Caraganza First Drive Review 2020 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek: What’s Up Dude

Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek-1
I can remember the days when an SUV wasn’t an SUV. Those years before they took over suburban driveways and soccer field parking lots. Back then they were more Utility and Sport than Fluff and Bling.

But the times changed, and SUVs are now all the rage. And few resemble anything of those bygone days.

One of the last models to lose its edge so to speak, was the Nissan Pathfinder.  When it was first introduced back in 1986, it was little more than a box sat atop a pickup frame that could go off road, and in fact was known as primarily an off roader.

But as the automotive market changed so did the Pathfinder. Sure, it caught on and became one of the more popular SUVs on the market. But when last I had a week with one, I was a bit disappointed.  The lines had softened, the curves were curvier, and there appeared to be nothing that even whispered, “get me dirty.” This despite 2017 being the first year of a new generation that attempted to put a bit of an edge back in.

Welcome then to 2020.

No, there have been no significant updates to the Pathfinder since my last week with it, three long years ago. But recently they sent me s 2020 model, a Rock Creek edition and restored my faith in my old friend. Just a bit.

Last year Nissan added front- and second-row USB-C ports and moved the advanced driver aids such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert to the lower trim levels.

Just like it did in 2017, the Pathfinder is a three row SUV that comes in four trim levels: S, SV, SL and Platinum.  The base S trim comes nicely loaded with three-zone climate control, and a sliding/reclining second-row seat and roof rails. There is of course Bluetooth (no modern vehicle worth its salt wouldn’t have Bluetooth), an 8-inch touchscreen interface, a six-speaker sound system with CD/HD radio/satellite radio and the new for 2020 dual USB ports from and back. There’s also automatic emergency braking and reverse parking sensors.

The SV adds a power-adjustable driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and an auto-dimming rearview mirror; there is also more driver assistance features, such as blind-spot warning and adaptive cruise control, along with adaptive cruise control and remote start.
Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek-8
The SL highlights include a hands-free liftgate, heated front and rear seats, leather upholstery and a navigation system.

The top of the line Platinum is a bit more luxurious and adds such niceties as a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel, and a premium Bose audio system. A rear-seat entertainment system with dual 8-inch headrest displays is optional for the Platinum only.

Front wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive which includes hill descent control and a special locking function for extra traction, is optional.  Under the hood all Pathfinder’s get a 3.5-liter V6 with 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission.

The Rock Creek edition was debuted last year (which “Rock Creek” the model refers to isn’t really clear as there are several “Rock Creeks” all over including a National Park in Washington DC, and even an honest to goodness dude ranch in Montana. For the record I would lean towards the dude ranch).

The Rock Creek Edition, my tester for the week, can be had on the SL and SV trims. The package includes blacked-out exterior trim on the 18-inch wheels, grille, roof rails and other exterior accents. The Rock Creek Edition also adds a trailer tow hitch and wiring harness, though all Pathfinders can tow up to 6000 pounds.

When I first learned I would get the Rock Creek for a week, the pictures I saw it clad with Midnight Pine Metallic green paint. With the accents it looked pretty rugged.  My tester was delivered clad in “Brilliant Silver Metallic” which softened some of the ruggedness. Still, I must admit that even with only trim additions the once softer lines seem a bit sharper, and the curves less curvy.

On the inside the Rock Creek gets only minor additions, there are two-tone leather seats with Rock Creek badging, high-contrast stitching, the floor mats with the badging and a new metallic interior trim. Like all Pathfinders, the nice thing about the interior is the resistance by Nissan to move all the controls to the touchscreen   or use some other nonsense like a joystick. There are still knobs, buttons, and an actual shifter.  Should you opt for four-wheel drive that control knob is behind the shifter along with a button for the hill descent control.

In short, the interior is no nonsense. It’s large and roomy, but not luxurious. On the road the lack of luxury can be heard as there is more road noise than some of the others in its class. The power though is more than adequate, the cabin comfortable, and the room more than suitable for families.

Yes, the Pathfinder could use a bit of a refresh, the interior seems a little dated, but overall, the week with it was a good one.  There was very little difference from the 2017 model, and with the addition of the Rock Creek package, the Pathfinder has gotten a bit edgier, and that’s a very good thing indeed…dude.

The 2020 Nissan Pathfinder SV Rock Creek Edition
MSRP: $36,160
MSRP (as tested): $40,280
Engine: 3.5 V6 284 horsepower @ 6400 rpm, 259 lb-ft torque @ 4400 rpm
Transmission: CVT w/OD
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 20 city, 27 highway, 22 combined
Fuel Milage (as tested, mixed conditions):  28 mpg
Base Curb Weight (pounds): 4448

Exterior Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase: 114.2
Length: 198.5
Width, without mirrors: 77.3
Height: 69.5
Front Track Width: 65.7
Rear Track Width: 65.7
Minimum Ground Clearance: 7

Interior Dimensions
Passenger / Seating Capacity: 7
Total Passenger Volume (cubic feet): 137.8
Front Head Room (inches): 42.2
Front Leg Room (inches): 42.2
Front Shoulder Room (inches): 60.9
Front Hip Room (inches): 56.8
Second Row Head Room (inches): 39.4
Second Row Leg Room (inches): 41.7
Second Row Shoulder Room (inches): 60.4
Second Row Hip Room (inches): 56
Third Row Head Room (inches): 37.8
Third Row Leg Room (inches): 30.7
Third Row Shoulder Room (inches): 57.1
Third Row Hip Room (inches): 42
Cargo Space/Area Length Behind First Row (inches): 78.9
Cargo Space/Area Length Behind Second Row (inches): 51.1
Cargo Space/Area Length Behind Third Row (inches): 19.8
Cargo Space/Area Width at Beltline (inches): 45.9
Cargo Bed Height (inches): 31.4
Cargo Space/Area Behind Front Row (cubic feet): 79.5
Cargo Space/Area Behind Second Row (cubic feet): 47.4
Cargo Space/Area Behind Third Row (cubic feet): 16.2

Towing
Maximum Towing Capacity (pounds) 6000
Maximum Trailer Weight, dead weight hitch (pounds) 6000

Warranty
3 Basic Years / 36,000 Basic Miles
5 Drivetrain Years / 60,000 Drivetrain Miles
5 Corrosion Years / Unlimited Corrosion Miles
3 Roadside Assistance Years / 36,000 Roadside Assistance Miles

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Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.

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