2009 Nissan Frontier
    MSRP
    $23,060
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    2009 Nissan Frontier Expert Review:Autoblog


    2009 Nissan Frontier – Click above for high-res image gallery

    Small pickups occupy an odd and oft forgotten spot in the over-hyped, Biggie-Sized truck segment, but making a case for their existence remains easy. Not everyone needs a larger vehicle or has the space for a full-size truck, and small pickups offer the utility weekend warriors require without necessitating an organ exchange at the pump. Although not as diminutive as their forebears, today's more compact dimensions are easier to cope with behind the wheel, and in this economy, moving down a rung in the pickup hierarchy is sure to save you a few dollars in monthly payments and insurance premiums. But is it just about a small footprint and an easy to swallow sticker? Or is just best to bite the bullet and option up for what some consider to be a "real" pickup? We test the 2009 Nissan Frontier to see if this squat truck has more than just measurements on its size to woo punch-drunk pickup buyers away from the latest and greatest in the full-size segment.



    Photos Copyright ©2009 Dan Roth / Weblogs, Inc.



    The Frontier is exactly what it feels like: a smaller version of the Titan. It drives with a solid and willing feel that's roughly akin to the Maxima of trucks. A 4.0-liter version of the company's ubiquitous VQ engine kicks this thing around with plenty of authority, and the real four-wheel drive rig underneath lends more billy goat ability than most buyers will ever put to use. 261 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and, more importantly, 281 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm, are churned out with an authoritative voice while burning cleanly enough to earn LEV2/ULEV emissions ratings. There is a four-cylinder version of the Frontier for buyers seeking a bit better fuel economy, but our sampler was an SE-trim 4x4 with a five-speed automatic and V6.



    The Frontier comes in extended King Cab or true four-door Crew Cab configurations. There's enough space in the demi-door King Cab for the average buyer, with plenty of storage cubbies and a roomier feel than even a full-sizer from 15 years ago, but the jump seats are only suitable for occasional use. If truck-pooling is part of your usage brief, go right for the Crew Cab, which has the side benefit of more creature comforts than the King Cabs. The materials in our SE were good for the class, if not gobsmackingly fantastic. In the end, it's a truck, and while it can be dressed up with cushier trappings, it's still a working-class vehicle first and foremost.

    It drives like a two-thirds scale version of the Titan.
    While the Frontier is comfortable and easy-driving, it won't skip town in the middle of the night if challenged to a showdown – there's serious hardware here. Solid foundations are provided by the fully-boxed F-Alpha platform, the same frame that gives the full-size Titan its rigid, dare we say, sporty demeanor. Sharing the Titan's bones, it's no surprise the Frontier drives like a two-thirds scale version of its big brother, which is to say it's pleasing to gearheads who value direct steering and a communicative ride.



    With a surprisingly sprightly 4,315 pound curb weight and a 58/42 weight distribution, the facts and figures sound more sporting than trucklike, and the Frontier is car-easy to drive. Fuel economy of 14 city mpg and 19 highway in the configuration we tried brings you back to full-frame, four-wheel drive reality. Four cylinder Frontiers can reach into the low 20s on the highway, though the economy is about what's expected given the specs.

    Disc brakes all around are something that's becoming more common on trucks, and our Frontier arrived packing 11.7-inch rotors in front and 11.3-inchers in back. In practice, braking performance falls short, likely due to limited traction from the BFG Long Trail tires. SE four-bys get standard 16-inch alloy wheels shod with 265/70 tires. While the ride is comfortable and quiet, and there's traction for wilderness excursions, hard stabs at the brake pedal cause the rear end to skate before the ABS kicks in. The danger with the Frontier's braking performance, at least in the guise we sampled, is that there's plenty of go power and the handling borders on sporty, so it's a surprise to step on the whoa pedal and be met with a wimpy showing. The steering, however, is direct and communicative, a surprise, and the firm chassis pleasing.



    The other pedal is the fun one. Squeeze the skinny treadle and the DOHC six puts its shoulder into it with a growl, delivering a firm shove ahead. While Nissan has figured out how to squeeze a V8 into the Frontier's Pathfinder platform-mate, and the Chevrolet Colorado and Dodge Dakota offer eight-pack thrills in the mid-size arena, there's no need for any more engine in the Frontier. Even the tow-crazy will have little to complain about; 4WD V6 Frontiers can drag around 6,300 pounds, slotting neatly between the Colorado's 6,000-pound maximum and the Dakota's 7,200-pound peak.

