2008 Nissan Frontier Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
New Long Bed Crew Cab hauls more than before.
It's difficult to imagine a mid-size pickup that's more like a full-size pickup than the Nissan Frontier. The Frontier shares much of its architecture with the full-size Nissan Titan. A powerful 4.0-liter V6 comes on all but the base model. Rated at 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque, Frontier's V6 tops any straight-5 or V6 the competition has to offer, and rivals the output of the Dodge Dakota's optional V8. Pair this with its strong chassis, and the Frontier offers up to 6500 pounds of towing capacity and a maximum payload of over 1500 pounds. Yet it's still maneuverable and easy to park.
New for '07 is a Crew Cab Long Bed, carrying the same 73.3-inch bed as the King Cab. (The standard Crew Cab bed measures just short of five feet, at 59.5 inches.) King Cabs come with two forward-facing rear seats; Crew Cabs feature a roomy passenger compartment with amenities much like those you'd expect in a sport-utility vehicle. Frontier is available in two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, and in King Cab or Crew Cab configurations.
Additional changes for '07 include a passenger-side seat-belt reminder light and new MP3 input jack for the optional six-CD changer. V6 models now run cleaner than before, advancing from Low Emissions (LEV2 LEV) to Ultra Low Emissions (LEV 2 ULEV) status. Option packages have been revised, and new packages debut.
The Nismo version (Nissan Motorsports) features special off-road shock absorbers and tires, underbody component-protecting skid plates and an optional active traction system with technologies such as Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist.
The 2007 Nissan Frontier comes in four trim levels: base XE, well-equipped SE, more luxurious LE, and the Nismo off-road model. SE, LE, and Nismo are available in King Cab (an extended cab with auxiliary rear doors) or Crew Cab (four full-size doors) configurations, with rear-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD), and are powered by a V6 engine. XE choices are more limited.
Frontier XE ($16,050) comes only as a King Cab 2WD with a 152-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It does offer the choice of a five-speed manual transmission or five-speed automatic ($1,050). XE has manual-crank windows and 15-inch wheels. A Preferred Package ($1,550) adds air conditioning, AM/FM/CD audio, tilt steering column, sliding rear window and privacy glass. Buyers may also opt for a Power Package ($950) that combines cruise control with power windows, locks (with keyless entry) and mirrors. Cruise control is also available as a stand-alone option ($300). New for '07 is an Appearance Package ($550) that adds chrome bumpers and 16-inch wheels.
Step up to Frontier SE, and you can choose from six configurations: 2WD King Cab ($18,950), 4WD King Cab ($21,650), 2WD Crew Cab ($20,800), 4WD Crew Cab ($23,500), 2WD Crew Cab Long Bed ($21,600), and 4WD Crew Cab Long Bed ($24,300). Standard equipment includes air conditioning, chrome front bumper and grille, sliding rear window, AM/FM/CD audio, tilt steering wheel, and the 4.0-liter V6. A six-speed manual transmission is also standard. Options for SE King Cab include a five-speed automatic transmission ($1,050) and 16-inch alloy wheels ($400). Again there's a Power Package ($1,050) that incorporates windows, locks, mirrors and cruise control; ordered on the Crew Cab ($1,250), it includes a microfilter for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). Available only on Power-Package Crew Cabs is a power sunroof ($700). New for '07 is the SE Value Truck Package ($1,000-1,350), which includes the complete Power Package, plus limited-slip rear differential, floor mats, a bed liner for Long Beds, and a bed extender and alloy wheels for short beds.
Frontier LE 2WD King Cab ($22,900), 4WD King Cab ($25,600), 2WD Crew Cab $24,600), 4WD Crew Cab ($27,250), 2WD Crew Cab Long Bed ($25,100) and 4WD Crew Cab Long Bed ($27,500) 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 readouts; trip computer; sunglasses holder in an overhead console; driver's side seatback map pocket; and a first aid kit. Automatic transmission is also standard. Satellite Radio ($350) is available in either the Sirius or XM flavor. LE Crew Cab buyers can the sunroof ($700), Rockford-Fosgate audio with six-CD/MP3 capability ($850), and/or leather upholstery ($1,700). King Cab customers can opt for a similar audio upgrade ($550) that skips the fancy brand name but includes a vehicle security system.
The Nismo model is available as a 2WD King Cab with automatic transmission ($22,600), a 4WD King Cab with manual ($24,250) or automatic ($25,300), a 2WD Crew Cab with automatic ($24,650) or a 4WD Crew Cab with automatic ($27,350). (Nismo is not available as a Crew Cab Long Bed.) All share most of their standard and optional equipment with the LE grade, but add special off-road wheels and tires, off-road Bilstein shock absorbers, skid plates, and an electronic locking limited-slip rear differential.
Optional on 4WD automatic-transmission Nismo and LE is Nissan's Advanced Off-Road Traction System ($500-700), which includes Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control and Vehicle Dynamic Control. The less extensive Active Brake Limited Slip Package ($350) is available on LE and SE.
Available accessories include a hard tonneau cover ($1,060), a sliding b.
The Nissan Frontier has a bold, aggressive stance, just 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 but its overall length is some two feet shorter. This means the Frontier's 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.
