Nissan gave us the opportunity to drive the 2019 Pathfinder SL 4wd Rock Creek Edition. The Pathfinder name has been used by Nissan for almost 60 years, and this newest iteration delivers. The Rock Creek Edition adds a ton of the most commonly popular features at a discounted price and makes for a beautiful color scheme.
There’s something about the color scheme and Midnight Pine Metallic paint that says “take me on an adventure”, but Nissan doesn’t add any additional off-road capability with the Rock Creek Edition. What it adds is a plethora of dark and rugged themed features, and a trailer hitch receiver.
Our tester was equipped with the Rock Creek Edition and SL Rock Creek Edition Premium packages. Between these two packages, there are a myriad of upgrades including dark 18-inch wheels with all-season tires, Rock Creek badges on the front doors, and black everything including a mesh grill, molded fenders, roof rails crossbars, door handles, mirrors, model badges, grade badges, 4wd badge and front and rear fascia accents. All of this makes for a very well put together package. While black features are everywhere, it ties everything together without going so far that it’s tasteless.
While other Nissans have sharp angles that are moving away from the jellybean shape of the past, the Pathfinder still retains the rounded look. While the color scheme and blacked out features make the Pathfinder look aggressive, the body lines make is almost look mundane and boring.
Like other higher-level Nissan models, the SL trimmed Pathfinder includes keyless entry, a motion activated liftgate and entry illumination. The Pathfinder, like all Nissans we’ve tested, fails the fog light test. It doesn’t allow you to use the fog lights without having the headlights on.
Inside, the SL trim is very well appointed. Heated leather seats for the front and middle rows, heated leather steering wheel, leather wrapped shifter, tri-zone climate control, remote engine and push button start are all standard.
Our tester came with the Rock Creek Edition floor mats to go along with the unique two-tone seating surfaces and high contrast stitching on the seats, doors, steering wheel, and center console. Part of the Rock Creek Edition package is metallic interior trim and the carbon fiber looking plastic on the dash and center console.
Another great standard feature is the Intelligent Around View Monitor that provides a top down 360-degree view, along with zoomed in front, rear, and front mirror mounted cameras. This makes parking a breeze and helps keep the driver from scrubbing tires against curbs. This same system is available on most Nissans including the Murano and Armada that we recently tested.
The infotainment system is great in Pathfinder. We like that there are physical buttons that go along with most all the features accessed through the touchscreen. Our one issue with the system is that the steering wheel mounted audio controls don’t make it easy to scroll through stations one at a time. The SL Rock Creek Edition Premium Package also includes a Bose 13-speaker premium audio system which provided great sound quality.
There are plenty of power outlets to meet the charging needs of the front two rows with four USB charge ports, two USB connection ports for the infotainment system, three 12v outlets, and one 120v outlet. There are no rear seat charging ports, which some families require.
Speaking of the third row, it is spacious enough to fit two average sized adults, especially when the second row is slid forward a little bit. Accessing the third row is easy with the second row’s tilt and slide feature. The middle row is split 60/40 and the rear is split 50/50. This allows for different configurations depending on the type of cargo that needs hauling. Cargo capacity is roughly the same size as the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander at 16 cubic feet with all seats up, and 79 cubic feet with the seats folded down.
There is only one engine option for the Pathfinder and that is the 3.5-liter V6 with 284 horsepower and 259 foot-pounds of torque. This is on par with its main competitors. Power is routed through a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) that pretends to have real gears with shift points. The CVT helps the Pathfinder hit 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, which is adequate.
Like its smaller Murano sibling, the Pathfinder is a smooth highway cruiser. It makes for an excellent family road trip vehicle with lots of space and comfort. On the flip side, the pathfinder doesn’t feel as planted as an Explorer or Durango in the corners at speed. This is ok because it really isn’t designed for that.
While we didn’t get a chance to tow with the Pathfinder, it is rated to tow 6,000 pounds which beats many in this class.
It does offer a true 4wd system with 2wd, 4wd auto and 4×4 lock. It managed a small climb while only having two wheels with traction, but when we tried to make a steep climb with only two wheels with traction, the CVT struggled to get enough power down to overcome the EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution). This is where a low range transfer case would have been helpful.
The EPA estimates fuel economy at 19 mpg city 26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. We averaged 21 mpg during the whole time we had it, which included a little bit of idling and the traction tests.
The 2019 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4wd starts at $39,610, and our test model came equipped with the Rock Creek Edition cross bars ($395), Rock Creek Edition floor mats ($300), Rock Creek Edition what ($995), and Rock Creek Edition Premium packages ($2,110) which brought our total to $44,455 with the $1,045 destination charge. This is in the same ballpark as, if not a little less expensive than, a similarly equipped Pilot or Highlander.
Who is the Rock Creek Pathfinder for?
With the sleek blacked-out looks and large cargo volume, the Pathfinder is great for families of four to six people. It is a smooth cruiser which is great for long trips and has an excellent 4wd system for bad weather and well-groomed forest and fire roads. With a 6,000 pound towing capacity, it can pull ATVs or small boats with ease.
It is a strong contender in the seven-passenger crossover class.
Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he’s not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn’t true.