    Consumer Reports rates it a Recommended Pick and projects very good reliability.
    Towing and mudslinging are ways to put this puppy-friendly vehicle to work, and the Frontier laps it up without complaint. Owner complaints are likely to be few and far between, too. Consumer Reports rates the Frontier as a recommended pick and projects very good reliability. Heading off-pavement, too, is another area where the Frontier is as happy as a black Lab in a mudpuddle. Our dirt ventures were child's play for the Frontier. Dialling up low-range four-wheel drive is as easy as twisting a rotary knob, and the truck was comfortable and controllable up and down some mild terrain. Approach and departure angles aren't Wrangler-steep, but when you're poking around with a borrowed vehicle without a winch, you tend not to take extreme chances.



    Nissan has carried out a naming shuffle for the hardcore offroad trim level. What used to be known as the NISMO package has been replaced by the PRO-4X for 2009. Bilstein shock absorbers, extra skid plates and a locking Dana 44 rear axle bolsters the mechanicals for stump-bumping. PRO-4X interiors are detailed with white-faced gauges, a trip computer and leather wrapping with red stitching on the steering wheel. Manual transmission equipped PRO-4X models also get a leather shift knob, and Crew Cabs with the package can also be luxed up with power-operated heated seats covered with the thematic leather. Outside, the rock-chewing Frontiers get obligatory stickering on the bedsides, along with color keyed grille, bumpers, mirrors and door handles. Foglamps, a sprayed bedliner and the Utili-Track cargo system are also part of the PRO-4X.



    This kind of money will put you into an F-150, Silverado, Tundra or even Titan.
    The trouble with mid-size trucks is that full-sizers can be had for much the same money, especially in these times of screaming deals on just about anything. Our well-equipped tester started at $24,110 and was equipped with the SE Value Truck Package for $1,330 that added the SE Power Package of keyless entry, power windows, locks, and mirrors, plus cruise control. Also in the SE VTP is a brake-based limited slip, 16-inch alloy wheels, bedliner and floor mats. Safety was tuned up with the $550 airbag package that fits seat-mounted side bags and roof-mounted side curtain bags into the Frontier, and Nissan also requested $745 for destination charges for a grand total of $26,735. That kind of money will easily put you into an F-150, Silverado, Tundra or even Titan. It would be a stretch, however, to get into one of those bigger pickups for the same price as our Frontier with an extended cab and four-wheel drive, let alone the other niceties included in the value package.

    Well-equipped and reasonably priced, with options for both luxury and rock-hopping, the Frontier covers a lot of bases. It's handsomely styled, even if it's not the freshest face on the block, and Nissan's entry-level truck identity has matured to the point where it's got a purposeful, bulldog stance that comes off as both rugged and dignified. The Frontier's well-behaved chassis handles driver inputs better than some cars we've sampled, and although our biggest gripes are centered on the Frontier's fuel economy, braking performance and bed size – likely sacrificed at the altar of human comfort – is a reasonable tradeoff for a daily driver.



    For those who appreciate performance, the Frontier may well be the only choice in pickups. Among a class that includes such varied choices as the Ridgeline, Ranger, a Chevrolet with a V8 similar to what you'll find in a Corvette, and the Dakota with its uber-punchy eight-cylinder mill, the Frontier scraps successfully as a well-rounded offering, continuing to prove that good things can come in small packages.



    Photos Copyright ©2009 Dan Roth / Weblogs, Inc.

    Revised midsize pickup with strong engine, good handling.

    Introduction

    The Nissan Frontier is a midsize pickup truck using a strong and proven 4.0-liter V6 engine, or a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder, with a fully boxed ladder-type chassis. 

    For 2009, the grille, front fascia, instrument panel have been slightly changed. There's also a new off-road model called the PRO-4X. The four-wheel-drive system for this model and other Frontiers is part-time 4WD with an electronically controlled transfer case offering shift on the fly. 

    The V6 engine boasts 261 horsepower, best in class, along with best-in-class towing and payload; but the EPA-rated fuel mileage with 4WD is just 15 mpg City and 19 mpg Highway. Safety features such as electronic stability control, side-impact airbags and airbag curtains are optional, while being standard with some of the Frontier's competitors. The Frontier earned four of five stars for the driver and five stars for the passenger, in government head-on crash testing. 