Frontier uses a bold grille design 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 Frontiers have four-door access to their passenger compartments. King Cabs have rear-hinged auxiliary doors while Crew Cabs have four forward-hinged doors much like those on a sedan or sport-utility vehicle. (There is no regular cab version.)
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 Long Bed Crew Cabs; 59.5 inches long on standard Crew Cabs. All Frontiers have tailgates equipped with a door-style lock.
A spray-on bed liner and Nissan's Utili-Track cargo security system come factory-installed on Crew Cab and LE King Cab models; these features on optional on Nismo King Cabs. 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. It's a great system and Nissan offers accessories that lock into it.
The Nissan Frontier interior was designed to be as versatile as its cargo bed. Climbing in is aided 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 front seats are comfortable yet supportive. The driver grasps a nicely sized 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. The gauge array is large and complete, and brightened by satin-chrome outlines around the dials and air vents. Controls for heating and ventilation systems have large knobs that are easy to find and to use. Similarly, the knob for switching between 2WD, 4WD, and low-range 4WD is easily accessible.
Defroster vents on the A-pillars are designed to quickly clear side windows in winter or humid weather. Sun visors have extenders to help cover the full width of the side windows. A deep dotted matrix behind the interior rear-view mirror helps protect the driver's eyes when driving into the sun.
A covered storage tray sits on top of the center part of the dashboard. The Frontier has a pair of glove boxes, with additional storage in the door pockets and center console. Three power outlets are provided. Cup holders have removable inserts so they can handle large beverage containers.
Passengers riding in the back seat of the Crew Cab shouldn'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 aided 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.
Storage containers are built into the nearly flat rear floor beneath the rear seats in both cab styles, and the seat bottoms can be flipped up to provide additional cargo space.
The Nissan Frontier is built on the company's F-Alpha platform, which is shared with the Titan, Armada, Pathfinder, and Xterra. 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. Nissan builds the tough F-Alpha frame in various lengths for these different models, and deliberately kept Frontier short enough to fit in a standard garage.
The Nismo off-road model we drove seemed as capable at highway speeds as when we splashed through nearly two feet of creek water rushing across Texas ranch roads. The Nismo's trail capabilities include a 31.5-degree approach angle.
The optional Traction-Package technologies further enhance the Nismo Frontier's worthiness when off the beaten trail. 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. Limited-slip traction control helps redirect engine torque to the non-slipping drive wheels on low traction surfaces. It operates on the rear wheels on 2WD Nismo models and on all four wheels on 4WD Nismos.
Vehicle Dynamic Control (optional on LE and Nismo) can help the driver avoid accidents. It's set up to allow a little more sideslip than some electronic stability control systems, and we prefer this approach. Similar electronic stability control systems from other manufacturers often intervene too quickly to suit advanced drivers, but Nissan's VDC reminds us of the system in Porsches, effectively helping the driver maintain control without feeling it 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. We found the brakes effective. The four-wheel disc brakes use big brake rotors for efficient cooling in repeated hard use.
The Frontier's 4.0-liter V6 engine is rated at 261 horsepower at 5600 rpm, which makes it the most powerful V6 in the mid-size pickup class. It provides 19 more horsepower than the largest engine available in the Chevrolet Colorado, 25 more horsepower (and while using regular fuel) than the V6 in the Toyota Tacoma, and as much horsepower as even the strongest V8 available in the Dodge Dakota. (The Dakota V8s develop more torque, however, important if you plan to pull a trailer.)
Nissan's six-speed manual and five-speed automatic transmissions are well-matched to the V6 engine, allowing the driver to exercise all of that power.
The Frontier XE's 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine generates 152 horsepower, which is certainly adequate. In fact, it's 84 percent of the power produced by the 3.3-liter V6 available in the previous-generation Frontier.
Built on the same mechanical platform as Nissan's full-size Titan, the mid-size Frontier boasts the most powerful V6 engine in its class, useful innovations such as the Utili-Track cargo securing system and spray-in bedliner, a comfortable cab and attractive styling. We think it's one of the best trucks in this class, sharing that mantle with the Toyota Tacoma.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Larry Edsall filed this report from Austin, Texas.
Nissan Frontier XE ($16,050); Frontier SE 2WD King Cab ($18,950); SE 4WD King Cab ($21,650); SE 2WD Crew Cab ($20,800); SE 4WD Crew Cab ($23,500); SE 2WD Crew Cab Long Bed ($21,600); SE 4WD Crew Cab Long Bed ($24,300); Frontier LE 2WD King Cab ($22,900); LE 4WD King Cab ($25,600); LE 2WD Crew Cab ($24,600); LE 4WD Crew Cab ($27,250); LE 2WD Crew Cab Long Bed ($25,100); LE 4WD Crew Cab Long Bed ($27,500); Frontier Nismo 2WD King Cab automatic ($22,600); Nismo 4WD King Cab manual ($24,250); Nismo 4WD King Cab automatic ($25,300); Nismo 2WD Crew Cab automatic ($24,650); Nismo 4WD Crew Cab automatic ($27,350).
Options As Tested
Traction Package ($500) includes Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control and Vehicle Dynamic Control; Side Airbag Package includes side-impact and side-curtain airbags ($550); floor mats ($90); alloy spare credit (-$100).
Nissan Frontier Crew Cab 4WD automatic Nismo ($27,350).
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