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.

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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. 

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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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