Fellow parents ask me for car-buying advice on a regular basis, and the vast majority of the time they want to know about three-row SUVs. The target market is excited about three-row SUVs because it means they don’t have to–gasp!–resort to a minivan to fit Johnny, Jackie, Joanie, and three friends plus all of their hockey and lacrosse gear in the vehicle.
The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is new from the ground up and it’s here to fight for the right to party in this category. It makes sense, if you think about the timing: the first-gen Pathfinder was launched in the mid-80s with a square body-on-frame model, and those who remember that are old enough to be parents themselves.
The second-generation Pathfinder got more attractive, with noticeable curves and more power. In its third generation, it had a crisis of confidence and went back to acting more like a truck; on the plus side, that’s the generation that added a third row to the SUV. After that era, Nissan kicked off the Pathfinder’s fourth generation and I think the SUV went into a design slump, showing up on dealer lots looking somewhat blah and uninspired.
For 2022, Nissan decided it’s not going to stay on Boring Street. The new SUV has a wider stance and more attitude befitting a middle-aged nameplate that’s finding its groove. I really like the new look, especially in Scarlet Ember Red, which sparkles with a fair amount of metallic flake that enhances the lines along its flanks.
If you select one of the trims equipped with the tow hitch and harness (available on SV and SL, standard on Platinum), you’ll have the option to haul up to 6,000 pounds, which is a half-ton more than its competitors like the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, and Chevrolet Traverse. Trailer sway control is now standard. The towing option alone gives it a significant advantage over a minivan, and the presence of six drive modes (Standard, Sport, Eco, Snow, Sand, Mud/Rut, and Tow) are enticing for overlanding. Behind the third row under the carpet panel is a plastic storage bin with a drain plug for camping or tailgating. That’s also a good place to hide gifts from nosy children, but perhaps not at the same time you’re icing down frosty beverages.
Under the hood, a whole lot of people are excited that Nissan kicked the CVT to the curb in favor of a nine-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The 2022 model keeps the 3.5-liter V6 powerplant that produces 284 horsepower and 259 pound-feet of torque; Nissan hasn’t released the curb weight of the newest Pathfinder so I can’t evaluate how well the engine will propel the SUV forward, but I expect it to be roughly the same as the 2021 model.
Another minivan-like feature is a whopping total of 16 cupholders. That’s more than two for each person, which makes me wonder how many times you have to stop for a restroom break on a road trip if every passenger is taking in that many ounces of liquids. Captain’s chairs are an option for the second row in 2022, and a movable console is a welcome substitute for the previous generation’s console, which could only be removed with tools, and not easily.
One welcome touch I noticed was the presence of USB ports in all three rows (USB-C and USB-A in the first and second rows) as well as a 120-volt three-prong outlet in the second row. My laptop battery is dying, so having the option to plug in while I’m waiting in the parking lot during soccer practice is appealing. The ratio of USB ports to devices directly correlates to your happiness and peace in the vehicle, so that’s a key facet.
I haven’t been excited about the Pathfinder since the Rock Creek Edition, and this one has a number of improvements. I might even want to go camping if I can plug in my coffee maker.
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