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2019 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Review: Marketing 101

The Pathfinder name, for me, is one of the more flagrant misnomers in the industry. Not so in the model’s early years, when the SUV really was well-adapted to finding new paths away from the paved road. By 2012, however, it was struggling to find buyers as consumers largely abandoned bigger gas-guzzling utility models.

This led Nissan to transform the model, sacrificing its off-road abilities in favour of a format more apt to coddle families in everyday driving. Sales, which had slowed to a trickle, regained strength as a result.

It was a success born of good marketing and smart strategic thinking. The name had a cache, and Nissan held on to it and exploited it. But that was in 2013. As we head into 2020, the model today is pretty much the one offered seven years ago, and it’s starting to show its age.

This year, Nissan unveiled a spiced-up little number called the Rock Creek edition. More savvy marketing, because while it looks rough and ready and outdoorsy, substantively it’s much the same daily people-moving SUV as the regular Pathfinder.

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Photo: Nissan

Special treatment
No matter what colour it’s finished in, the Pathfinder SUV is not a particular head-turner on the road; it’s more of a chameleon, fading into the background. The Rock Creek treatment is meant to change that, and Nissan gets a grade of B for effort.

So what’s included in the Rock Creek? For starters the colour and 18inch wheels are unique to this edition, and the model gets black trim all over the place. By which I mean the fender flares, front grille, roof rails, door handles and special badging, plus a few more. Also standard here is the towing package, and exclusivities inside include Rock Creek logos on the seats as well as contrasting stitching on the seats, console and insides of the doors.

Nissan is charging $1,700 for the package, which can be added to the SV and SL versions of the Pathfinder. In all, the regular trim line consists of the S, SV, SL and Platinum. Pricing at the starting line is $38,000 and it rises to around $51,000.

Our Rock Creek edition comes priced at $49,248, before you add the $1,815 in transport and preparation. If you’re thinking ‘Boy, that’s expensive’ – we agree with you!

Photo: Nissan

Life environment
The Pathfinder, as we mentioned, is a family-focused vehicle through and through, which of course means that what you find aboard is vitally important. This is in a sense the extension of the home for many folks! 

Here, the product offering is comprehensive, and it’s a safe bet consumers will find what they want in one or more of the trims on offer. No complaints in terms of comfort, although the seats really do provide insufficient support. As for the presentation, well, we’re back in 2013 – it’s that simple!

And, as you know, things have changed a lot since then. So here you have an environment that’S busy and in which buttons rule. Personally I don’t mind that, since after sufficient time spent at the wheel you’ve committed to memory where everything is and can play with the commands taking your eyes off the road ahead

 

Photo: Nissan

In back, cargo capacity can be maximized at 2,260 litres; it’s a very useful, practical space. 

When Nissan gets around to revising its Pathfinder, which should be soon, we’re sure to get more in terms of connectivity and safety features, which it sort of lacks at the moment. 

Please, try to keep things simple, is what we ask…

An old warrior
The models in 2019 has just the one engine, Nissan’s proven 3.5L V6 unit. With its 284 hp and maximum torque 259 lb-ft it delivers the necessary power, which is reassuring when the vehicle is loaded down. The caveat is the CVT (continuously variable transmission), the only advantage of which his the improved fuel economy it delivers. A few months back we drove a Pathfinder back-and-forth from Montreal to Los Angeles and totaled 9.2L/100 km, fully loaded down – not bad at all for a 12,000-km trip. Yes, that was mainly done on highways and country roads, but still. This time, with the Rock Creek edition, I averaged 9.7L/100 km, arrived at despite a few spells spent in traffic jams.

Photo: Nissan

Take note that the towing capacity of the Pathfinder is 6,000 lb, which is a good 1,000 lb better than many of its rivals. This point alone could well sway buyers.

At the wheel: 70%
I have driven this generation of the Pathfinder so often it’s just about as if I own one. Its positive points include a gentle ride and the comfort level it engenders. On the other forget about experiencing actual driving pleasure. If you’re apt to get sleepy at the wheel, beware of this model!

Let’s be clear: the mission of the Pathfinder is not to deliver strong sensations on the road. That is not the point here. But does it have to downright dull? Seems to me that if you tighten up the steering, put in shocks that give more feedback and brakes that are more stable, and stick all of it on a stiffer structure, you’d do wonders with its performance!


Let’s hope that Nissan does what’s called for with the next generation.

Photo: Nissan

Conclusion: 75%
There’s no denying it, the Pathfinder is aging. But for those who want a spacious, comfortable, fuel-economical SUV, it still meets the essential criteria. You won’t be disappointed with this vehicle – as long as you accept its out-of-date-ness and the dull drive it delivers.

As for the Rock Creek edition, it amounts to a concerted marketing operation to blow some fresh wind into the sails of a product that’s nearing its best-by date.

Personally, I would consider the regular edition before this jazzed-up version. And since it’s hardly changed seven years anyways, why not a good, well-maintained pre-owned Pathfinder? That could meet.

Just sayin’. 

 

Consult our listing of pre-owned Nissan Pathfinder vehicles available in your region of Canada

Photo: Nissan

We like

Comfort
Interior volume
Towing capacity
Reasonable fuel consumption

We like less

Dull drive
Generic styling
Technologically outdated

The competition

Honda Pilot
Ford Explorer
Chevrolet Traverse
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Hyundai Santa Fe
Kia Sorento
Mazda CX-9
Subaru Ascent
Toyota Highlander
Volkswagen Atlas

Photo: Nissan

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2019 Nissan Pathfinder
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2019 Nissan Pathfinder
Review this Vehicle
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2019 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition pictures