1988 Nissan Pickup

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The Morning Call and Mcall.com

The compact truck market has something for everybody.

For the economy minded, it can offer a low buck (if there is any such thingthese days), bare-to-the-bones, plain-as-rain truck that is perfectly suitablefor hauling everything from appliances to manure. These work vehicles may not be exciting looking but no one is claiming they are.

For the big spender, truck manufacturers will go out of their ways to load-up, dress-up and price-up a truck that will look more at home at a yuppietailgating party then down on the farm. These trucks are as tough as boiled owl but are very infrequently asked to prove it.

Fortunately, price is not a deterrent in buying an upscale truck, especially a four wheeler. These buyers like what they see and are willing to toss out big bucks to own one. But, then, all toys are expensive.

Today's test vehicle, the Nissan King Cab SE 4X4 with Sport and Power packages, may not be the ultimate toy but it is not for lack of trying. Here is an attractively styled vehicle with all the things dear to the heart of a four-wheeling enthusiast - high stance, light bar, brush guard, ground effects, big tires and the ability to turn the heads of other four-wheeling enthusiasts.

Besides being one of the pioneers in the compact truck field - back in 1958when it was Datsun it introduced its first small truck in the U.S. market - Nissan knows something about its market and how to extract money from it. Obviously design is high on the priority list since the Nissan truck is an attractively styled vehicle. Credit for this can go to Nissan Design International of San Diego, which designs vehicles for the American market. Infact, last year when the Nissan truck (King Cab, Pathfinder, et al) was introduced it won an award from the Industrial Designers Society of America.

The overall appearance of the King Cab is aerodynamic and very smooth and slick. The body and pickup bed appear to be integrated into a single form. To give an extra touch of dash, the front and rear fenders are flared. Although the design is only a year old, there are new aero headlamps and a trimmer wire-mesh grille accent. The only distracting feature of the front end are three hood slots that look a bit hokey. But what are you going to do?

The King Cab or extended cab pickup is the most practical of all small pickups for recreational and personal use. Nissan was the first to bring out an extended cab on a compact pickup and, somewhat surprisingly, it wasn't picked up by other compact truck manufacturers until just a few years ago. (Full-size pickups had extended cabs long before.) The advantages of an extended cab should be obvious - behind-the-seat storage, extra passenger capacity and greater driver and passenger seat movement.

Basic dimensions for the King Cab 4X4 include a wheelbase of 116 inches, length of 190 inches, width of 65 inches and height of 56.9 inches. Curb weight is a husky 3,750 pounds w hich makes it a little more than a 1,000 pounds more than the regular cab, short wheel base, 4X2 Nissan pickup. Towing capacity is 3,500 pounds.

Driver and passenger seats are generous and will accommodate a variety of sizes and shapes. The two fold-down and facing center jump seats are great forkids and will even carry adults - if given the choice of walking or riding. Ifthis area isn't used for passengers, it can carry a good deal of luggage or what have you.

The SE model is powered by a 3-liter/180-cubic-inch V-6 engine featuring fuel injection and an overhead cam. It is a detuned version of the V-6 in the 300ZX and Maxima and is rated at 145 horsepower at 4,800 rpm (five more than last year) and 166 foot pounds torque at 2,400 rpm. Combined with the five- speed manual transmission, performance is good, though it could be a little better.

Cutting into performance are the very large tires that come with the Sport Package. They are truck 31X10.5R15s mounted on JJX15 alloy wheels, making them the largest factory available tires on a compact pickup. The tires give the truck sort of a mini-monster truck look, something dear to the hearts of certain four-wheeling enthusiasts. But they are a lot more show than go.

The tires jack up the already high gear ratio of the transmission another notch and require a lot more shifting to keep up rpm. In other words, picking up from a slowdown or climbing mountains, the test vehicle had to be downshifting one, and many times, two gears. There's no fifth gear and forget it driving on this model. Just let up on the accelerator pedal and the big tires quickly slow things down.

Another trade-off for the big tire look is an increase in turning radius. It takes a lot of wheeling and a different perspective of judgment to put thisbaby through the barn door. In fact, according to Nissan specs, the turning circle of the King Cab SE with its standard P235/75R15s (a big tire in its ownright) is 38.7 feet while the 10Rs increase the circle to 46 feet.

Despite the obvious disadvantages of the monster tires, 4X4 enthusiasts I talked to thought they were great and wouldn't have it any other way if given the choice. There are probably some advantages - other than cosmetic - of these tires over certain terrain and on heavy load applications but somehow I doubt it.

Fuel mileage for the test vehicle averaged 12 miles per gallon for city driving and 16 mpg over the highway. Again, I'm sure the figures would be better with somewhat smaller tires.

Aside from the increased turning radius, driving the test vehicle was really no problem. In fact, it was a lot of fun. The high seating and open glass area in the cab provided good all-around visibility. The four-wheel drive system had automatic hubs and shift-on-the-fly from two-wheel high to four-wheel high. Four-wheel low required a stop, but then this will probably only be needed for driving through deep mud or plowing. And surprisingly, evenwith the big tires and four-wheel drive system, the ride wasn't that bad.

The bottom line on the test vehicle was $17,074, which is certainly gettingup there for a compact pickup. But then four wheelers were never cheap. Base price for this model is $13,824 and includes a nice amount of equipment and trim. In addition to a destination charge of $250, other expenses included airconditioning, $735; Sport Package (truck tires, sunroof, alloy wheels, fender flares, limited slip differential), $1,300 and Power Package (cruise control, power windows and door locks, dual power mirrors, intermittent wipers), $965.

The test vehicle, along with other Nissans, is covered by a 12-month/ 12,500- mile basic warranty on the entire car, a 36-month/36,000-mile warrantyon the powertrain and electronics, and a 60-month/unlimited mileage warranty on corrosion perforation.


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