With nearly every other automobile on the road a sport utility vehicle, it’s often hard to differentiate brands. The 2019 Nissan Pathfinder is the mid-sized SUV’s 32nd year and it blends into the crowd.

It’s been a tough go for the Pathfinder in recent years. United States yearly tallies peaked in 2013 when nearly 89,000 of the family haulers sold. With ever-increasing options from domestic and foreign manufacturers, the Pathfinder stumbled to 67,500 sales last year.

The 2019 Nissan Pathfinder blends into the crowd.
The 2019 Nissan Pathfinder blends into the crowd.

The current generation debuted in 2013 and has had several upgrades and makeovers. The Pathfinder received a stronger engine and a higher towing capacity in 2017. Automatic braking was added as a standard feature last year.

A few safety features have been tweaked for 2019, and rear parking sensors are now standard across the lineup. It’s not much to boast about with competitors such as the standard bearer Honda Pilot, the third-year Volkswagen Atlas and the Subaru Ascent, a newcomer, gaining increased attention.

The Pilot had nearly triple the sales of the Pathfinder last year and the Atlas has doubled its sales since its debut in 2017. The Ascent, available since last June, is on pace to with four strong sales months this year. It should easily surpass its 2018 total of more than 36,000 sales.

Available in S, SV, SL and Platinum trims, the Pathfinder is equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 with 284 horsepower and a continuously variable transmission. The Rock Creek Edition ($995) and Rock Creek Tech Package ($990) are value-priced options and were included on the review vehicle. The packages are offered on the SV and SL grades and in two-wheel and four-wheel drive choices.

Among other upgrades, the Rock Creek package gives buyers seven customized paint options, dark 18-wheels and black extremities, including the grille, roof rails, door handles and outside rearview mirrors.

The black motif is continued in other areas, providing the Pathfinder with a more “serious” look. The Rock Creek Edition also adds to the SUV’s off-road persona with rugged equipment — a standard trailer tow hitch and harness and splash guards. The 6,000-pound towing capacity is a segment leader.

Improvements in the Rock Creek Technology Package include a navigation system and a three-year complimentary trial to Nissan Connect. The navigation system includes an eight-inch touchscreen for infotainment, multiple USB Type A and Type C slots and three-zone automatic climate control.

The navigation system offers a high-resolution view and directions are provided with a confident voice. A last-second comforting ping lets drivers know the next instructed turn is imminent.

Gas mileage averages are 19 miles per gallon in city driving, 26 miles per gallon during freeway excursions. The MSRP for SV trim is $35,960. With package options, premium paint, carpeted floor mats and a hefty destination charge, the total price is $40,070.

The Pathfinder is at its best on the open road. It advances in near silence at cruising speeds and with no significant sway in strong winds or winding roads. Front passengers ride in comfort, the second and third-row passengers are less fortunate. Steering is smooth and overall vision is strong. The cargo area is satisfactory but many competitors offer larger areas and easier seat configurations.

While advancing on hills, the Pathfinder requires a concerted effort. The SUV’s initial acceleration isn’t a segment best, either. It achieves the 0-60 miles per hour standard in 7.7 seconds.

There’s nothing overtly wrong with the Pathfinder. But competition is intense in the SUV marketplace. The Pathfinder needs to find a better path or it will continue to further trail its new and old rivals.

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