Review: The 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek was built for rough roads

The newest version of the Nissan Pathfinder was designed to help it better live up to its name.

The all-wheel-drive Pathfinder Rock Creek is an off-road focused model that follows the new trend of rugged three-row crossover SUVs like the Honda Pilot TrailSport, Kia Telluride X-Pro and Ford Explorer Timberline.

When the Pathfinder was redesigned for 2022, Nissan instilled it with more of the off-road spirit of the early Pathfinder trucks, but the Rock Creek takes that to the next level.

It features standard all-terrain tires and an updated suspension that increase its ground clearance from 7.1 to 7.7 inches, tougher front and rear bumper styling, a trailering kit and a tubular roof rack with a 220-pound capacity for carrying gear.

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The Pathfinder Rock Creek starts at $44,145.
(Nissan)

It also gets water-resistant leatherette upholstery with Rock Creek badging, heated front seats — but not a heated steering wheel — second-row captain’s chairs and a 360-degree camera system with a variety of views to make it easier to negotiate tight trails … and parking spaces.

The interior features unique upholstery and Rock Creek badging.
(Nissan)

Prices start at $44,145, and it comes pretty much fully loaded with only accessories available on the options list.

The Pathfinder’s 3.5-liter V6 also gets a boost in power from 284 hp to 295 hp and from 259 lb-ft of torque to 270 lb-ft, with the Rock Creek rated to tow trailers at the model’s maximum 6,000-pound limit.

The Pathfinder Rock Creek comes with all-terrain tires and an updated suspension designed for light off-roading.
(Fox News Digital)

The effect of the changes is a Pathfinder with an overall sturdier feel in all conditions and a definite improvement in its rough road capabilities. It’s still not a rock crawler, but you can spend all day driving the Rock Creek over ruts and gravel, no worse for wear.

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It’s only slightly nosier and stiffer on pavement, thanks mostly to the chunky tires, but not so much to be a turn-off. The Rock Creek also features Nissan’s ProPilot Assist advanced electronic driver aid suite with lane-centering adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking.

A trailering package is standard.
(Nissan)

Fuel economy does take a hit from the all-wheel-drive Pathfinder’s top rating of 23 mpg combined and 27 mpg highway to 21 mpg combined and 23 highway as a result of the increased rolling resistance of the tires and extra aerodynamic drag caused by the lift and styling changes.

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The Pathfinder Rock Creek features second-row captain’s chairs with a removable center console.
(Nissan)

It otherwise carries over features found in the reset of the Pathfinder lineup, including a removable console between the second-row seats, a third row suitable for adults and a roomy cargo area behind them with a deep underfloor wheelbarrow storage compartment.

A wheelbarrow-style storage compartment is found beneath the cargo area floor.
(Fox News Digital)

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It may still not be a true off-road truck like its forebears, but the Pathfinder Rock Creek is enough of a “truck” for most people and a lot more useful as a family car than any of them ever were, and the most useful model available today.

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2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek

Base price: $44,145

Type: 4-door, 7-passenger all-wheel-drive SUV

Engine: 3.5-liter V6

Power: 295 hp, 270 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

MPG: 20 city/23 hwy

Gary Gastelu is Fox News Digital’s automotive editor.

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