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Payne: Nissan Pathfinder finds its groove as 3-row family value

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

The three-row SUV space is a Fleming’s steakhouse on wheels with all kinds of delicious red meat on the menu. There’s the regal off-roadin’ Jeep Grand Cherokee L. The rockin’ twin-turbo V-6 Ford Explorer. The gorgeous why-would-you-spend-20-grand-more-for-an Audi-Q7 Mazda CX-9.

But the midsize ute that has wowed everyone is the Kia Telluride. A filet mignon platter with a Big Mac price. With looks, tech and value, it undercuts segment stalwarts by $5,000.

Challenge accepted. Here comes segment stalwart Nissan Pathfinder with its own value steak meal.

Pathfinder has been a segment regular going on five generations now. The original Pathfinder even predates Explorer. But sales have tailed off in recent years as the competition intensified and the Nissan grew long in the tooth. Interestingly, the all-new 2022 Pathfinder eschews Nissan’s usual visual sizzle for meat and potatoes.

Walking up to the big ute in Holly, Michigan, for a test drive, I found Pathfinder surprisingly simple. No floating roof. No plunging full-fascia V-motion grille. No whoop-de-do front fender swoops. No hybrid drivetrain. Like the all-new compact Rogue SUV also introduced this year, Pathfinder’s design is simple. Muscular. Timeless.

Pathfinder saves the sizzle for the stuff that really matters to families shopping in the midsize space: seats, towing capacity and room room room.

 

At 6’5” tall, I could sit behind myself in the third row sitting behind myself in the second row. Heck, even Nissan’s 6’10” product planner, Andrew Molnar, could fold himself into the third seat without having to take his head off. Ah, the advantages of not succumbing to the SUV “swept coupe-roof” trend.

Of course, most families don’t have kids the size of Kevin Durant. so the third-row seat space is a delight. Get the volume SV or SL trims and you can option a panoramic sunroof to bathe them in sunlight, too. Most important is third-row seat access — particularly when mom has popped out two more young ’uns (twins?) since their first two children were born.

That’s right rug rats, mom and dad want to put the child seats in the second row for easy access. Which means you’re headed to the third row if you’re age 6-plus. No problem.

Nissan engineers must be consulting 6-year-olds because they have made the second-to-third-row transition a wonder. Let’s pause briefly to give props to Honda here since they were the first to engineer one-button third-row seat access in their own Pilot three-rower.

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