2005 Nissan Frontier
2005 Nissan Frontier Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
All-new midsize pickup built on full-size Titan frame.
The all-new 2005 Nissan Frontier offers capabilities formerly reserved for full-size pickup trucks, but provides them in a more maneuverable and easier-to-park midsize package.
Sharing only its nameplate with the former Frontier, a compact pickup, Nissan's new midsize truck shares its full-boxed frame rails architecture with Nissan's full-size Titan pickup. The large V6 engine that is standard in all but the very base model of the new Frontier is more powerful than any of its competitors' five-, six- or even eight-cylinder powerplants.
With its strong chassis and powerful engine, the new Frontier provides up to 6500 pounds of towing capability and is capable of carrying payloads in excess of 1500 pounds.
The 2005 Frontier is available with rear- or four-wheel drive powertrains and in two body styles, either King Cab, with a 73.3-inch standard bed as well as two forward-facing rear seats, or Crew Cab, which offers a roomy passenger compartment with amenities much like those you'd expect in a sport utility vehicle, yet still provides a truck bed that's nearly five-feet long, even while its tailgate in its upright and locked position.
For the first time, Nissan offers the Frontier in a special Nismo off-road version. Nismo is short for Nissan Motorsports International, the automaker's racing and high-performance arm. Its upfit for the new Frontier includes special shock absorbers and tires, underbody component-protecting skid plates and an active traction system with technologies such as hill descent control and hill start assist.
The 2005 Nissan Frontier is available in four versions: the base version XE, the well-equipped SE, the more luxurious LE and the Nismo off-road model.
All except the XE are available in King Cab or Crew Cab configurations, in rear- or four-wheel drive and are powered by a V6 engine.
The Frontier XE ($15,500) comes only in the King Cab architecture, only with rear-wheel drive and only with a four-cylinder engine. However, the 2.5-liter inline four generates 154 horsepower. Built for the budget-minded truck buyer who needs to carry more people or cargo than a compact, standard-cab pickup can handle, the XE has crank-down windows, a five-speed manual transmission and 15-inch wheels. Options include a five-speed automatic transmission ($1,050); a preferred package ($1,500) that includes air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD audio system, tilting steering column, sliding rear window and privacy glass; cruise control ($250); and an airbag package with side airbags and curtain airbags designed to provide head protection ($550).
The 2005 Frontier SE, LE and Nismo are powered by Nissan's acclaimed 4.0-liter VQ family V6 engine, though now equipped and tuned for truck duty and producing 265 horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque. With a couple of exceptions, they come standard with a modern six-speed manual transmission and the option of an available five-speed automatic ($1,050).
The Frontier SE comes as a 4x2 King Cab ($18,400), 4x4 King Cab ($21,100), 4x2 Crew Cab ($20,550), or 4x4 Crew Cab ($23,250). Standard equipment includes air conditioning, chrome front bumper and grille, a sliding rear window, an AM/FM/CD audio system, tilt steering wheel. King Cab options include 16-inch alloy wheels ($300); a power package ($750) that incorporates windows, locks, mirrors and cruise control; an Active Brake limited-slip traction system ($300); and side-impact and curtain airbags ($550). The Crew Cab options list adds a vehicle security system to the power package ($900) and a sunroof ($700).
All Frontier LE models come with automatic transmissions, including the 4x2 King Cab ($22,200), 4x4 King Cab ($24,900), 4x2 Crew Cab $23,900) and 4x4 Crew Cab ($26,550). LE models come with all the standard features of the SE plus power mirrors, windows and locks; fog lamps, chrome exhaust tips, door handles and exterior mirrors; remote keyless entry; height- and lumbar-adjustable driver's seat; leather-wrapped steering wheel; illuminated vanity mirrors; compass and temperature readings and a trip computer; sunglasses holder in an overhead console; driver's side seatback map pocket, and a first aid kit. The options list includes upgraded audio systems with MP3 player and six-CD changer for the King Cab ($550) and a Rockford Fosgate system for the Crew Cab ($850), a traction package ($700), a leather package for the Crew Cab ($1,700), and XM or Sirius satellite radio ($400).
