2023 Nissan Pathfinder SUV levels up with off-road Rock Creek grade

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Nissan on Tuesday announced the return of its rugged Rock Creek grade to the Nissan Pathfinder three-row SUV. Redesigned for 2022, the SUV embraces more off-road capability and a more outdoorsy look with the 2023 Pathfinder Rock Creek trim.

With its shift last year from a CVT to a 9-speed automatic transmission, the Pathfinder boasted better towing capacity at 6,000 lb and more off-road capability through an available all-wheel-drive system that routes half of the torque to the rear axle, with a limited slip differential allocating power to the rear wheel with the most grip.

That system comes standard on Rock Creek models, and Nissan also revised the fuel mapping of the Rock Creek’s 3.5-liter V-6 to boost output to 295 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque (from 284 hp and 259 lb-ft). But the boost requires premium fuel.  

First launched on the 2020 Pathfinder, the Rock Creek model adds an off-road suspension with a 5/8-inch lift that raises the ground clearance to about 7.7 inches. The 18-inch wheels pretend to be beadlock-capable, but the all-terrain tires are real, and a roof rack that’s totally tubular can hold 220 lb. The exterior gets black trim elements, and the interior flashes black synthetic leather upholstery with orange contrast stitching. A surround-view camera system comes standard, as does a tow hitch and wiring harness, second-row captain’s chairs, and LED fog lights. 

Nissan is not alone in adding off-road grades to popular models, but Nissan has gone a bit further in adding actual off-road hardware over competitors such as the Honda Passport TrailSport or Kia Sportage and Telluride X-Pro. Subaru offers a Wilderness grade on the Forester and Outback, Jeep has Trailhawk models, and Ford has a Timberline range. 

The Rock Creek package added only $995 to the 2020 Pathfinder SV model. Expect the price to increase; it will be announced near the late summer on-sale date. 

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