Why The 2020 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Edition Makes Sense

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For less than $1,000, it's a pretty cool package. But should you get it?

The current 2020 Nissan Pathfinder is more mall crawler than rock crawler, as the mid-size SUV pivoted away from its rugged body-on-frame roots way back in 2012. Pathfinder now competes with other three-row mid-size crossovers like the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander and unfortunately for Nissan, the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade. We say unfortunately because the Pathfinder hasn't been changed much since the fourth-generation model arrived eight years ago.

The vehicle is clearly showing its age but last year, Nissan introduced a new Rock Creek special edition model in an attempt to recapture the Pathfinder's rugged heritage. Can the Rock Creek Edition tap into the outdoorsy lineage of the original Pathfinder or is it just marketing at its finest? Here's what you get with the Rock Creek package.

Trim Levels & Pricing

Nissan offers the Rock Creek Edition package on a range of grades, drivetrains, and colors, giving customers a diverse choice to configure their car. The package itself costs just $995 and is available on the SV and SL grades in both front-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive configurations. All of the options included in the package would cost $2,310 individually, so it does offer good value. Pricing for the SV Rock Creek starts at $35,465 for FWD ($37,155 for 4WD) while the SL bumps the price up to $39,085 ($40,775 for 4WD).

Upgrading to the SL trim adds LED low-beam headlights, built-in navigation, a bird's eye camera system, and heated leather seats. For $2,110 more, the SL Rock Creek Edition Premium Package adds a 13-speaker Bose audio system and a panoramic moonroof. If you'd like to save a bit of money but still enjoy features, the SV Rock Creek Edition Technology Package adds navigation, heated partial cloth front seats, a heated steering wheel, and heated mirrors.

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The Drivetrain

All Pathfinder models for 2020 come with the same engine and transmission, a 3.5-liter V6 mated to a CVT. The engine produces 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque, which can be sent to the front wheels or a selectable 4WD system with 2WD, Auto, 4WD Lock, hill start assist, and hill descent control modes. We don't expect the Pathfinder to be able to conquer any treacherous off-road courses but dirt and gravel roads should be a cinch. The Pathfinder can also tow 6,000 pounds, which is about 1,000 pounds more than most of its competitors.

It may not be the most modern drivetrain in its segment but the Pathfinder still achieves excellent fuel economy ratings. The 4WD model is rated at 20/27/22 mpg city/highway/combined, which is higher than many of its more modern contemporaries.

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Exterior Changes

Opting for the Rock Creek Edition is the best way to make your Pathfinder look less like a minivan alternative and more like a capable off-roader. On the exterior, the package adds black molded fenders, unique 18-inch wheels, all-season tires, a black mesh grille, black roof rails, and a unique lower facia. It also includes a ton of blacked out accents including the door handles, mirrors, license plate finisher, model badges, and 4WD badge (if equipped). A trailer tow hitch with a harness and splash guard are also included in the package.

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Interior Changes

The changes from the Rock Creek Edition aren't just on the outside, there are some interesting additions inside the cabin. Some of these changes include orange stitching on the seats, doors, and steering wheel, metallic interior trim, and unique leatherette/cloth upholstery with a stitched Rock Creed logo on the SV model. For $310 more, you can also get Rock Creek-branded floor mats.

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Should You Buy One?

Based on what it includes and the price, we'd say the Rock Creek Edition package is a cool option. Nissan sent us an SV 4WD with the Technology Package to review for a week and it came with an as-tested price of $40,280. This is exactly how we'd option a 2020 Pathfinder, as the added features of the SL grade (except for the bird's eye camera) don't seem like a huge loss to us.

The Rock Creek Edition is interesting but it doesn't make up for some of the Pathfinder's shortcomings. Nissan hasn't majorly updated the Pathfinder since 2012, so elements such as the infotainment and transmission feel ancient compared to the competition. However, if you can get a nice discount, the Pathfinder shouldn't be dismissed.

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