Nissan has a long history in the U.S. pickup market, and its Frontier is distinguished as a solid, consistent competitor. The 2019 Frontier is the oldest truck design on the market and remains the “standard bearer of Nissan truck heritage.” Upgrades for the 2005 model provided the basis for the Frontier on sale today.
Built on the rugged F-Alpha platform, the 2005 truck’s interior and exterior grew to midsize proportions. There have been many refinements since then, but no major changes. It’s rumored an all-new “futuristic” Frontier will roll into the market for 2021, but until then the current model continues as a respectable brand representative.
The design and engineering direction taken for the 2005 Frontier still appeals to truckers. Nissan reported its original goal was to create a “rugged truck look and feel, both inside and out, with a robust, athletic style and intelligent-utility design features.” Frontier stands apart from the slicker-bodied competitors with a tough, no-nonsense look in a fashion comparable to a Jeep Wrangler versus urbanized SUVs. Modest pricing, starting less than $20,000 for a King Cab S, earns it the title of “America’s most-affordable pickup.”
The high-end PRO-4X Crew Cab 4x4 test truck, base priced at $34,290, is a flexible design, capable of handling off-road demands, home-improvement duties and daily driving. Frontier’s length is roughly 6 inches less than competitors and it has a shorter wheelbase that makes it maneuverable and easy to park. The test-drive experience included narrow old-city streets that the pickup had to share with heavy traffic, including large commercial vehicles. It proved the right truck for this environment.
Also contributing to a comfortable driving experience is a tall seating position that provides a commanding view of the road, a clean-design cab interior with easy-to-use controls and supportive front bucket seats.
The 5-foot standard bed was put to work hauling a sofa and large chair. The standard factory-applied bedliner and Utili-track Channel System with four adjustable tie-down cleats helped alleviate the hassle of securing the furniture for cruising a long stretch of highway under high-wind conditions. The ability to slide and lock the cleats on rails made the process more efficient and allowed for retightening of tie-down ropes that was required along the way. The Frontier also is available with a 6-foot long bed to handle greater cargo needs.
A hefty gray roof rack with cross bars provides another cargo-toting opportunity. The rack is a part of an optional $2,100 Premium Package that includes: leather seats with embossed PRO-4X logos; eight-way power-adjustable and heated driver seat; four-way power-adjustable and heated passenger seat; power-adjustable and heated outside mirrors; power-sliding sunroof with tilt; and fold-down center armrest. Dual-zone automatic temperature control, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift grip are standard premium features.
Frontier lacks a pushbutton start, so a key has to be inserted into the ignition to crank the 4.0-liter V-6 engine. The V-6 propels it with 261 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 281 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. The test truck is fitted with a five-speed automatic transmission, but in old-school rugged-truck spirit, a six-speed manual is available. Its launch and power up to highway speed are surprisingly quick. Estimated fuel economy for the test truck is 15 miles per gallon city and 21 mpg highway. Optimal 4.0 fuel efficiency is achieved via a 2WD with automatic transmission, which delivers an estimated 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway.
Frontier’s base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that generates 152 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 171 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm. It’s offered with a five-speed manual and a five-speed automatic transmission. Estimated fuel economy for a 2WD manual four-cylinder model is 19 mpg city/23 mpg highway.
Traction is provided by P265/75R16 all-terrain tires that wrap six-spoke graphite-colored “off-road” alloy wheels. Standard features contributing to the PRO-4X’s off-road capability are: Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control; electronic rear locking differential; Bilstein off-road high-pressure shocks; skid plates shielding the oil pan, fuel tank and transfer case; front tow hooks; splash guards; and fog lamps.
While trekking along rugged terrain, life in the cab stays civilized with infotainment features that are standard on the PRO-4X. Itís equipped with a NissanConnect 5.8-inch touch-screen display, NissanConnect Mobile Apps, navigation system, and voice recognition for navigation and audio. Tunes are pumped through 10 speakers from a Rockford Fosgate audio system. Increasing safety while backing are a rear-view monitor and rear sonar system.
This blending of comfort and convenience with ruggedness leads Nissan to describe its Frontier as having an “authentic truck style with innovation to get the job done. A true right-sized midsize pickup.”