The Test Vehicle
Nissan lent us a 2022 Pathfinder SL AWD. The Pathfinder has been alternating between body on frame and unibody in its different generations since its introduction in 1985. They broke that trend this year, as the new 5th generation Pathfinder is still a unibody construction. While some of its ruggedness may have been lost, it has lots of tech to help out off-road. And thank you Nissan for using a real 9-speed automatic, rather than a CVT.
Tires are a Toyo Open Country, which is a huge lineup of tires, and these specific Open Country’s are a very mild all-season.
We started the test by descending Sniper Hill. Tommy switched the Pathfinder into its mud and ruts mode, so the vehicle automatically applied the brakes to maintain a speed of about 4mph down the hill. Going down was an absolute breeze, but coming back up may be a different story.
Nathan’s crack is a large natural ravine that is a great test of approach and departure angle. The Pathfinder has an approach angle of about 15 degrees. Going through Nathan’s Crack, the chin of the Pathfinder gently brushed the ground, but there wasn’t any damage. Tommy planted his foot into the accelerator, and after a few seconds of thinking, the Pathfinder’s computer system figured it out and modulated power to the correct wheels. We’d like the vehicle to allow a bit more wheel spin in it’s mud & ruts mode, but nevertheless, it still climbed out no problem.
Driving down into Andre’s pit was very loud! There are lots of roots and branches sticking up from the ground, and the Pathfinder’s 7-inches of ground clearance definitely made for some noisy driving. The Pathfinder got pretty stuck in the mud trying to climb out of the pit. Tommy switched it into sand mode with VDC off which allowed for more wheel spin and pulled the Pathfinder up the hill. Again, tires are the downfall of the Pathfinder here. With a better tire, the Pathfinder would definitely do better in the mud.
Pathfinder vs Tumbleweed
Climbing back up Sniper Hill was definitely a challenge. Bering that the hill as covered in ice, Tommy decided to use snow mode, which tries to limit wheel spin as much as possible. After lots of throttle and not moving, we backed down the hill and tried to get up with momentum. Momentum was the key; once the turbo spooled up we climbed up the hill with no issue.
The Pathfinder did pretty well off-road. As much as we’d love to see better tires, most people aren’t chasing dirt trails in their Pathfinders, and the noise and economy compromise you make for better off-road tires, just isn’t worth it. You can check out the full off-road test here. And don’t forget to head over to TFL-studios.com to catch all of our automotive related content.