The Pathfinder nameplate earned legitimate off-road cred’ with continuous advances in technology until the market took a big turn and the resulting Nissan SUV “jumped the shark” and prioritized size and smoothness. The latest generation refresh of the 2019 Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition includes a toughened up appearance that adds several more adventure-themed touches and a sense of value.
Price and Features
This particular 2019 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4WD Rock Creek Edition crosses the checkout counter at about $44,500 – about the same as a Honda Pilot Touring and Toyota Highlander Limited. The Pathfinder SL sits in the middle of the SV and Platinum trims and, when fitted with the Rock Creek package ($995), it wears unique exterior and interior bits like unique 18-inch wheels, black exterior trim (grille, door handles, badges, mirror caps, wheel arches, and roof rails), and a more pronounced lower front fascia. Inside, the leather seats, steering wheel, door panels, and console lid gain contrast stitching.
Nissan values these features at $2,300 so the Rock Creek Edition Package is seen as a value-styling package. Other notable goodies included in the SL trim are heated front and second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, proximity entry, a surround-view system, adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, and an eight-inch touchscreen with navigation and SiriusXM. A power tailgate, mirror-integrated turn signals, and auto headlights are ease daily life with the Pathfinder. The Premium Package (~$2,000) included here, adds a premium audio system and a two part panoramic moonroof.
Style and Size
The 2019 Pathfinder feels large from behind the wheel with a high dash panel and a low flat seat. It is physically longer than the three-row Honda Pilot but the interior isn’t large enough for adults in each of the rows without the need for waivers. The second-row seat slides a good measure forward to create a wide opening to the back row. With the seats folded flat, space seems large enough for any IKEA boxed furniture, but again, its measured volume is less than that of the Pilot.
The compromises might be a bit easier to swallow if there was a daring sense of style. The front end and front quarter are dominated by large surfaces that make the Pathfinder look heavy and seem to drape over the wheels. Additionally, the wheels are so far inset, which may help with fuel efficiency but it adds to the bulbous impression. Inside, the driver is presented with smooth shapes made with hard plastic. The center stack seems excessively covered with the buttons while the knobs for temperature could benefit from a higher quality feel.
Fit and finish is good and the interior plastic trim has a unique pattern that is unique for the Rock Creek Edition.
Power and Efficiency
The 3.5-liter V6 is mated to an uninspiring CVT that brings smooth acceleration and mimics gears during full throttle acceleration. The long pedal travel makes for gentle take-offs and the engine’s good mid-range power means that it’ll operate smoothly in the background once underway. The same goes for the automatic all-wheel-drive system which primarily aids in low traction situations and there is a hint of torque-steer at full throttle. When slippery surfaces are expected, the AWD system can be manually engaged and a hill-descent mode can help guide one down the slippery slope. These features are standard fare in today’s traction-savvy crossovers. Nissan states the Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 pounds.
The EPA rates the all-wheel drive model at 19 mpg city, 26 highway, and 22 combined. The lethargic nature of the powertrain had me expecting better than the 22 mpg that earned during a week of mixed driving.
The Pathfinder presents a mixed bag of safety features. On one hand, it has automatic emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, and a rear door alert which helps prevent accidentally leaving someone or something in the car, yet, it lacks LED brake lights, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise with stop and go, exterior dimming mirrors, and auto-wipers. The Pathfinder earns Good crash test ratings and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick and the government (NHTSA) agrees by awarding it a five-star overall crash rating.
Outward visibility is good with large side mirrors while the aforementioned surround view camera system is a boon for parking perfection and features dynamic tire projection lines in forward and in reverse.
Ride and Handling
Just as the exterior and interior styling leads to a muted level of excitement, the chassis does its part by delivering a smooth and isolated ride. Dips and bumps are progressively absorbed without drama and body lean is present but not excessive. Having a look underneath, the Pathfinder’s lack of underside protection is a reminder of its on-road mission.
Incremental updates and big discounts have kept the aging Nissan Pathfinder as a solid contender, however, its aging design is a step behind the newer competition – who, at this point includes nearly all others – that provide more with less compromise and a higher quality feel.