Search Cars for Sale

The Rugged New Nissan Pathfinder is Still a Family Crossover

Off-road enthusiasts never warmed up to the fourth-generation (R52) Nissan Pathfinder that came out for the 2013 model year. It was a clean break from the Pathfinder’s past that, well, found a new path. It evolved from a rugged off-roader into a softer, more car-like family crossover. Now a new fifth-generation (R53) Pathfinder has arrived with a greater emphasis on what Nissan calls a “rugged image.” I’m here to report that while it does look more rugged, the new Pathfinder is still a family crossover.

Nissan Pathfinder: Family Off-Roader

Make no mistake: I don’t mean to disparage the new Pathfinder when I call it a family crossover. The midsize 3-row SUV segment is hot and Nissan needs a dog in the fight. But it seems that Nissan has now found a better balance between rugged off-roader and practical family hauler. With the previous generation, it went too far in the direction of a minivan alternative and totally forgot its roots.

So, what’s new with the new Pathfinder? Aesthetically, the R53 is a pretty big departure from the R52. The new Pathfinder has a pretty close resemblance to the recently redesigned Armada, but with a few design cues borrowed from the past. The most notable is the painted and slightly diagonal C-pillar reminiscent of the first three generations of the Nissan Pathfinder. This is a pretty subtle touch, but I like it and I think it’s something that off-road enthusiasts will notice and appreciate. It’s also boxier than the more flowy R52, which does go a long way in making that rugged appearance.

Power comes from a familiar 3.5-liter V6 engine. But, it’s mated to a new 9-speed automatic transmission sourced from ZF. This replaces the CVT of the outgoing model and it’s a nicely tuned transmission with smooth, snappy shifts that change depending on the drive mode.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder in blue

Good Enough Off-Road

What about off-road capability? I was able to put the Pathfinder through its paces in Montana and I can say with confidence that I did more extreme off-roading than what 99% of these Pathfinders will ever see. And it wasn’t that extreme.

The new Nissan Pathfinder didn’t miss a beat when I used it to climb a pretty rugged mountain road or when I took it on a muddy trail with some pretty sizable puddles, but we’re not talking super technical rock-climbing. And that’s just fine because that’s not what this Pathfinder is for.

Most of these Pathfinders will be used for family-hauling duty, and it’s well-suited for the job. The previous Nissan Pathfinder had the distinction of one of the best third-row seats with decent legroom and pretty easy accessibility compared to rivals.

Nissan improved on family-friendliness with features like a removable second-row center console, a clever, power-operated system for tipping and sliding the second-row seats with a child car seat in place, and a spacious storage area hidden in the floor of the trunk. It also boasts best-in-class towing of up to 6,000 lbs.

A More Rugged Minivan Alternative

This all adds up to a solid family crossover that’s more on the rugged side. It also serves as a good midsize alternative to a bigger, more expensive, less efficient full-size SUV thanks to its respectable towing muscle. An off-road nut looking for something to tackle Moab will want to look elsewhere. But anyone looking for a practical family rig that’s up for occasional off-road adventures will find a lot to love in the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder. Find a Nissan Pathfinder for sale

Sign up for Autotrader newsletters

The best cars and best deals delivered to your inbox

Email Address 

By subscribing, you agree to our privacy policy

Where You Can Buy

Loading dealers...

Leave a Comment

Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt is an author specializing in Oversteer content, new car reviews, and finding the best car, truck, and SUV deals each month. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Eric can often be found exploring the north woods on his 1983 Honda Gold Wing when the weather allows it. Father of four, husband of one, and unapologetic minivan enthusiast. Eric mastered driving stick by having a 3-cylinder Chevy... Read More

Most Popular Articles

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid: First Look

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid jumps to the head of the hybrid class.

Best Truck Deals: June 2021

These are the best deals on trucks for the month of June.

Search By Style

More Articles Like This