The Nismo setup is available as a 4x2 King Cab with automatic transmission ($22,000), a 4x4 King Cab with manual ($23,650) or automatic ($24,700), a 4x2 Crew Cab with automatic ($24,050) or a 4x4 Crew Cab with automatic ($26,750).
They share most of their standard and optional equipment offerings with the LE grade, but come standard with the active brake limited slip traction system, special off-road design wheels and tires, Bilstein shock absorbers and skid plates to protect underbody components from obstacles encountered when driving off pavement.
Options for all models include a sliding cargo bed floor tray ($220), a hard tonneau cover ($1,030), a sliding bed divider ($270), a non-sliding bed extender ($250), a sliding bed extender ($290), a tow-hitch receiver ($380) and bed rail caps and under rail bed liner ($430).
The 2005 Nissan Frontier has a bold and aggressive stance like its big brother, the full-size Nissan Titan, though in less intimidating dimensions. The Frontier's wheelbase is more than a foot shorter than the Titan's and its overall length is some two feet shorter. For the Titan, this means its wheels are closer to its corners, enhancing not only its stance on the road but its clearance for dealing with obstacles while away from pavement.
Like the Titan and Nissan's various sport utility vehicles, the new Frontier has Nissan's angle-strut grille design that definitely is noticed by other drivers as it emerges and enlarges in their rear-view mirrors. Body-colored steel fender flares contribute to the Frontier's presence.
All 2005 Frontiers have four-door access to their passenger compartments. King Cabs have rear-hinged access doors while Crew Cabs have four forward-hinged doors much like those on a sedan or sport utility vehicle. (There is no regular cab available.)
Frontier cargo beds are 18 inches deep and 44.4 inches wide between the inner fenders of the rear wheels, as well as 58.8 inches wide at the tailgate and 61.4 inches wide between the tops of the bed rails. Beds are 73.3 inches long on King Cabs and 59.5 inches long on Crew Cabs. All Frontiers have tailgates equipped with a door-style lock.
A spray-on bed liner and Nissan's Utili-Track C-channel cargo security system, introduced and well-received on the Titan, are factory installed on 2005 Frontier LE King Cab and SE, LE and Nismo Crew Cab pickups. Utili-Track includes special C-section rails – two in the bed floor, one along each top inner edge of the bed side rails and one in the top of the bed header panel. Sliding cleats can be locked into position within the rails to secure a variety of cargo shapes, sizes and configurations.
The 2005 Frontier interior was designed to be as versatile as the cargo bed.
Front seats are comfortable yet supportive. Passengers riding in the back seat of the Crew Cab won't be complaining about being cramped, not with 33.6 inches of legroom. Adults riding in the two forward-facing rear seats in the King Cab might not be eager for a long drive, but still have more than two feet to stretch their legs.
Entry into the rear seat is helped by grab handles built into both B pillars (the vertical pillar alongside the front seat backs. Rear-seat passengers in all Frontiers have access to a pair of cup holders. The windows in the rear doors of Frontier Crew Cabs power down all the way.
Safety is improved for rear-seat passengers when Frontiers are equipped with the optional inflatable curtain airbags that cover both front and side windows in the event of a side impact. Curtain airbags are designed to provide head protection.
Storage containers are built into the nearly flat rear floor beneath the rear seats in both cab styles, and seat bottoms can be flipped up to provide additional cargo space.
The driver grasps a nicely sized (not too large) steering wheel with a rim that has a tab-like enlargement on each side, right where you want to rest your thumbs to maintain a proper 9 and 3 o'clock driving position. Entry into the front seats is enhanced by grab handles on either side of the interior windshield support (A-pillar) with an additional grab handle in the interior roof just above the passenger-side door.
The A-pillars also incorporate defroster vents that should quickly clear side windows in winter or humid weather conditions. Sun visors have extenders to help cover the full width of side windows. A deep and dotted matrix behind the interior rear view mirror also helps protect the driver's eyes when driving into sunrise or sunset.
