A few 12 months in the past, I wakened one morning and realized I might gotten too comfy. I might placed on just a few kilos — okay, various — and I wasn’t as adventurous or energetic as I used to be in my youth. I wasn’t sad, simply cognizant of being slightly too… content material. Since that point, I’ve hit the health club and kickstarted my long-dormant curiosity within the outside. I dropped a bunch of weight, and all winter lengthy, I have been saving for a brand new mountain bike and eyeballing my son’s kayak, biding my time till spring. 

I level all this out as a result of it feels just like the Nissan Pathfinder would possibly’ve just lately skilled the identical kind of epiphany. As soon as a easy, compact and hard-wearing SUV, the 33-year-old nameplate has morphed right into a three-row crossover with rounder styling, a coddling experience and an efficiency-minded powertrain full with a repeatedly variable transmission. Like many people, the Pathfinder has grown as much as be much more family-minded and so much much less hardcore. In consequence, the chance has arisen for Nissan to as soon as once more imbue the Pathfinder with a number of the edgy seems and spirit it loved in its early years. Enter the 2019 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Version.

To be clear, this new Rock Creek Version is not is not a wholesale Pathfinder rethink, some kind of four-wheeled mid-life disaster. Neither is it a refutation of what this mannequin vary has develop into. Whereas the present, fourth-generation Pathfinder is getting on a bit in years (it debuted in 2013), there is no disgrace in its recreation. This seven-seat SUV is holding up effectively, thanks partially to a 2017 facelift, continued minor updates and a basically sound design. Like me, it seems like Pathfinder simply wakened one morning and determined to recapture a bit extra of its youthful spirit, so it pumped itself up slightly, purchased some new outdoorsy Rock Creek duds and is now able to set out seeking new adventures. In different phrases, its roots are displaying — for the higher.

To that finish, the Rock Creek Version butches up the Pathfinder’s styling with blacked-out trim, together with a mesh grille, fender trims, entrance and rear fascia garnishes, roof rails, and particular 18-inch dark-finish alloy wheels carrying 255/60R18 tires. Different darkened items embody the door handles, aspect mirrors and badges. I am usually cautious of such packages, however to my eyes, this blacked-out look does the Pathfinder actual favors, imparting extra edge to a fundamental two-box form that may in any other case come off as a bit comfortable. A set of mud flaps and most significantly, a regular trailer hitch with a best-in-class 6,000-pound tow score add a bit extra utilitarian cred, too. 

The Rock Creek’s inside will get just a few tweaks, as effectively, together with pleasing orange distinction stitching on the seats, steering wheel, door trims and armrest storage lid. Metallic trim items brighten up the dashboard and console, and predictably, “Rock Creek” insignias are emblazoned on the comfy seatbacks (fabric and leatherette or leather-based, relying on trim). As is widespread for such a bundle, an identical set of Rock Creek ground and cargo mats is out there, too.

Distinctive 18-inch wheels and darkened trim spherical out the Rock Creek Version’s butch visible updo.

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Sure, that does imply that the Rock Creek Version is essentially a “trim-and-tape” effort, however these small touches add as much as surprisingly convincing impact — the 2019 Pathfinder Rock Creek Version seems each extra rugged and modern. Plus, the bundle is an efficient purchase, costing simply $995 (Nissan claims the components add as much as a $2,310 worth). Whereas the 2019 Pathfinder begins at $32,475 (together with $1,045 supply) for a base FWD S mannequin, Rock Creek fixins’ are solely out there on midlevel SV and SL trim grades, within the purchaser’s alternative of front- or all-wheel drive. Which means RCE pricing begins at $36,310 (together with supply) for a front-drive SV and vary on as much as $41,650 for an AWD SL earlier than choices.

Like different 2019 Pathfinders, the Rock Creek Version is powered by Nissan’s stalwart three.5-liter, direct-injected V6 tuned to ship 284 horsepower and 259 pound-feet of torque. Paired to an Xtronic repeatedly variable transmission, the Pathfinder is hardly the section’s driving fanatic’s alternative, however then once more, three-row crossovers aren’t precisely identified for prioritizing such issues within the first place. 

We could not resist bringing a buddy from our lodge alongside for the experience. (Don’t fret, we returned him.)

