2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek
(Photo/Nissan)

Preview: 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek Antes Up Off-Road, Doubles Down on Style

Nissan rejuvenates the Rock Creek Pathfinder — and it’s more than paint and trim.

Last year, Nissan returned to the Pathfinder’s roots. More boxy than bougie, it took many of its styling cues from the original 1985 SUV.

This year, Nissan looks to capitalize on that rugged look, adding a Rock Creek trim meant for “buyers seeking a higher level of fun and adventure.”

So what are the upgrades? Here’s what we know.

Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek: Rugged Looks

2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek
(Photo/Nissan)

It starts with visuals: The Rock Creek has a dark-finish grille with a mesh insert. And sporty, off-road looks come with orange contrast stitching on the seats, steering wheel, and other hits around the interior.

If that’s not enough, Nissan revealed the Rock Creek Pathfinder with a sand-colored paint job as a nod to its rugged, off-road-ready DNA.

Rock Creek Has Real Upgrades

2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek
(Photo/Nissan)

Looks aside, we’re still a bit skeptical. After all, the 2019 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek was nothing more than an appearance package.

This time, though, Nissan seems serious about buyers finding new paths with some real upgrades that add extra capability.

To start, the Rock Creek Nissan Pathfinder has Toyo Rough Country all-terrain tires. The tires give the SUV more traction when driving off-pavement. They’re less prone to punctures and tears from rocks, sharp gravel, and other trail debris than standard crossover rubber.

Mounted to 18-inch faux-beadlock wheels, the setup looks pretty good too.

Nissan also raised the Rock Creek by five-eighths of an inch. That extra height gives the Pathfinder a valuable amount of additional clearance to help prevent scraping the underside on ruts, rocks, or smaller logs.

Nissan retuned the suspension with new springs and shocks designed to improve the ride and handling of the Pathfinder when you take it off the pavement.

More Power With Premium Fuel

More power is also on the Rock Creek’s menu. Nissan specified premium fuel and new engine mapping so the Pathfinder gets where it’s going faster. The Rock Creek boasts 295 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque compared to its predecessor’s 284 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque.

It won’t make the Pathfinder Rock Creek a rocketship, but it should make a noticeable difference on and off road.

If you’re more worried about pinching pennies than performance, the engine can still run at the lower power figures on regular gas.

The transmission is the same nine-speed automatic Nissan puts on the “normal” Pathfinder.

The 6,000-pound towing capacity doesn’t change, but Nissan made a tow hitch receiver and wiring harness standard. Nissan has also added a sizeable tubular roof rack that can hold up to 220 pounds. That’s not enough for rooftop camping, but the increase from the standard Pathfinder’s 165-pound limit is enough for plenty of extra weekend gear.

Nissan’s Intelligent Around View Monitor, an array of cameras that lets you look around the outside, comes standard. It gets an Off-Road Mode that Nissan doesn’t detail, but we assume it functions at higher speeds on the trail; most cameras shut off above parking lot speeds when driving on the road.

There are some more cosmetic changes, like second-row captain’s chairs and leatherette seats with fabric inserts that are Rock Creek exclusives. We like the leather but aren’t sure about the fabric for post-weekend mud removal.

Nissan ‘Treads Lightly’ With the Pathfinder Rock Creek

2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek
(Photo/Nissan)

To help Rock Creek owners get off road, Nissan has announced that it will partner with off-highway vehicle activists Tread Lightly. The partnership means Nissan will consult with Tread Lightly to make sure that it showcases responsible off-roading in its ads.

Nissan will also work on stewardship projects near its plants in Mississippi and Tennessee. The first such project will help remediate flood damage and reopen forest roads in Delta National Forest.

The 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek will be on display at the New York International Auto Show starting later this week. Sales start in late summer.

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Evan Williams
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Evan has been drooling over cars since the time he learned to walk. Since then he's worked on controlling the drooling and expanded his interests to include hiking, cycling, and kayaking. He went to school for engineering but transitioned into a more satisfying career and has been writing automotive and outdoors news for nearly a decade