Review update: 2020 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek treks into familial, familiar territory

The 2020 Nissan Pathfinder SV Rock Creek Edition prefers the pavement. This is not a controversial comment. 

The Nissan Pathfinder three-row crossover reaches back to a macho name once affixed to a sturdy SUV from the 1990s and even appends a special edition moniker that somehow isn’t a name for outdoor-wear, yet. Methinks it protest a little much. Today’s crossover is stronger at value—base versions cost about $32,000, and that’s before you’ve walked through the door at the dealer. Spell your name right, and you can probably knock a few bucks off that price. Maybe more. 

What’s more than the low price of the Pathfinder is its mission as a family vehicle. Rock crawlers are fun but picking out refunded Fruit Loops from carpets projected by tousled toddlers in the third row is definitely not. The Pathfinder is a family car first, Rock Creek or otherwise. 

The 2020 Pathfinder gets a 6.2 TCC Rating thanks to that seven-seat capacity and common-sense safety items that Nissan includes on all models. We spent a week catching up with the Pathfinder to revisit our ideas on comfort and definitely not shake up a bunch of toddlers. 

2020 Nissan Pathfinder SV Rock Creek Edition

2020 Nissan Pathfinder SV Rock Creek Edition

2020 Nissan Pathfinder SV Rock Creek Edition

Hit: Speak to me, special edition

As far as special editions go, Rock Creek is a good one. It dresses up the dowdy Pathfinder with contrast stitched seats, dark wheels, blacked-out badges, and interior accents. It costs $995 on Pathfinder SV and improves the Pathfinder’s appearance, even if it doesn’t improve its performance. (Add $395 more for the Rock Creek crossbars, which is about $200 more than similar aftermarket retail crossbars, but mostly worth it because they’re quiet and helpful.) 

2020 Nissan Pathfinder SV Rock Creek Edition

Miss: Ditch the displays, Nissan

The Pathfinder’s 8.0-inch touchscreen is above-average size, but below-average helpful. In addition to older infotainment software that’s not compatible with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (double boo), the screen can wash out in sunlight and the controls are outdated. Nissan’s infotainment controller is redundant and confusing, with multiple buttons handling tasks that sound too familiar—what’s the fundamental difference between “Info” and “Status,” for example? 

What’s more, the digital information display is small and tasked with too many menus that don’t deliver data that could be useful. For example, the miles per gallon calculator isn’t located in the instrument cluster, it’s found in the central display under the “Status” menu. Or was that “Info”? 

2020 Nissan Pathfinder SV Rock Creek Edition

Hit: Open wide

The rear door cutouts in the Pathfinder are extra wide, which makes entry and exit into the second row easier. The wide doors also make wrangling small children in their car seats easier and getting into the third row possible. Despite its tall appearance, the Pathfinder’s relatively low to the ground, which is helpful with armfuls of groceries…

2020 Nissan Pathfinder SV Rock Creek Edition

Miss: Open wide

…but cramped parking lots could be a challenge with such wide rear doors. ]

Bonus point: The seatbacks are wide, too. My broad shoulders appreciated that. 

2020 Nissan Pathfinder SV Rock Creek Edition

Miss: Which USB is for me?

The Pathfinder sports six USB ports—all within the first two rows of seats, mind you—including two USB-C ports, which are useful for newer phones. The front two USB ports that are not located in the center console (a USB-A and USB-C charger) are charge-only, which means that controlling music via the infotainment’s hard buttons isn’t possible. Connecting the phone to the charger in the center console is safer but tucks phones away, which many people refuse to do behind the wheel. If the Pathfinder included native CarPlay/Auto compatibility, it would be easier to convince people to ditch their phones while driving. Just saying. 

The Pathfinder’s best promise is when a low price is affixed to the three-row family crossover.  At just over $40,000 for our tester, the 2020 Pathfinder SV Rock Creek looks the part, although it falls down quickly against comparably priced, newer rivals from Hyundai and Kia. All three hit the streets with good looks, and it’s probably better to stay there too. 


2020 Nissan Pathfinder SV Rock Creek Edition

Base price: $37,205, including destination

Price as tested: $40,280

Drivetrain: 284-hp 3.5-liter V-6, continuously variable automatic transmission, all-wheel drive

EPA fuel economy: 20/27/22 mpg

The hits: Good special edition, low starting price, comfortable front two rows

The misses: Third row is cramped, value is poor in higher trims, outdated tech

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