    We found the interior comfortable and well laid out, with good rugged standard fabric upholstery. The King Cab has auxiliary doors opening to two small folding seats, while the Crew Cab is a four-door with a three-seat bench in the rear offering comfort although limited legroom. The Crew Cab comes with standard or long wheelbase providing a 6-foot-long bed, same size as the King Cab's. 

    The ride is good with all models, and we drove them all, including the PRO-4X Crew Cab with off-road shock absorbers and rugged trail tires. The handling is tight and fairly nimble. On gravel roads, we found the 4WD works well to straighten things out. 

    Lineup

    The 2009 Nissan Frontier comes in a King Cab or Crew Cab, 2WD or 4WD. 

    Frontier XE 2WD ($17,460) comes with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission. The XE is the base model and has steel wheels, wind-up windows, no air conditioning. The Frontier SE ($19,560) upgrades with alloy wheels and other features. An automatic transmission is optional ($1050). 

    Frontier SE King Cab 2WD ($22,210) and 4WD ($24,910) come standard with the V6, mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or five-speed automatic. King Cab seats four. The Crew Cab ($1050) has four doors and seats five, with a shorter bed; a longer wheelbase version ($800) makes the bed the same length as in the King Cab. 

    The Frontier LE 2WD ($26,540) and 4WD ($29,190) come with the five-speed automatic, and add a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights and auto headlights, power sideview mirror, tubular sidestep, moonroof, roofrack with crossbars, eight-way driver's and four-way front passenger's adjustable heated seats, cruise control, first aid kit, and power doors, windows and entry. Long wheelbase versions are about $500 more. 

    The Frontier PRO-4X off-road model comes in crew cab and automatic transmission only, available in 2WD and 4WD. It has Bilstein off-road shocks, skid plates for the oil pan and transfer case, locking rear differential, and its own 16-inch alloy wheels with BFGoodrich P265/75R16 Rugged Trail tires. Also standard is a spray-on bedliner and tough fabric seats with red stitching, as well as cruise control, remote keyless entry, and power windows, door locks and sideview mirrors. 

    Option packages include the XE Preferred Package, SE Power Package, Value Truck Package, Moonroof Package (Crew Cab only), Side & Curtain Air Bag Package, Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS), Technology Package and Traction Package (4WD automatic only). 

    Safety equipment on all Frontiers includes two-stage front airbags, a tire pressure monitor, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution. Crew Cab models have three-point seat belts for all rear-seat occupants, including the center position, plus the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) child seat anchor system. Electronic stability control (VDC, for Vehicle Dynamic Control) is optional only on the LE and PRO-4X models. Front-seat side-impact airbags and airbag curtains are optional. Exterior Features There's a family resemblance between the midsize Nissan Frontier and full-size Titan, but the Frontier is two feet shorter and feels it. After climbing out of a Titan and into a Frontier, it seems right, unless you need an eight-foot bed for work or need to tow a big trailer. 

    The grille, headlights, front fascia and alloy wheels have been retouched for 2009, but not enough for anyone to notice. The fender flares are big and smooth. The front end is a bit cleaner and shinier, and the wheels, two types of 16-inch and one 18-inch alloys, have a bit more style. The Crew Cab looks cool with the optional tubular black aluminum roof rack, taken from the popular Xterra SUV. 

    King Cabs have rear-hinged auxiliary doors behind the front doors, for access to the two small forward-facing seats. Crew Cabs have four full doors and a roomy and comfortable rear passenger compartment that seats three. The King Cab bed is 73.3 inches Crew Cab bed is 59.5 inches, or almost exactly five feet. It takes a Crew Cab long wheelbase, another 14 inches, to get a bed the same length as King Cab. 

    A spray-on bed liner and Utili-track tie-down system are available. Using five rails (two on the floor and one on each side and forward bulkhead) and cleats that slide in the channels, all kinds of cargo can be held down. 

    The new PRO-4X is not totally new; it already existed under another name, the Frontier Nismo (Nissan Motor Sports), technically aftermarket but all Nissan, and available from dealers. It does away with a bunch of chrome, in particular the grille, bumpers, outside mirrors and door handles, making them body-colored. It's got its own 16-inch alloy wheels and big distinctive off-road tires. 

