2020 Nissan Pathfinder SV 4WD Rock Creek Edition Review

Making a forgettable SUV slightly less forgettable


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Rock Creek trim adds attitude, third-row access is simple, V6 engine is smooth and potent, good cruising manners, excellent towing capacity.
Negatives: Interior is showing its age, infotainment system needs a redo, tight third-row space.
Bottom Line: The Pathfinder really does feel like an also-ran in a segment where competitors are far better for the same money. Although the Pathfinder drives well, it's not good enough to stand apart. Tech is old, styling is meh, and it's time for a redesign.
Nissan's decision to change its rugged Pathfinder to a unibody crossover might have been a shot in its own foot. That move took place back in 2013, and although the Pathfinder has received tweaks and equipment upgrades, it lags behind competitors like the Dodge Durango, the VW Atlas, as well as class-leaders like the Toyota Highlander and the Ford Explorer. The Rock Creek Edition adds some equipment as an optional package, but most of it is aesthetic in the hopes it will draw more customers. We drove it long distance for a week to see how it performed with a family of five. Read ahead for the full review.
 

Driving Experience

7

 

There's not much to get thrilled about with regard to the Pathfinder's driving chops. At least we can say it's competent, and there's nothing particularly glaring about it. It's comfortable to drive long distances, and the V6 power is solid.

Ride Quality: Though it can be a bit harsh under certain circumstances, the Pathfinder provides a good ride most of the time.

Acceleration: The V6 has good power, but the CVT is less than inspiring. It'll hit 60 from a stop in about 8.3 seconds. That's slower than the Subaru Ascent (7.3) with its turbo four and the VW Atlas (7.9) with 6-cylinder power.

Braking: We had no issues with the Pathfinder's brakes. The pedal is firm and progressive.

Steering: Steering has been improved, and there's decent effort. We had no problem stayin on center on the freeway or making preciser turns.

Handling: Body roll isn't bad, but it's not a handler, by any means. It felt controllable in the turns, and the Pathfinder felt confident.

Technology

4.8

 

The Pathfinder's in-car tech is so mediocre, it hurts. Not only is the 8" screen small by comparison, it looks crappy. Nissan should seriously consider outsourcing for development of their infotainment. Yes, it's that bad.

Infotainment System: The graphics are just ok, but it's the functionality of the menus and the system overall that lacks appeal and ease-of-use.

Controls: The mess of buttons below the screen make them difficult to quickly decipher, and even though the grippy knobs for audio and climate are good, they just look old. The adaptive cruise control buttons on the steering wheel are terribly confusing and difficult to use quickly.

Styling

6.2

 

The addition of the Rock Creek Edition trim is a nice touch, but it doesn't drastically change the way the Pathfinder looks. It's still a bit of a lozenge in terms of shape, and the whole vehicle just looks old both inside and out.

Front: We like the fact that the front of the Pathfinder isn't nearly as busy as the smaller Murano. The black V-Motion grille helps reduce the visual size, too. It's too bad there's nothing distinct about it.

Rear: The proportions of the rear fascia are well-balanced. There's a nice bulge in the liftgate, and the taillights are right-sized.

Profile: The general shape of the body is a bit generic, but it's well-proportioned. The use of black trim in the Rock Creek Edition is handsome instead of the typical chrome.

Cabin: The interior is a dark and dated place with a hugely thick dash and antiquated styling. The grey inserts in the black leather seats with the Rock Creek lettering make it look like they were pulled out of a Tonka toy and enlarged. The fact that the contrast stitching on the seats is red, and the logo is orange also cheapens the look.

Comfort

8.2

 

We drove the Pathfinder over 500 miles, and it was great. The seats, though unattractive, are quite comfortable. Overall, it's roomy and family-friendly.

Front Seats: Good support and cushioning make them great for long drives.

Rear Seats: The rear seat cushions are flat but decently cushioned. There's ample leg and headroom, and the convenient sliding/reclining second row makes things easy. The third row is good for kids, but adults will struggle to sit there for long periods of time. Thankfully, getting in and out of the third row takes just a pull of a lever, and voila!

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): copy text

Visibility: The Pathfinder provides a good seating position and decently sized glass. The sloping nose helps tight space maneuverability, and it's ride height isn't so tall that you struggle to know where you are spatially.

Climate: copy text

Safety

8.6

 

The Pathfinder does quite well in crash tests, falling short of the top score from the IIHS. It also gets a generous slew of standard safety features.

IIHS Rating: The Pathfinder earns the Top Safety Pick but gets dinged due to "acceptable" for the front passenger small offset crash and less-than-stellar headlights and latch ease of use.

NHTSA Rating: It earns five stars from the federal government with a couple of demerits in rollover and front crash testing.

Standard Tech: Our SV came standard with Automatic Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, a great Intelligent Cruise Control system, Rear Sonar, and a Rear View Monitor.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

7

 

The Pathfinder could use more practicality, especially when it comes to smal item storage in the front row. In terms of rear cargo space, it's neither small nor seriously capacious.

Storage Space: The small tray in the center console, the cupholders, and the armrest are the only real cubby space that's easy to reach. The door pockets are decently sized, but there's not much else from this three-row crossover. It's a bit of a disappointment.

Cargo Room: The Pathfinder lands somewhere midpack with a small 16.2 cubic feet behind the third row and 79.5 cubes with the seats folded flat. It's bigger than the Mazda CX-5 but smaller than the Ford Explorer and the VW Atlas.

Fuel Economy

7

 

The EPA numbers are pretty good but not outstanding. They're pretty much up to par with most of its competitors in V6 guise. We drove mostly highway miles but about 20% on local roads.

Observed: 23.6 mpg

Distance Driven: 554 miles.

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Audio

5.7

 

The 6-speaker stock audio system is nothing to rave about. It works just fine, but it's typical standard equipment. For a vehicle that costs just north of $40K, it should have better sound. Even if you opt for the pricier top trim SL, you can't upgrade the stereo system. Lame.



Final Thoughts

It's time Nissan went back to the Pathfinder drawing board. The boring crossover hasn't changed since 2013, and Nissan needs help badly when competitors are crushing it. The new Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade do just about everything better for not much more money. The Pathfinder looks and feels (and is) old. The new Ford Explorer looks light years ahead. The ony merit is the Pathfinder's relatively easy driving manners. We advise you to look (and buy) elsewhere.
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