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Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition On- and Off-Road Review

Nissan has a wide variety of vehicles, from tuners to trucks and everything in between. The Nissan Pathfinder has been around for just over 30 years and has carried passengers around via tarmac, dirt and snow seemingly forever. This unibody crossover started out as a body-on-frame SUV back in the day, but over its four generations, it’s certainly evolved.

Front of Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition

The latest rendition, the newly released 2019 Nissan Rock Creek Edition, is capable of zooming around town as well as traversing over bumpy single-track National Forest roads on your family’s overland adventure.

Front of Blue Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition

Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition Launch Event

I just attended Nissan’s 2019 Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition launch in Missoula, Montana, and had the chance to take this CUV on- and off-pavement across dirt, mud and snow-filled tracks as well as through a few rain-induced flooded water crossings. Nissan took us through what this new edition offers to potential buyers, and then cut us loose in remote Montana to test the 4WD CUV for ourselves.

Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition Driving Through a Puddle

Exterior Features

So why would a buyer pick the Rock Creek Edition over a standard SL or SV model? This special edition includes niceties such as a substantial 6,000 lb towing capacity, an incorporated hitch receiver with seven-pin wiring harness and an updated sleek, blacked-out look.

Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition trailer hitch area

Also included are plastic fender overflares, splash guards and an updated front fascia. This new Pathfinder edition also takes styling cues from the Nissan Titan pickup truck with its 18-inch dark-finished aluminum alloy wheels.

Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition wheel detail

Interior Elements

No matter if you’re crossing the continent or getting groceries, you want a comfortable cockpit. Nissan offers a choice of either leather seats on SL models, or a cloth/leatherette duo via the SV trim level. The seats are fairly supportive with pops of sporty orange stitching and accents throughout. Other interior materials felt solid and high quality, too.

Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition front seat stitching

Nissan nailed the center stack design. Easy-to-use knobs are the perfect size for adjusting the volume and tuning, as well as climate control. The on-screen navigation is easy to read. This center console offers quick-charge USB, USB-C and DC ports, making it easy for travelers to plug in necessary electronics such as mobile phones or tablets. There are also additional charging ports in the rear of the cabin. It’s refreshing to see an auto manufacturer install USB-C ports.

Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition center stack

Also found in the center stack is the turn dial for the Pathfinder’s intelligent 4WD (4x4-i) system.

Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition 4WD knob

Two optional trim packages are available. Those opting for SL models can purchase the premium package, which dons an impressive 13 speaker Bose sound system and power panoramic sunroof. The SV model features a tech package, including NissanConnect with Navi and Sirius XM traffic, as well as heated elements like the front cloth seats, side mirrors and steering wheel. Hey, you’ve got to stay warm on those cold treks.

On-Road Performance

The Rock Creek’s impressive towing capacity allows owners to pull anything from a camper trailer to a boat—perfect for a family of adventurers. Nissan’s 3.5L V6 generates 284hp and 259 lb-ft of torque through their XTRONIC CVT engine. Both Pathfinder trim levels had sprightly acceleration with plenty of passing power. The vehicle offers up enough grip that it can make you forget you’re driving a seven-passenger CUV. At highway speeds, it was a comfortable cruiser offering up good ride quality and minimal noise.

Off-Road Impressions

The Nissan Rock Creek Edition’s 4x4-i system easily switches the rig from 2WD or 4WD auto to 4WD lock modes with the flick of a wrist and turn of the dial. Also found here are hill start assist and hill descent features.

Front of Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Driving Through a Puddle

The Pathfinder’s suspension absorbed ruts, potholes and uneven off-pavement terrain with a cushy ride. This family adventure rig drove smaller than it was, but it was a tad too wide for my liking. As I drove through hard-packed and loose dirt, the Rock Creek felt planted and seemed willing to take on more, despite it coming with all-season tires. Plus, the 4WD system did exactly what it needed to do as the terrain became more challenging.

Adding Additional All-Terrain Readiness

As with most CUVs, a set of more aggressive all-terrain tires, such as Nitto’s Terra Grappler G2s, would give the Pathfinder more off-pavement prowess and a bit more ground clearance. Plus, the new compound should last for many overland adventures (up to 65,000 miles).

Driving the Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek

A buyer looking to add even more attitude and traction could add a set of Nitto Ridge Grapplers, which have an aggressive look and offer even more off-road prowess in dry, wet and off-road situations. Both tires can be had in a 265/60/18, which is just a bit wider than the Pathfinder’s stock 255/60/18.

Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition Driving on a Trail

The 4WD system was used when navigating through muddy trail sections. I quickly engaged 4WD lock and escaped muddy sections that begged for the 4WD to sink into it. Having a more extreme tread pattern would allow for even more increased traction than the stock tires when faced with these sticky situations.

Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition Driving on a Dirt Trail

If you’re looking for a comfortable, stylish CUV that can tackle cross country tarmac trips, as well as handle milder off-pavement terrain, then the 2019 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition should be looked at. This special edition package has a mark-up of an additional $995. However, if you were add all of these items a la carte, it’d cost $2,310. This adventure-ready CUV has an MSRP of $38,000 (including destination fee).

Rear of Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition on a Trail

Photos by Mercedes Lilienthal and Perry Stern

We also reviewed the off-road chops of the Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9 and Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk.

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