    Walkaround

    For 2009, parts of the instrument panel are new, in particular the HVAC control knobs and white-faced gauges. The standard seat fabric is also new, with perforated leather optional; the leather is excellent but the fabric is rugged and eminently livable, although we dropped a dollop of a Subway foot-long on it and it and the stain wouldn't go away with just a napkin and spit (upholstery cleaner got it later). 

    The PRO-4X, our test model for one week, has cool red stitching on its own black fabric. The bucket seats fit well; hours could be spent in them pleasurably, presuming they're not all off-road hours, but even if they were, the PRO-4X would make the time bearable on the backbone. 

    The front seat layout is excellent, with a console having gauges that are attractive and easy to read, and controls that are easy to operate. The center console is deep, while there are cubbies forward of the shift lever, cupholders galore, good armrests and door handles, and a double glovebox that opens up and down. A nice steering wheel has optional controls and short sturdy stalks. Good grab handles on the A pillars. The vinyl dashboard is ugly in brown, but just fine in black. 

    Options include an eight-way power driver's seat, four-way power passenger's seat, heated front seats, dual heated outside mirrors, and more. 

    We spent some time in a regular Crew Cab as well. Passengers back there will have a good time, especially if they're under an optional moonroof. They'll have cupholders, map pockets, grab handles, and an optional folding center armrest, although not a lot of knee room. 

    Rear seats in both the King Cab and Crew Cab fold up, and the front passenger seat folds flat, to create cargo space. 

    Interior

    For 2009, parts of the instrument panel are new, in particular the HVAC control knobs and white-faced gauges. The standard seat fabric is also new, with perforated leather optional; the leather is excellent but the fabric is rugged and eminently livable, although we dropped a dollop of a Subway foot-long on it and it and the stain wouldn't go away with just a napkin and spit (upholstery cleaner got it later). 

    The PRO-4X, our test model for one week, has cool red stitching on its own black fabric. The bucket seats fit well; hours could be spent in them pleasurably, presuming they're not all off-road hours, but even if they were, the PRO-4X would make the time bearable on the backbone. 

    The front seat layout is excellent, with a console having gauges that are attractive and easy to read, and controls that are easy to operate. The center console is deep, while there are cubbies forward of the shift lever, cupholders galore, good armrests and door handles, and a double glovebox that opens up and down. A nice steering wheel has optional controls and short sturdy stalks. Good grab handles on the A pillars. The vinyl dashboard is ugly in brown, but just fine in black. 

    Options include an eight-way power driver's seat, four-way power passenger's seat, heated front seats, dual heated outside mirrors, and more. 

    We spent some time in a regular Crew Cab as well. Passengers back there will have a good time, especially if they're under an optional moonroof. They'll have cupholders, map pockets, grab handles, and an optional folding center armrest, although not a lot of knee room. 

    Rear seats in both the King Cab and Crew Cab fold up, and the front passenger seat folds flat, to create cargo space. 

    Driving Impression

    We got into the Nissan Frontier after stepping out of a full-size Titan, and we must say that the Frontier made the Titan feel huge. And for the week we were in the Frontier, it never felt too small. So we might suggest that the first things you should consider in choosing a Frontier (or any truck) are the size of the bed you need, and the seating capacity. (That's assuming you don't need the full-size Titan for towing.) Remember that tailgate extenders are available, if you occasionally need a longer bed to haul things. 

    On the road, the award-winning, all-aluminum DOHC V6 engine has very strong acceleration when you put your foot down. As it should, given 261 horsepower. At 4.0 liters, it's a stroked version of the award-winning 3.5-liter that's used in the 350Z sports car and other Nissans. It has all the right stuff: aluminum block and heads, Teflon-coated pistons, Continuous Valve Timing Control (CVTCS), Nissan variable Induction Control System (NICS), silent timing chain and micro finished camshaft and crankshaft surfaces, digital knock control system, and 105,000-mile spark plugs. 

    There's 281 pound-feet of torque, but it is isn't fully there at lower rpm, so you do have to put your foot down to find all the power, and that doesn't come without a price in fuel efficiency. The PRO-4X gets 15 City and 19 Highway miles per gallon, which is no more than the full-size Dodge Ram pickup with a 390-horsepower Hemi V8 engine. 

    The four-cylinder engine with manual transmission gets an EPA-rated 19/23 mpg. It's available in a nicely equipped SE King Cab, so this might be an option. 

    The five-speed automatic transmission shifts in and out of fifth gear frequently, even at fairly low speeds during casual driving, but always smoothly and often invisibly. A manual mode would be useful, but isn't available. 

