V-6 direct-injection gasoline engine from last year. It’s still rated at 284 horsepower and 259 foot-pounds of torque. 

That’s still plenty of power for the Pathfinder, as its curb weight range has remained almost the same as before.
All Pathfinder models come with front-wheel drive as the standard mode, with four-wheel drive versions priced at $1,900 more.
There are four trim levels, starting with the base S model ($33,880, front drive; $35,780, 4WD).
Besides our Platinum 4WD tester, the other models are the SV ($36,670, front drive; $38,570, 4WD); SL ($40,140, front drive; $42,040, 4WD); and Platinum front-drive ($46,740).

Nissan’s updated Intelligent 4WD system is fully automatic with no driver input required. It features direct coupling, which allows torque transfer directly on the clutch pack using oil pressure, allowing for immediate take-off in low-traction situations, Nissan says.
It does not include low-range gearing for serious off-road driving situations, but there is a seven-position Drive and Terrain mode selector. Modes are Standard, Sport, Eco, Snow, Sand, Mud/Rut and Tow, and are displayed as a pop-up notification on the dash.
There is a similar system for two-wheel-drive Pathfinders, with five settings: Standard, Sport, Eco, Snow and Tow. 
Fuel economy has improved slightly, with EPA ratings of 21 mpg city/26 highway/23 combined for front-drive models, and 21/27/23 for four-wheel drives, except Platinum, which is 20/25/22.

Introduced in 1985 as a two-door SUV based on the chassis of the Nissan compact pickup, the Pathfinder was essentially Nissan’s answer to the Toyota 4Runner, which had a similar design based on the small Toyota pickup.
For 1990, the four-door Pathfinder was introduced to compete with the all-new Ford Explorer, which began the era of sport-utility vehicles as replacements for big family station wagons.
During the first three generations, Pathfinder retained its original body-on-frame truck-style configuration with standard rear-wheel drive and optional four-wheel drive.

For the fourth generation, introduced for 2013, the Pathfinder joined the newest trend – becoming a unibody utility vehicle (body and frame together as one unit) with standard front-wheel drive and carlike ride and handling. These vehicles are known as crossover utility vehicles.
With the fourth generation, Pathfinder production was moved from Japan to the Nissan plant near Nashville, Tennessee, where it is still assembled today.
In the fifth generation, the Pathfinder retains the crossover-style unibody configuration. 

Outside, the new Pathfinder is boxier than that of the previous generation, which was done on purpose. It was designed to take the vehicle’s styling back to its earlier, more-rugged appearance.
Even so, this is a refined utility vehicle with comfort and convenience features designed for family cruising – while also providing the attributes needed for going off the beaten path. It’s arguably the top vehicle on the market that combines the best of both worlds: crossover and SUV.

I did appreciate the new nine-speed automatic, which replaced CVT that had been used since the switch to front drive from rear-wheel drive for 2013, when the Pathfinder moved to unibody construction.
This transmission shifts smoothly through its range in the same way a CVT does, and always at seemingly the exact right point. While there are steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters to allow for manual operation of the transmission, there’s really no need for them unless you’re in some off-road situations where you want to hold the transmission in a specific gear.
Pathfinder has standard towing capacity of 3,500 pounds, but that can be upgraded to 6,000 pounds on SV and SL models, while Platinum models come with the 6,000-pound rating.

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