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What’s necessary is that there is nonetheless stunning thrust underfoot, as I came upon whereas hustling the large Nissan via the breathtaking, 360-degree vistas simply exterior Missoula, Montana. I discovered loads of energy each off the road and for passing dawdlers at Montana’s sometimes elevated b-road speeds (there’s not so much to hit in The Final Greatest Place, so leadfoots take benefit). 

The Pathfinder is one thing of a section heavyweight, weighing in between four,300 four,700 kilos, relying on choices and trim. Nevertheless, gasoline economic system is strong for such a giant automobile, checking in at 20 miles per gallon metropolis and 27 mpg freeway (23 mixed) in front-drive variants, with all-wheel-drive fashions dipping to 19 metropolis, 26 freeway and 23 mixed (the heavier top-spec Platinum mannequin excepted — it sees its mixed mpg slip to 21). 

The Nissan Join infotainment system works effectively, however seems outdated and lacks many options — together with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

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The great factor about residing with a CVT is that they have an inclination to ship marketed fuel-efficiency rankings in the actual world, and whereas my take a look at was restricted to nation driving, my findings counsel that the Pathfinder will adhere to that custom. Moreover, Nissan has extra years tuning CVTs that almost anybody within the enterprise, and it reveals — the Pathfinder’s unit is an efficient one, hardly ever grating with the slipped-clutch soundtrack that blights different such transmissions.

To be clear, even with its tougher-looking Rock Creek Version livery, the Pathfinder nonetheless is not a hardcore off-roader. Floor clearance stays an unremarkable 7.zero inches, and the mannequin’s arrival and departure angles are 16.5 levels and 20.2 levels, respectfully. Nonetheless, muddy, snowy and rutted two tracks proved no match for my AWD-equipped tester, and it was good figuring out that that the driveline features a full-lock setting for light-duty off-roading, simply in case. Like a lot of its key rivals, together with the Honda Pilot, Subaru Ascent and Volkswagen Atlas, it is nonetheless truthful to say that the Pathfinder’s off-road capabilities will outstrip what most shoppers will ask of their rides.

Extra necessary for a household cruiser just like the Pathfinder, noticed experience high quality was robust, aided by very comfy seats. Visibility is sort of good all the way in which round, too, making the Pathfinder a superb sightseeing automobile — particularly with the non-obligatory panoramic roof. The Pathfinder’s greatest inside trick stays its simple tip-and-slide third-row entry, which may nonetheless be achieved with a baby seat in place. There’s sufficient third-row area for a pair of adults to eke out shorter journeys — particularly if second-row occupants oblige by sliding their seats ahead — however the way-backs are nonetheless principally greatest left for kids.

The Pathfinder’s second-row seats provide simple tip-and-slide performance, however the way-back is greatest reserved for teenagers.

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Cargo area is listed at 16 cubic ft behind the third row, 47.Eight cubic ft behind the second row and 79.Eight cubes when all seats behind the driving force are folded flat. 

Sadly, the remainder of the Pathfinder’s cabin is the place this mannequin’s age is beginning to present. That is true for its general aesthetic, in addition to materials selections. On the cabin tech entrance, sure, a bigger Eight-inch touchscreen did get added just lately, and a 4G LTE Wi-FI hotspot and 360-degree digicam protection can be found. For 2019, Nissan has even added USB-C connectivity for faster system charging. Even with these updates, there’s nonetheless no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility (not to mention wi-fi charging) and Nissan Join’s graphics really feel considerably dated. There are different, extra tech-forward household SUVs in the marketplace, however there are additionally ones with extra irritating management schemes, too.

The Pathfinder boasts 284 horsepower, or roughly the identical as one Sinclair gasoline station steer.

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Nissan has performed a strong job of peppering this Smyrna, Tennessee-built SUV with superior security options. Automated emergency braking is commonplace throughout all Pathfinders and Rock Creek fashions include blind-spot warning, clever cruise management and rear cross-traffic alert, together with rear-door alert, a characteristic designed to forestall drivers from by chance leaving gadgets within the again seat. Sadly, Nissan’s likable ProPilot Help lane-centering tech is just not out there.

To be able to keep in form and sustain with its quickly altering competitors, Nissan might want to grace us with an all-new mannequin sooner fairly than later. As a bridge to the long run and a nod to the Pathfinder’s outdoorsy previous, although, the 2019 Rock Creek Version is an efficient one. Let’s hope the next-generation Pathfinder builds on this trim’s spirit and incorporates much more adventure-ready tech.

Montana’s attractive backdrops present loads of alternatives for literal rock creek photograph shoots.

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