Nissan Frontier: Conquer Wilderness

Farm Forum

Nissan has a solution for weekend warriors wanting a pickup that can detour from the open road and confidently trek along wilderness trails. Its 2014 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X fills the bill as a daily driver and serious off-road machine.

A refresher on the Frontier PRO-4X’s trailblazing prowess came recently at the rugged Knibbe Ranch near San Antonio. The 4×4 performed well on the challenging test route, which included steep rocky hills and descents.

The test Frontier PRO-4X is a Crew Cab, which has a base price at $30,800. In King Cab form, the starting price is $29,840.

Powering the Frontier PRO-4X is a 4.0-liter V-6 engine delivering 261 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 281 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. Towing capacity (Crew Cab/King Cab) is 6,100/6,300 pounds and the payload rating with a 6-foot-1-inch cargo box (manual transmission) is 1,098/1,235 pounds.

The standard transmission is a six-speed manual, and a five-speed automatic comes with a $1,050 (Crew Cab) or $1,200 (King Cab) price tag. Fuel economy with the manual transmission is 21 miles per gallon highway and 16 mpg city.

Along with the Frontier PRO-4X’s V-6 grunt, a list of heavy-duty features enable it to handle the ranch-course’s challenges. Four-wheel-drive traction is provided by a shift-on-the-fly 4×4 system with an electronically controlled part-time transfer case. Complementing the 4×4 system is a switch-activated electronic locking rear differential, which increases tire grip by delivering equal traction to both rear wheels.

Nissan’s Frontier PRO-4X is fitted with Bilstein high-pressure off-road performance shocks that provide a compliant on-road ride and efficiently soak up off-road rough stuff. Tires are P265/75R-15 BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/As with white-outlined lettering, which wrap 16-inch six-spoke machine-finished aluminum-alloy wheels. Splash guards, which are contoured to fit the wheel openings, protect lower body panels. Helping the truck handle hostile terrain are good approach and departure angles, an 8.9-inch ground clearance and skid plates shielding the oil pan, fuel tank and transfer case.

Useful on the ranch’s hills and a particularly steep trail leading to a creek is the pickup’s hill-descent control/hill-start assist. Available only with automatic transmission, the hill-start assist holds brake pressure a few seconds to keep the truck from rolling backwards after an uphill stop. Activate a switch — at speeds up to 21 mph in 4H and 15 mph in 4LO — and the hill-descent control provides a steady-speed descent with the driver’s foot off the brake pedal.

Other features enhancing the off-road driving experience are pair of front tow hooks and fog lights that cast a low, wide beam. The cargo box gets an extra dose of ruggedness and utility with a factory sprayed-on UV-resistant bedliner and Utili-track cargo-carrying channel system. Utili-track features five “C” cross-section rails on the bed’s side rails, header panel and floor that allow four large cleats to slide into position as needed.

A Sliding Bed Extender adds cargo-toting utility to the test truck. This $280 dealer-installed option boosts versatility by sliding against the cab or locking into position over the open tailgate. The Sliding Bed Extender is available packaged with a tow-hitch receiver for $575. Tubular step rails are a popular option, which are dealer installed for $184.

PRO-4X-embroidered cloth seat trim adorns the interior, and the leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob are stitched in contrasting white. The driver’s seat has eight-way manual adjustability and a lumbar support, and the front passenger’s seat folds. Crew Cab models are fitted with a 60/40-split flip-up rear bench. The instrument panel gains flair with white-faced gauges ringed with satin-chrome bezels, and chrome-accented vents. New-for-2014 standard features include a manual sliding rear window on the Crew Cab, and both PRO-4X models add heated front seats.

Standard PRO-4X comfort and convenience features include: dual-zone automatic temperature control; rear sonar system; RearView Monitor; automatic on/off headlights; dual power outside mirrors; locking tailgate and cargo light; power locks and windows; remote keyless entry; cruise control; Bluetooth hands-free phone system; six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with 4.3-inch color display; Radio Data System; USB connection for iPod; and Sirius XM Satellite Radio. Crew Cab interior luxury gets a significant upgrade with the optional $2,850 PRO-4X Luxury Package.

While the Frontier’s basic design has been on the market for a long time, its bottom-line capability is strong — particularly in pumped-up PRO-4X form.