Nissan is rejuvenating the Rock Creek Pathfinder – and it’s more than paint and trim.
Last year, Nissan returned to the roots of the Pathfinder. Squarer than candle, it carried over many of its styling cues from the original 1985 SUV.
This year, Nissan is looking to capitalize on that rugged look, adding Rock Creek trim aimed at “buyers looking for the next level of fun and adventure.”
So what are the updates? Here’s what we know.
Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek: a tough look
It starts with the visuals: the Rock Creek has a dark-finished grille with a mesh insert. And the sporty, off-road looks are complemented by orange contrast stitching on the seats, steering wheel and other interior touches.
If that wasn’t enough, Nissan unveiled the Rock Creek Pathfinder with a sand-colored paint job as a nod to its tough, off-road-ready DNA.
Rock Creek has some real upgrades
Looks aside, we’re still a little skeptical. After all, the 2019 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek was nothing more than an appearance package.
This time, however, Nissan seems serious about buyers finding new paths with genuine upgrades that add extra capability.
For starters, the Rock Creek Nissan Pathfinder in Toyo Rough Country all terrain tires. The tires give the SUV more traction when driving off-road. They are less prone to punctures and tears from rocks, sharp gravel and other trail debris than standard crossover rubber.
Mounted on 18-inch beadlock wheels, the setup is also very good.
Nissan also raised the Rock Creek by five-eighths of an inch. This extra height gives the Pathfinder valuable extra clearance to help avoid scraping the underside on ruts, rocks or smaller logs.
Nissan has retuned the suspension with new springs and shocks designed to improve the Pathfinder’s ride and handling when you pull it off the pavement.
More power with premium fuel
More power is also on the Rock Creek’s menu. Nissan specified premium fuel and new engine mapping to make the Pathfinder go faster where it’s going. The Rock Creek boasts 295 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque compared to its predecessor’s 284 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque.
It won’t make the Pathfinder Rock Creek a rocket ship, but it should make a noticeable difference on and off road.
If you’re more concerned with pennies than performance, the engine can still run at lower horsepower figures on regular gasoline.
The transmission is the same nine-speed automatic that Nissan puts on the “normal” Pathfinder.
The 6,000-pound towing capacity doesn’t change, but Nissan made a tow hitch receiver and wiring harness standard. Nissan has also added a large tubular roof rack which can hold up to 220 lbs. That’s not enough for rooftop camping, but the increase over the Pathfinder’s standard 165-pound limit is enough for plenty of extra weekend gear.
Nissan’s Intelligent Surround View Monitor, a set of cameras that lets you look around, is standard. It gets an off-road mode which Nissan doesn’t detail, but we assume it works at higher speeds on the track; most cameras turn off above parking lot speed when driving on the road.
There are a few other cosmetic changes, like second-row captain’s chairs and leatherette seats with cloth inserts that are exclusive to Rock Creek. We like the leather but aren’t sure about the fabric for post-weekend mud shedding.
Nissan ‘treads lightly’ with the Rock Creek Pathfinder
To help Rock Creek owners get off the road, Nissan says it will partner with off-road vehicle activists Tread lightly. The partnership means Nissan will consult with Tread Lightly to ensure it showcases responsible off-roading in its advertising.
Nissan will also work on stewardship projects near its plants in Mississippi and Tennessee. The first of its kind project will help repair flood damage and reopen logging roads in the Delta National Forest.
The 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek will be on display at the New York International Auto Show starting this week. Sales begin at the end of summer.