A covered storage tray sits on top of the center part of the dashboard. The Frontier has a pair of glove boxes in front of the front passenger's seat, with additional storage in the door pockets and center console, and three power outlets. Cup holders have removable inserts so they can handle large beverage containers.
The driver sits behind a large and complete gauge array. Controls for heating and ventilation systems have large knobs that are easy to find and to use, as is the knob for switching between two-wheel drive and four-high and four-low.
Unlike earlier Frontiers, the new model has a standard, lever-operated handbrake, preferable to the pull-handle still used on some Toyota Tacoma models.
The 2005 Nissan Frontier is built on the company's F-Alpha platform, as are the Titan full-size pickup and the Armada, Pathfinder and Xterra sport utilities. For the Frontier, the frame was shortened so the mid-size truck fits into a standard garage. At the same time, this F-Alpha architecture gives the Frontier a solid foundation that can be tuned for hauling cargo, traversing rough trails and for providing a comfortable ride around town or at expressway speeds.
We spent our time in the Nismo off-road version but found it just as capable at dealing with highway speeds as at driving through nearly two feet of rushing water flowing from creeks across Texas ranch roads. Flooding prevented us from true off-roading and the opportunity to try out the Nismo's muddy and rocky trail capabilities, which include a 31.5-degree approach angle. However, we'd done enough of that the previous day in the 2005 Nissan Xterra to be confident in the Frontier, which shares the same features. Among them: Hill Descent Control walks the vehicle down steep descents; Hill Start Assist holds your position when you lift your foot off the brake while heading uphill.
Nissan's Vehicle Dynamic Control is set up to allow a little more sideslip than some electronic stability control systems. Many of these systems intervene too quickly to suit advanced drivers, but Nissan's reminds us of the system in Porsches, effectively helping the driver maintain control without feeling as if someone or something else has taken over.
The speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering provides good feedback. The Frontier was stable and sure even when driven aggressively around curves.
The four-wheel disc brakes were effective (with 11.65-inch diameter rotors in front, 11.26-inch rear).
The Frontier's 4.0-liter V6 engine is the most powerful in the mid-size pickup truck class. It provides 45 more horsepower than the largest engine available in the 2005 Chevrolet Colorado, 20 more horsepower (and while using regular fuel) than the V6 in the 2005 Toyota Tacoma, and 15 more horsepower than even the strongest V8 available in the 2005 Dodge Dakota. Nissan's six-speed transmissions, whether manual or automatic, allow the driver to exercise all of that power.
The Frontier XE's 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine generates 154 horsepower, 85 percent of the power offered by the 3.3-liter V6 used in the previous generation Frontier.
The 2005 Nissan Frontier is an all-new truck from top to bottom and from stem to stern, sharing only its name with the venerable Frontier of previous years. While the new Frontier is available as a $15,500 entry-level pickup, most buyers will opt for the SE, LE and Nismo versions, with manufacturer suggested base prices ranging from $18,400 to $26,750. These Frontiers are powered by a 4.0-liter V6 engine that provides 265 horsepower, more muscle than any engine in the mid-size class, including both V8s available in the Dodge Dakota. The Nissan Frontier offers useful innovations such as the Utili-Track cargo securing system and spray-in bedliner.
New Car Test Drive correspondent Larry Edsall filed this report from Austin, Texas.
Nissan Frontier King Cab 4x2 XE ($15,500), SE ($18,400), Nismo ($22,000), LE ($22,200); King Cab 4x4: SE ($21,100), LE ($24,900), Nismo ($23,650); Crew Cab 4x2 SE ($20,550), LE ($23,900), Nismo $24,050); Crew Cab 4x4 SE ($23,250), LE ($26,550), Nismo ($26,750).
Options As Tested
Traction package includes Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control and Vehicle Dynamic Control ($500); side air bag package includes curtain airbags ($500); floor mats ($80); alloy spare credit (-$100).
Nissan Frontier Nismo Crew Cab 4x4 ($26,750).
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