When it comes to pick-up trucks, the Nissan Frontier is the Jesse Ventura of the bunch: unapologetic about what it is.It proclaims its truck nature with a tough styling that's all-new this year. This tough one (the Frontier, not Ventura) gets an all-new front end, with a large plastic fascia accented by a chrome bar on the grille. Black plastic accents are tacked on the rest of the truck, but look a bit tackier then the front end, especially on the rear tailgate where a large dollop of pointless plastic detracts from the ease of using the handle. But, it isn't just styling that's new this year. In addition to the regular and Crew Cabs, Nissan has added a King Cab. They've also added a supercharged V-6 to help answer those who cried for more power. Okay, so I was one of them, but in driving a Crew Cab with the base V-6 it's easy to see why more power is needed. The 170-horsepower single-overhead-cam 3.3-liter V-6 feels winded. Its loud gruff note may not be out of character for the truck (after all, does Jesse spout Shakespeare?) But load it up with stuff, and this truck feels more like a wimp than its looks suggest. Certainly 210 horsepower and 240 foot-pounds of torque will help alleviate this problem. A five-speed manual or four-speed automatic round out the transmission choices. Frontiers are available in 4x2 or 4x4 configurations in XE, SE, and SC trim levels. A four-cylinder 4x2 model is available, but it's a real stripper and won't please most pickup buyers because of its anemic power and lack of equipment. The Crew Cab is a cool size, with enough room up front for most, although long-legged drivers will feel cramped. If you need to haul more than two people, skip the Crew Cab and go to the King Cab. The Frontier Crew Cab differs from American pickups in that the Frontier lacks the small, suicide-style doors common to this class. Instead, two small jump seats, are mounted to the sides of the cabin, but are too small to be of much good. Since they're side-mounted, it wouldn't be an ideal place to allow a child to sit in the event of a side impact crash. No sane adult will want to use them. It's better to use the space behind the front seats for cargo of the inanimate kind. Handling hasn't changed, so if you're a Frontier sort, you'll endure a bumpy, bouncy ride. Big bumps bring out harshness, but this is a truck. The suspension is double wishbone up front, leaf springs in the rear. Anti-lock front disc/rear drum brakes are standard on V-6 models as are automatic locking hubs. Braking was good, with the tail staying planted in panic stops. A limited slip differential is available. The four-wheel-drive system is manually engaged via a center-console-mounted lever. It's only suited for low-traction situations. It also lends a high step-in height, so make sure you have a running board added. Inside, Nissan has revised the seat fabrics and gauges. Nothing radical here, since the basic look of the interior remains the same. That means a dark, rugged look, with all the cheeriness of a coal mine (although some might call it cheap.) There is a fair bit of hard plastic, but you don't look for plush furnishings in this league. The seats are still mounted too low, meaning long-legged drivers will feel cramped, especially since the four-wheel-drive lever stuck into my knee. The umbrella-handle parking brake is also a fiendish obstacle. It pulls out to the right of the steering wheel, ensuring my knee would be bashed (and it was.) The audio system has also been revised with smaller buttons. While it frees up dash space, it also is harder to operate given the truck's bouncy nature. The truck is also noisy, but so is Jesse Ventura. You want quiet? Buy a Maxima. Fuel economy was right on the EPA estimates, returning 16 mpg in mixed driving on regular fuel. The Frontier comes with dual airbags, child seat anchors and a switch to shut off the passen -side airbag. But who cares about safety or fuel economy when you're trying to look tough? If you like a truck that hasn't been tamed by marketing types, the Frontier is as rugged as its name. Nissan's updated styling helps, and the new engine will finally add some needed muscle to this Tennessee-built brute.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Rick Popely||Cars.com National||May 29, 2001|
|Alan Vonderhaar||Cincinnati.com||June 2, 2001|
|Bill Griffith||Boston.com||April 22, 2001|
|Bob Golfen||AZCentral.com||January 27, 2001|
|Larry Printz||The Morning Call and Mcall.com||December 24, 2000|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit News||November 8, 2000|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||August 20, 2000|
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