    On the highway, we drove Frontiers with both the short and long wheelbase, as well as our week in the PRO-4X with the off-road Bilstein gas-charged shock absorbers and big BFG trail tires, and we didn't encounter any bumps or situations that made us say: This thing rides like a truck. 

    The handling is also good, tight, never flabby or wallowy. In fact, it feels better than the Nissan Xterra SUV, which uses the Frontier chassis but has a higher center of gravity. The turning circle isn't nearly as tight as that of the Xterra, however. The chassis is a boxed-in steel ladder frame, with double wishbone front suspension and solid rear axle with leaf springs. 

    The part-time four-wheel-drive system, which can be easily shifted on the fly, is there to be used. Don't even think of driving off the pavement without engaging it, because it makes a world of difference. Even when you don't need it to keep from getting stuck, it transforms the Frontier; on gravel roads the Frontier is totally squirrelly in 2WD, but in 4WD it's stable. Even the ride is improved using 4WD, because the tires remain more in contact with the ground. 

    On those gravel roads, riding as a passenger in a 4WD King Cab, we found things a bit rough. Later, driving the PRO-4X for a couple hours on fire trails in the Pacific Northwest, no problem. Lots of fun. The good seats were a relief. But that's when we most would have liked a manual mode in the five-speed automatic transmission. 

    We also got on a closed off-road course, with specific steep challenges. We used 4WD in its low range to get over some ridges and ruts, and found that it allowed higher speeds than some other systems; but also found that it wasn't really needed except in the most extreme situations, because 4WD in high range is good. 

    You have to get the optional Traction Package to make the PRO-4X capable off-road; it includes Vehicle Dynamic Control, Hill Descent Control, and Hill Start Assist. We tested the HDC that allows you to travel down a steep hill and rely on electronics to slow and keep the truck safe and steady at about 5 mph, with throttle control and ABS automatically applied, meaning all the driver has to do is steer. If you live in a place that has snowy and icy hills in winter, HDC could save your life or the life of another, for example a passenger on the sidewalk because it allows you to maintain steering control. 

    Hill Start Assist allows you to start moving forward on a steep uphill, without drifting back. It applies the brakes for two seconds after you lift your foot off the brake pedal. However with an automatic transmission, that's not really a problem, because you can use two feet on the two pedals. 

    Summary

    Nissan Frontier offers a lot for a midsize truck, namely best-in-class power, payload and towing capacity, though with a price in fuel mileage. And some safety features, such as stability control, side-impact airbags and airbag curtains, are either optional or unavailable on some models. The Frontier interior is comfortable and laid out well, and the back seat of the Crew Cab offers good room for three passengers. Off-road, the Frontier is very capable, with its two-speed transfer case using part-time 4WD that can be shifted on the fly, plus Hill Descent Control on some models. It rides and steers well on gravel roads in 4WD, and on pavement, its ride is nice and handling tight. 

    Sam Moses filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com. 

    Model Lineup

    Nissan Frontier XE ($17,460), SE I4 ($19,560), SE King Cab 2WD ($22,210), SE Crew Cab 2WD ($23,260), LE Crew Cab 2WD ($26,540), PRO-4X 2WD ($26,280), SE King Cab 4WD ($24,910), SE Crew Cab 4WD ($25,960), LE Crew Cab 4WD ($29,190), Pro-4X 4WD ($28,980), SE King Cab 2WD lwb ($23,010), SE Crew Cab 2WD lob ($24,060), LE Crew Cab 2WD lwb ($27,040), SE King Cab 4WD lwb ($25,710), SE Crew Cab 4WD lwb ($26,760), LE Crew Cab 4WD lwb ($29,740). 

    Assembled In

    Tennessee. 

    Options As Tested

    Technology Package ($950) including premium sound system with 6CD and MP3, Bluetooth and satellite radio capability, steering wheel controls; floor mats ($105); Side & Curtain Airbags ($550); Traction Package ($500) with including HDC, HAS and VDC. 

    Model Tested

    Nissan Frontier Pro-4X 4x4 ($27,630). 

    *The data and content on this web site is subject to change without notice. Neither AOL nor any of its data or content providers shall be liable for errors in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

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    Read 2009 Nissan Frontier SE 4x4 King Cab 125.9 in. WB reviews from auto industry experts to gain insight on the Nissan Frontier's drivability, comfort, power and performance.
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