2019 Nissan Pathfinder Review

Aging Gracefully

No, it’s not the freshest three-row crossover on the market today, nor does it offer the most technology in its segment, but there are still reasons to consider the 2019 Nissan Pathfinder.

Like a walrus, this family-hauler is a bit long in the tooth; 2013 was the last time it had a complete redesign, though it did receive a modest refresh for model-year 2017. Still, that hasn’t been enough to keep up with the breakneck pace of change in this segment and the automotive industry.

The Pathfinder competes with rival utility vehicles like the Honda Pilot, Chevrolet Traverse, and Toyota Highlander, to say nothing of the brand-new Subaru Ascent and Hyundai Palisade. Further intensifying the pressure, Ford’s totally overhauled 2020 Explorer is set to go on sale sooner than later meaning things aren’t getting any easier for Nissan.

2019 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition

But keeping things interesting, the Japanese automaker introduced a new special-edition Pathfinder for 2019. The Rock Creek Edition debuted recently at the Chicago Auto Show. It’s named after a park in Tennessee, the state where Nissan North America is headquartered. This package brings a fresh look and useful amenities to an aging product.

Upping the style, Pathfinders equipped with this options group feature black-colored grille inserts, roof rails, door handles, side-view mirror housings, fender trim, and other exterior elements. Dark-finished 18-inch wheels wrapped in all-season tires are also standard. They feature a spoke pattern inspired by the Nissan Titan pickup truck’s rims.

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Rock Creek Edition models also gain two-tone seating surfaces, plus contrast stitching on the door panels, center console lid, steering wheel and, of course, the seats themselves. There’s also unique badging both inside and out.

For added appeal, this package can be had on midrange SV and SL versions of the Pathfinder with either front- and all-wheel-drive. A just $995, the Rock Creek Edition package offers customers some $1,315 in content, making it not only an attractive package but a smart buy.

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Providing some choice, SV models can be equipped with an optional $980 technology package, which includes things like a NissanConnect infotainment system with navigation and various SiriusXM services, plus a heated steering wheel as well as heated front seats and exterior mirrors. Higher-end SL models can similarly be equipped with the Rock Creek Edition Premium Package. At $2,110 it includes a 13-speaker Bose sound system and a powered panoramic moonroof.

Offering plenty of choice, this special-edition Pathfinder is available in seven exterior colors including Midnight Pine Metallic, a particularly fetching green.

The Virtues

All Pathfinders are powered by a smooth-running 3.5-liter gasoline-burning V6. A member of Nissan’s acclaimed VQ engine family (VQ35DD), this powerplant features direct fuel injection, which helps it deliver a class-competitive 284 horses with 259 pound-feet of peak torque. These figures compare favorably to what you get in a VW Atlas, Chevrolet Traverse, Subaru Ascent or Honda Pilot.

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The sole transmission offered in this vehicle is an infinite-ratio Xtronic continuously variable unit, which makes the most of the engine’s output and helps enable a maximum tow rating of 6,000 pounds, a segment-leading figure. In comparison, many rival vehicles are only rated to drag up to 5,000 pounds.

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Long-haul durability could be a concern with that CVT, especially if you regularly tow at or near the Pathfinder’s limit. Fortunately, Nissan engineers made software changes to the transmission and tested it extensively, including on the grueling roads around Davis Dam in the American Southwest, so there shouldn’t be any issues.

Even at altitude – this Pathfinder was tested at around 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) above sea level – acceleration was perfectly adequate, the vehicle tackling mountain roads with little drama. Of course, it’d probably be a different story with a family and their stuff on board plus a trailer in tow, but for everyday use, the performance is fine, certainly better than that closer to sea-level.

The Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition’s interior is generally spacious and well thought out. There’s plenty of room for the driver and front passenger, plus the sliding second-row seats are comfortable and commodious.

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Ingeniously, the second-row seats tip and slide. The lower cushions pop up and the backrests angle forward, creating a wide pathway to access the third-row bench. Indeed, even grownups can fit in the way back, provided the second-row seats are slid forward a bit, though they won’t be comfortable there for very long. This space is best reserved for children that are spry and dimensionally smaller.

Legroom in all rows of seats is comparable to major rivals, as is overall cargo capacity, even if the Pathfinder is toward the smaller end of the spectrum. Behind its third row, there are more than 16 cubic feet (459 liters) of space; fold those backrests down and that figure grows to more than 47 (1,342 liters). Drop all three rows and you get nearly 80 cubes (2,251 liters). Only the Chevrolet Traverse offers appreciably more storage space, but that’s likely because it’s about six inches (15 cm) longer overall.

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The Vices

Spacious and comfortable, the Pathfinder should have no trouble appealing to families, though a few of its downsides do become apparent when one looks a little closer. That roomy interior, for instance, isn’t particularly rich. Nothing is egregiously chintzy, but there’s far too much hard plastic and the faux carbon-fiber trim isn’t going to fool anyone.

This Nissan’s technology is a bit lacking as well. The infotainment system feels at least a generation behind what’s available in the competition, plus this vehicle lacks many of the latest driver-assistance features offered in rival models.

Sure, goodies like reverse sonar sensors, automatic emergency braking, a tri-zone climate control system and keyless entry with push-button start are all standard, but rival three-row crossovers offer even more equipment. For instance, both the Subaru Ascent and Honda Pilot come standard with features like adaptive cruise control as well as lane-keeping and lane-departure assist. A slew of other advanced driver-assistance aids is optional in these models as well.

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Making life a little easier on long trips, adaptive cruise control is available in the Pathfinder, which can automatically accelerate and decelerate the vehicle based on traffic conditions. But curiously, Nissan’s outstanding ProPILOT Assist adaptive cruise-control system with lane centering is not offered at any price, a glaring omission. Since it’s one of the automaker’s older products, adding this cutting-edge feature would have required some heavy engineering work and likely more budget than they allocated for this model year.

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On the plus side, everyone can keep their mobile devices fully charged since the Pathfinder offers six USB ports, that’s four type As and two type Cs.

The Verdict: 2019 Nissan Pathfinder

There’s an honesty to the Nissan Pathfinder. No, it doesn’t try to impress with over-the-top styling or oddball features that look great on paper but don’t provide much real-world benefit. Instead, it focuses on the basics, things like comfort, interior space and cargo-hauling versatility.

Sure, in some ways this three-row crossover has fallen behind the competition. It doesn’t offer quite as much driver-assistance technology and its interior is not particularly nice, but if you can live without the latest amenities and put up with a bit of hard plastic, the Pathfinder is still a respectable choice.

Get New & Used Pathfinder Prices

Base price for an entry-level front-wheel-drive S version of this vehicle is less than $33,000. The four-wheel-drive, SV Rock Creek Edition tested here stickered for $38,980. Both prices include $1,045 in delivery fees. This vehicle is available at dealerships right now.

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