THIRD PLACE: Frontier King Cab NISMO
The totally new Frontier has gotten bigger. The wheelbase is 9.8 inches longer and the King Cab is 2.6 inches larger than the current Frontier. Width and height measurements are also increased with the new design. The Frontier has also been injected with some Titan DNA-namely, the all-steel double-wishbone front suspension and rear suspension with overslung leaf springs and a long suspension stroke for an optimized off-highway ride. The Frontier also offers standard power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS.
Powering the Frontier is a new 4.0L DOHC V-6 engine that produces 70 hp and 68 lb-ft of torque more than the V-6 engine found in the current Frontier. This new engine is based on the award-winning Nissan VQ engine series used in the 350Z, Maxima, Altima, Murano and Quest. Our tester came equipped with the optional five-speed automatic transmission, but a six-speed manual is standard. An electronically controlled shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system is standard on 4x4 models.
A new NISMO (Nissan Motor Sports) four-wheeling package includes gas shocks, alloy wheels and a rear electric locking differential.
The 4.0L V-6 engine produces more than 250 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque, which translates to impressive acceleration and downright speedy passing performance. Needless to say, this excellent power-to-weight ratio also meant that power was there for the asking during 'wheeling.
The manually operated electronic rear locker that comes with the NISMO package also earned the Frontier a number of points. It's a simple pushbutton, so it's easy to use, and it is seamless in operation and helps to offset the Frontier's lack of significant wheel travel.Inside the truck, we were surprised at the roomy cab. Even taller drivers commented on how they didn't feel cramped in this compact truck. Many testers also offered praise for the excellent driving position and overall visibility, which added to the Frontier's fun factor off-highway.
Other things we like: Good ground clearance; the addition of oil-pressure and voltmeter gauges; great air conditioning; confidence-inspiring brakes; and a cooling system that is up to the task.
Topping everyone's list was the rough ride thanks to stiff spring and shock rates. The Frontier lost many points because of this. It may be that the NISMO-equipped Frontier inherently has a rougher ride than a non NISMO-equipped vehicle, but nonetheless, drivers referred to it as "stiff" and "harsh."
We were shocked to find that the truck only had one tow hook. This was the smallest number of hooks of the entire six-truck fleet of testers. To us, a truck should have a full complement of tow points-especially a truck with a four-wheeling package.
Overall, the interior scored low due to its basic, uninspired appearance. One tester noted that it was very Datsun B210-esque due to its dark padding and trim. Another less-forgiving tester said it just looked "cheap."
Finally, we could have done without the front antiroll-bar link coming unattached at one end after it lost a mounting nut. We also didn't dig the low-hanging front plastic splash guards that often stuffed into the trail. One of them eventually developed a bend where there wasn't supposed to be a bend and this caused it contact with the tire occasionally.
The Frontier may have been the smallest truck in our test this year, but it quickly earned a reputation as offering a big fun factor. Testers also liked the new exterior design with its Titanesque design cues-it made the little truck look beefy. Our biggest applause was for the NISMO package. The electric rear locker included in this package is paramount in making the Frontier a capable truck off-highway.
"Tactile feel is excellent, even better than Titan and Armada."
"No comparison between the new Frontier and the old Frontier. But while Nissan took one huge step forward with the new Frontier, everyone else was taking two steps forward."