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2024 Nissan Pathfinder Road Test and Review

Brady Holt
by Brady Holt
May 7, 2024
2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek ・ Photo by Brady Holt

The Nissan Pathfinder has gone through many twists and turns. It started life as a rough-and-tumble SUV, then matured into a more luxurious and family-friendly vehicle while staying true to its off-road roots. Then Nissan reinvented the model as a car-based crossover that was comfortable and fuel-efficient but had all the personality of a minivan. 

In recent years, Nissan has settled on an agreeable compromise. The 2024 Pathfinder, part of the generation introduced in 2022, remains a mid-size crossover with three rows of seats – but one with crisper driving manners and more of a traditional SUV-like attitude. We just spent a week testing the off-road-themed 2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek. Keep reading to learn more about its pros and cons to see if it’s the right three-row crossover for you. The Pathfinder’s pricing starts at $36,650.

Looks the Part of an SUV

While the Pathfinder still isn’t a true off-roader like a Toyota 4Runner, it looks the part of an SUV more than, say, a Toyota Highlander. Its body is trim and crisp, with tautly tailored lines. Nifty details include a heavily chromed grille and a spear on each headlight that points away to follow the hood, while boxy proportions and skid-plate-inspired bumpers give a hint of off-road flavor.

The Rock Creek model, like our test vehicle, has a higher suspension, off-road wheels and tires, extra body cladding, and a tubular roof rack, and it swaps out the chrome grille for black. A growing number of rival SUVs have equivalent off-road-themed trim levels, but we think the Rock Creek is well suited to the Pathfinder’s confidently boxy body.  

2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Well-Finished Interior With Simple Controls

As more and more vehicles become designed around their touchscreens, the Pathfinder’s dashboard is either a welcome respite from the trend or a dated relic. 

Nissan gives you a choice of an 8-inch or 9-inch touchscreen (depending on the trim level), which can display either Nissan’s simple infotainment system or your choice of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The screen is more of a display than an essential way to interact with the car, thanks to its old-school setup of buttons and knobs. And while the cabin doesn’t have an ultra-luxe vibe even in the top Platinum trim level, even the rugged Rock Creek looks and feels sturdy and well-built without coming across as cheap. We especially appreciated the carefully damped moving parts like the turn signal stalk and the electronic gear selector. 

2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Seating for Eight

Another Pathfinder advantage is that it lets you seat up to eight passengers, or seven with the available second-row captain’s chairs like in our test vehicle. Several competing three-row crossovers – including the popular Ford Explorer and Volkswagen Atlas – provide just two third-row seatbelts. This means they’re limited to seven passengers with a second-row bench seat and just six with captain’s chairs. 

The Pathfinder’s front and second-row seats are also well-shaped and comfortable. A power driver’s seat and heated front seats are standard on all but the base S model, and upper trim levels add a heated steering wheel and ventilated front seats. The only downside involves the third row, which has limited legroom if you’re not able to compromise on second-row knee space. It’ll work in a pinch better than for a long road trip. In one nice feature, you can pivot the middle row forward to access the third row without removing a forward-facing child safety seat. 

2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Useful Cargo Capacity

As you might expect from its boxy profile, the Pathfinder also has a useful amount of cargo room: 16.6 cubic feet behind its third row, 45.0 behind its second row, and 80.5 cubic feet behind the front seats. The second- and third-row seats fold easily to open up this cargo hold. With the third row folded down, our test vehicle effortlessly absorbed 10 days’ worth of luggage for a family of four. 

Still, while many owners would likely find this cargo hold to be more than sufficient, most competitors have even more space. If you’d be using the third row often, you’d feel the pinch even on a grocery run. And if you’re hoping to fill your SUV to the brim to empty out a college dorm room, you’ll appreciate how the Chevrolet Traverse, Toyota Grand Highlander, and Volkswagen Atlas each one approaches 100 cubic feet of cargo room. The Pathfinder does out-tow these and most other three-row crossovers with a towing capacity of 6,000 pounds. 

