The 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek has a unique black V-shaped grille with mesh styling and silver inserts. (Nissan)

The 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek has a unique black V-shaped grille with mesh styling and silver inserts. (Nissan)

2023 Nissan Pathfinder’s new Rock Creek boosts AWD ability

Raised suspension, power boost, unique looks and all-terrain tires are among the rugged model’s features.

The Pathfinder, whose name evokes thoughts of adventure and discovery, has been transporting outdoor enthusiasts and their gear for 38 years. When it was introduced by Nissan in 1985, the Pathfinder was a two-door, truck-based, boxy SUV with few frills.

Pathfinder kept up with trends and technology over the years, and today it’s a stylish, eight-passenger midsize SUV loaded with comfort, convenience, safety, entertainment and connectivity equipment. Outdoor enthusiast transport ability holds true with Pathfinder’s available all-wheel drive system with seven drive modes: Standard, Sport, Eco, Snow, Sand, Mud/Rut and Tow.

Buyers who don’t have a need for AWD accoutrements can opt for the Pathfinder’s standard front-wheel-drive configuration.

But for opposite buyers, who’d like an off-roady infusion for the AWD, Nissan has a rugged new Rock Creek model for 2023. It’s in the middle of Pathfinder’s lineup, which now looks like this: S, SV, Rock Creek, SL, and Premium.

The Pathfinder Rock Creek has an off-road-tuned suspension, four-wheel drive, distinct 18-inch wheels, all-terrain tires, off-road camera, tubular roof rack with 220-pound capacity, tow hitch receiver and harness, and LED fog lights. Its unique black V-shaped grille includes mesh styling and silver inserts.

Inside, the Rock Creek model has durable synthetic leather upholstery and orange stitching. With second-row captain’s chairs rather than a bench, seating capacity is seven rather than eight.

Durable waterproof synthetic leather upholstery and orange stitching are standard on the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek. (Nissan)

Durable waterproof synthetic leather upholstery and orange stitching are standard on the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek. (Nissan)

Pathfinder’s 3.5-liter V6 engine is enhanced for the Rock Creek model to deliver 295 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. (Ratings for other models in the lineup are 284 hp and 259 lb-ft.) The Rock Creek’s fuel economy rating is 20 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 21 mpg combined. All other Pathfinder models fare better, up to 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.

Pricing starts at $36,295 (including a $1,295 destination charge) for a front-drive S model. The Rock Creek starts at $44,115 and the top-level Platinum at $51,165.

Pathfinder Rock Creek’s ride on pavement at highway speeds is much smoother than most would expect. The cabin shouldn’t be misjudged, either. It isn’t noisy at all.

Interior space is abundant, with gobs of headroom throughout and plenty of legroom for second-row passengers to stretch out. Materials are of high quality and everything is put together with precision. Good thought was given to storage places, including a bridge-style center console with a large bin underneath, a dedicated spot for upright cellphone confinement providing easy viewing, and multiple cupholders for the front seats plus six more for second-row passengers.

A power liftgate is standard on SL and Platinum models, optional on the SV, and not available on the S or Rock Creek. I managed nicely during a week of having to manually open and close the liftgate, but never fully suppressed the secret wish for power operation.

A bigger issue was the all-season cargo area floor protector, part of a $345 option package of floor liners for the whole interior. Rubber floor liners are a big favorite of mine, a must-have for anyone doing mountain or country living in Snohomish County. The Rock Creek liners were great everywhere except in the cargo area because they’re super nonskid, so sliding cargo items in or out, or moving them around, was a borderline hardship.

On a happier note, the Pathfinder Rock Creek’s infotainment system exemplifies technological common sense and user-friendliness.

A tubular roof rack and all-terrain tires indicate a sense of adventure in the new 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek model. (Nissan)

A tubular roof rack and all-terrain tires indicate a sense of adventure in the new 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek model. (Nissan)


Base price, including destination charge: $44,115

Price as driven: $45,250

Mary Lowry is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. She lives in Snohomish County. Vehicles are provided by automotive manufacturers as a one-week loan for evaluation purposes only. Manufacturers do not control content of the reviews.

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