For those looking to spend their weekends getting a little dirty, the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek is the perfect vehicle. It has a sturdy roof rack, sits 0.6 inches higher off the ground, and is equipped with 18-inch all-terrain tires.
Rivals for the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder include the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, and Kia Telluride. The Pathfinder is a roomy, midsize, three-row SUV with a powerful towing capacity. The Pathfinder saw several upgrades following a comprehensive makeover last year, chief among them being a more pleasant ride and newer technological capabilities.
Because of its size, it’s also incredibly family-friendly; adults (or very huge teenagers) may fit on the third row with ease. However, a lot of midsize three-row SUVs don’t work like that. Additionally, the Pathfinder performs admirably when towing; with a maximum capability of 6,000 pounds when outfitted appropriately, it can haul a small to midsize trailer.
The Pathfinder receives a new trail-inspired trim for 2023 named Rock Creek. The first set of improvements includes off-road suspension, standard all-wheel drive, and a small 0.6-inch rise above previous Pathfinders with AWD. Along with the unique 18-inch wheels and all-terrain tires, it also boasts a slightly stronger V6 engine when running on premium fuel. There’s a roof rack up top that can hold up to 220 pounds.
The enhanced capability of Rock Creek is the result of two primary enhancements. The combination of its beadlock-style 18-inch wheels and extremely chunky Toyo Open Country all-terrain tires, which are wider than the all-season tires on standard Pathfinders, looks quite rad. A 0.6-inch lift has also been added to the Rock Creek’s suspension. This may not seem like much, but every little bit helps while off-roading. Furthermore, its normal suspension height is superior to that of the previous generation Rock Creek Pathfinder.
Admittedly, most of the additional Rock Creek enhancements are purely stylistic. Fortunately, I think they give the Rock Creek a far more fascinating, purposeful, and cool appearance than the already gorgeous basic Pathfinder. A wider silver faux skid plate, a revised bumper primarily composed of black plastic, and a gloss black grille with a huge mesh pattern are added to the front end. Although entirely constructed of black plastic, the side skirts and rear bumper are identical to those of the standard Pathfinder. Along with plenty of Rock Creek badging, a tubular roof rack with a 220-pound load capacity, and some unique exterior colors like Baja Storm, it also comes with
There are also powertrain changes for the Rock Creek. With premium petrol, its naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 produces 295 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, up from 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft in the standard Pathfinder due to altered fuel programming. The sole available option is all-wheel drive, and the Rock Creek, like other new Pathfinders, features a nine-speed automatic transmission—a significant upgrade over the CVT seen in previous models.
2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek: Performance
The Pathfinder felt perfectly appropriate for the group. The V6’s performance is comparable to that of the class leaders. Although the transmission can be hesitant to downshift when going uphill, it shifts quietly and smoothly most of the time. Additionally, braking performance is mediocre.
The Pathfinder feels steady and in control when turning. The steering is direct and makes turning and parking the large Pathfinder easy, even though it feels a little heavier than that of some competitors.
There are seven distinct drive modes available on every Pathfinder with all-wheel drive, including settings for mud, ruts, and sand, among other conditions. Additionally, the Rock Creek has a tow mode with a standard tow hook and a maximum capability of 6,000 pounds. These parameters alter stability control, throttle response, and torque distribution—not particularly novel but certainly useful. There is a lot of low-end torque available from the V6 engine, and it sounds better.
Unlike the majority of Nissan Pathfinder grades, which only provide front-wheel drive (FWD) until you check a $2,000 options box, the Rock Creek comes standard with all-wheel drive (AWD). That’s hardly surprising, considering the credentials. However, the Rock Creek also produces more torque and horsepower than any other Pathfinder, even the most expensive Platinum model.
2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek: Comfort
Although it’s not the most comfortable car in its class, the Pathfinder is nevertheless a pleasant place to spend time. The ride is cozy without being unduly bouncy or mushy. Although there are bumps, the seats don’t shock you. After a long day of driving, comfort may suffer from the front seats’ flat and rigid design.
The temperature control system functions flawlessly, producing very chilly air without creating the noise of a jet engine taking off. We also enjoy how user-friendly the system’s buttons and knobs are. There is hardly much noise from the wind or the roads.
2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek: Interior
Adults will find plenty of room in all three rows, though it can be difficult to get in and out of the back seat. The captain’s chairs were in the second row in our test Pathfinder. Between them is a middle console that is reasonably simple to take off.
There is good visibility outside. Large mirrors and erect windows serve to minimize blind areas and facilitate parking. Another useful position is driving. All the controls are easily accessible, and there is much room for modification. Additionally, the controls themselves are simple to use. While adequate, Nissan’s infotainment system is not as polished as some competitors’ offerings.
New off-road displays for the conventional surround-view camera system are also available at Rock Creek. A split view from the front-facing camera and one over the front right wheel is displayed on one screen, and the entire 360-degree vision is displayed on another.
Though the Pathfinder is full of technology, nothing in this class is particularly noteworthy. Nissan’s ProPilot Assist suite of driver assistance systems was installed in our test car. It has a lane-centering system and adaptive cruise control. Due to its connection to navigation, the adaptive cruise can reduce speed in anticipation of a curve in the route.
The navigation system, despite its slightly archaic appearance, excels with its user-friendly interface and clear turn-by-turn directions. The range of voice instructions is restricted, and they require a certain pronunciation to function.
SUVs must be able to tow both people and goods, and the Pathfinder excels in both areas. Behind the third row, there is a mediocre 16.6 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Though cramped, there’s sufficient room for several small bags or a large grocery bag. When the third row is folded alone, it opens to 45 cubic feet; when the second and third rows are lowered, it opens to 80.5 cubic feet. That’s less than the leaders in the class, but operationally, it’s no worse than its competitors because the area is open and spacious. The cabin has numerous drawers and pockets that can hold small goods like hand sanitizer, water bottles, sunglasses, and more.
In its class, the Pathfinder boasts one of the best tow ratings. When you choose the towing package, the standard model’s 3,500-pound towing capacity increases to 6,000 pounds, which is more than almost any other midsize SUV.
Regarding price and total value, the Pathfinder compares fairly to most competitors. The build quality is far better than the departing model. Soft materials on the dash and a simple overall design give the inside a pleasant appearance and feel. Although we wouldn’t classify it as premium, the price seems reasonable.
Nevertheless, competitors Hyundai and Kia provide more for less money. That also applies to the warranty. In line with the class average but significantly less than Kia and Hyundai’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranties, Nissan offers a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Furthermore, although Nissan offers roadside support for three years, regular service visits are not included.
The 2023 Nissan Pathfinder boasts a broad list of standard equipment, well-balanced driving dynamics, good fuel efficiency, and a roomy, elegant, and family-friendly cabin. Aside from its somewhat antiquated infotainment system, the Pathfinder is a nice package all around.