2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Premium Driving Manners

One of our favorite things about the 2024 Nissan Pathfinder is how it drives. Many rivals, like the previous-generation Pathfinder, offer indifferent driving manners – smooth rides, decent power, and no real verve. By contrast, the Pathfinder delivers the charm of a luxury SUV. The carefully tuned steering and suspension provide both responsive agility and a comfortable ride. And the nine-speed automatic transmission shifts crisply as you gun the smooth 3.5-liter V6, which makes 284 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque on most models (and 295 hp and 270 lb-ft on the Rock Creek). 

Just don’t expect a true off-road experience. Nissan named the Pathfinder Rock Creek after a waterway in rural Montana, but it reminds us more of a stream that winds through a park that bisects Washington, D.C. Rather than in the isolated wilderness, this Mid-Atlantic Rock Creek is a skin-deep woods in the midst of an urban area. The Pathfinder includes dedicated off-road driving modes for sand and mud/ruts, and we wouldn’t expect this crossover to get stuck in a snowy street or muddy parking lot. But its light-duty roots and modest ground clearance – 7.1 inches on most trim levels and 7.7 inches on the Rock Creek – mean the Pathfinder won’t challenge a Jeep off the road. 

2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Reasonably Efficient

With a powerful V6 engine and big boxy body, the Pathfinder isn’t a fuel-sipper. But it gets better gas mileage than several of its key rivals. 

Most trim levels get an EPA-estimated 21 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway, and 23 mpg combined. The Rock Creek, with a slightly more powerful engine and less aerodynamic body, dips to 20 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 21 mpg combined, though our Rock Creek test vehicle managed an outstanding 27 mpg on the highway. (We previously averaged 21 mpg in a Pathfinder Rock Creek in a mix of driving conditions and 23 mpg in a Pathfinder Platinum.) The Pathfinder gets better gas mileage than a Kia Telluride, Subaru Ascent, or Honda Pilot, though it can’t match rivals that offer gas-electric hybrid powertrains like the Toyota Grand Highlander, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Mazda CX-90. 

2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Competitive Prices

The 2024 Nissan Pathfinder starts at $36,650, which is pretty good for an eight-passenger SUV. And the base S model already includes tri-zone automatic climate control, push-button starting, front and rear automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot monitoring. 

Most people will upgrade to the SV model, which starts at $39,470 with a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, and lane-tracing steering. It’s also where you can start to pay another $2,170 for a package with a panoramic moonroof, power liftgate, and uprated towing capacity. By this point, the Pathfinder is priced more like its rivals – its best value is for folks who want space without a lot of extra amenities. Still, the whole lineup is competitively priced. Other trim levels include the leather-trimmed SL ($43,070), the most deluxe Platinum ($49,620), and the off-road-focused Rock Creek ($44,470 with SV-like equipment). All-wheel drive costs $1,900 on all trim levels but the Rock Creek, where it’s standard. 

2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Competitors to Consider

The Pathfinder faces a number of rival three-row crossovers – in particular, the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, Toyota Grand Highlander, Mazda CX-90, Subaru Ascent, and the Hyundai Palisade/Kia Telluride and Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia cousins. 

Among this group, the Explorer and CX-90 are the best Pathfinder alternatives if you value the Nissan’s crisp driving manners. But the Explorer has a cheaper interior and a maximum seating capacity of six, and the CX-90 has cumbersome dashboard controls. The Traverse/Acadia and Grand Highlander are the winners for maximum interior space, but they’re dull to drive even for a three-row SUV and the Grand Highlander is expensive. The Ascent is a great value if you don’t need more space than the Pathfinder and aren’t attracted to its more upscale driving manners. The Pilot and Telluride/Palisade are well-rounded crossovers with more space than the Pathfinder, and the Hyundai/Kia also have a luxurious feel, but none is much fun to drive.

2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport ・ Photo by Brady Holt

Final Thoughts

The 2024 Nissan Pathfinder’s luxurious sophistication, reasonable prices, and decent utility make a tempting combination for families that care more about crisp driving manners than maximum interior space, the flashiest infotainment screens, or hybrid fuel-sipping. 

If those are bigger factors for you, alternatives abound. But the Pathfinder delivers a high-end driving experience without a high-end price, all while still fitting up to eight passengers. That’s a worthy combination that we expect to appeal to many SUV buyers as long as they keep their off-road expectations in check. 

2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2024 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek ・ Photo by Brady Holt


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