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Boring Crossover No More? Is the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder a Worthy Successor to the Original 4x4?

The 2022 Frontier pickup wasn’t the only new vehicle that Nissan debuted last week as part of its big plan to freshen up vehicles across its lineup.

Along with the long-overdue new pickup, Nissan also debuted the redesigned 2022 Pathfinder SUV—and like the Frontier, it comes looking to recapture some its former glory. But how does it compare to the original?

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Side View

While it might be hard to imagine looking at recent Pathfinders, this SUV was initially positioned as rival to the rugged and beloved Toyota 4Runner.

Looking Back

The first generation Pathfinder first appeared back in 1985, featuring body-on-frame construction, and a two-door layout. As you can see, it shared much of its underpinnings and design with the Nissan Hardbody Pickup of the same era.

Nissan Pathfinder Red 2 Door Off Roading

Like the Hardbody, the original Pathfinder was available with either an inline-four or V6 engines and, of course, could be spec’d with four-wheel-drive. A more practical four-door body style was added later, and just like the 4Runner, all Pathfinders eventually switched to the four-door layout.

Nissan Pathfinder 4 Door on Beach

The first gen Pathfinder was sold through 1995 and was replaced by a second gen model that switched to unibody construction for added refinement. The third gen model debuted in 2004, moving back to body-on-frame and basically acting as an SUV version of the Frontier pickup.

Nissan Pathfinder First Gen Silver

The biggest change for the Pathfinder came in 2013, when it not only moved back to a unibody platform, but also to a front-wheel-drive based layout shared with other Nissan vehicles. It even had a CVT transmission.

It had become a full-fledged family crossover at this point, sharing more with a minivan than the with the adventure-ready Pathfinders of previous decades.

Nissan Pathfinder two door towing boat

The New 2022 Nissan Pathfinder

When Nissan unveiled the new 2022 Pathfinder it positioned this next gen model as a return to form for the SUV. But is it? The answer is both yes and no.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder in Snow

At its most basic, the next generation Pathfinder remains a unibody, car-based crossover SUV with a front-biased AWD system but Nissan has done a lot of work to make the new model “cooler” and more capable.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Off Roading

It will be powered by a 3.5L V6 that makes 284hp, and the old CVT is left behind for a new nine-speed automatic. It also gets a new AWD system with direct coupling and multiple terrain modes.

There are also wider tires and improved towing capacity that will allow the 2022 Pathfinder to pull up to 6,000 pounds with trailer sway control.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Interior

The interior gets fully modernized of course, but the bigger story is outside with much bolder styling, shorter overhangs and some styling touches inspired by the original.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Rear View

So no, the new Pathfinder isn’t really looking to do battle with its old rival the 4Runner, but it does want to leave behind its minivan image and become a worthy competitor to more capable family crossovers like the Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot and Passport and even the Subaru Outback.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Red and Black

And if you were disappointed that the new Pathfinder hasn’t fully gone back to its body-on-frame roots there may still be hope.

Rumor has it that Nissan may be looking to revive the Xterra nameplate as an SUV version of the new Frontier that would truly be competition for the 4Runner, Ford Bronco and various Jeep products.

Here’s hoping that rumor becomes a reality, but in the meantime, it's nice to see the Pathfinder try to get some of its mojo back.

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