By Cars.com EditorsAugust 10, 2021
About the video
We drove the 2022 Nissan Frontier in the hill country of Utah to put it through it's paces. How did it do? Watch the video to learn more
(cool country intro) If you're under 30 years old, chances are you've really only ever known one Nissan Frontier. And that's because Nissan last redesigned the thing in 2004 for the 2005 model year. That's right, 17 years ago.
But now there's a new frontier. The 2022 Nissan Frontier and Nissan has brought us here to the high canyons of Utah to drive the thing. Now they put the new powertrain from the '22 truck into the 2020 model. So we've had a little bit of experience with a piece of the new Frontier, but this is our first experience driving the complete package. Now it's not a completely new truck. It does use a lot of components and platform stuff from the old frontier as well. So we've come here to drive the thing and see has Nissan gone far enough and redesigning this new Frontier they've had 17 years to get it right, how exactly did they do? Let's find out. looking at the '22 frontier, you would think that this is a completely new truck but it's really not. It actually has been just very heavily redesigned from the current version. Now the styling however, is completely new and it looks like a bigger truck, but again it isn't. It's only about four inches longer than the old one and all of that length pretty much comes up here in the schnoz. From a styling standpoint, they've taken a lot of inspiration from the 1986 Nissan Hardbody pickup. Now you're going to have to squint a little bit to see it, but it really comes in just the blockiness of the entire design. Of the squareness of the grill, how everything is kind of interlocked with each other. Now, I don't know that it looks a whole lot like the '86 Hardbody which is kind of a classic design, but what it does look like is the current Nissan showroom. This has a lot more family resemblance to the Pathfinder, to the new Rogue, and I think that it really does fit in well with a lot of the other vehicles in the Nissan showroom. There are four trim levels for the '22 Frontier, and this one is the top trim level. This is the Pro-4x model. It's the ultimate off-road version of the '22 Frontier. And there are a couple of distinctive visual cues that help you determine what you're looking at and they'll help you identify the Pro-4x. First starts with the aluminum skid plate up front. All four by four Frontiers get three steel skid plates, but the Pro-4x adds the aluminum one upfront in addition to that. You come down the side and you have 17 inch Beadlock capable, black painted wheels. The fender flares on the side are not painted, they are just plastic. That's better for going off road so you don't scratch things up. And of course you have the Pro-4x sticker in the back on the new bed. And the bed itself is actually something that we should look at a little bit more closely. See the bed has more volume than it did before, but not necessarily because it's longer or wider, it's taller than it was. And in addition to being taller and having more volume, you also have a damped tailgate both in opening and in closing. There's an optional spray in bed liner. And you can see that this model has the also optional Utili-Track tie-down System that has four cleats along the edges to help tie things down to keep them secure when you're banging around off-road. Perhaps the biggest change for the '22 Frontier is in here. It features an almost entirely new interior. This instrument panel is all new. The gauges, a lot of the switches, the technology, and the multimedia, you can get a nine inch touch screen in here with the latest Nissan multi-media system. Now the interior is not an entirely home run effort. There are a couple of issues that I have with it. First of all, it's really not any bigger than the last one and that really shows up in the backseat. It's still small, but this is what Nissan is saying their customers want. They want those compact dimensions, that's what the frontier still delivers. The other thing is you can still see some of the old Frontier poking through in a couple of areas. The steering wheel tilts, but it doesn't telescope. Which is really unusual for 2022. And some of the switches are placed in areas that are really kind of hard to get to. This is the Pro-4x model so it has an electronic locking and rear differential, and it has electronic hill descend control but those switches are by your left knee. And if you're in a situation where you might suddenly need them, going to hunt for them is not really the ideal situation. But honestly that is the only foible I have with this interior. The rest of it is a top-notch effort and it feels easily as good as anything from Jeep, and it feels a heck of a lot better than anything from Toyota. So the new Frontier might not be all new. I mean, they did base it off of the last model, but frankly, when you're driving it you really wouldn't notice that. They have made changes to this thing that make it feel like a completely different vehicle than the old Frontier. It is far more refined, it's far better to drive. The powertrain is really quite good. You've got a 3.8 liter V6 made it to a nine speed automatic transmission. There is no more four cylinder option. They're thinking that basically one engine is going to get the job done for the vast majority of their customers. And frankly if it's going to be this one, it's not a bad engine to have. It has more standard horsepower than anything else in the class, but the torque doesn't quite match up to what the Ford Ranger can deliver from it's turbocharged four cylinder and you do kind of feel that sometimes when you're really giving it the gas and trying to get some serious acceleration, it doesn't have that punchy immediacy that the Ford Ranger in particular does with its turbo charged engine. Now the nine speed transmission is a lot of gears, yes. And you do feel it shifting fairly often in order to get it to do what you want it to do. But frankly, it has a lot of gears to work with and it's going to use all of those gears as it needs to. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about driving the new Frontier is how absolutely quiet it is in here. You have almost no wind noise, almost no road noise, almost no tire noise, almost no engine noise. It is a level of quietness in here that really almost feels luxury car like. Very different than just about any other mid-sized pickup I've ever driven. And frankly, given the fact that this is the Pro-4x off-road version with more off-road ready altering tires, and it's still as quiet as it is, that's really extraordinary. It is not quite bank vault silent in here, but it is very relaxing. It is very comfortable and it is kind of astonishing. When you're driving off road, that's really when Nissan shows you that it is still something of an old school off-road machine. You have part-time four wheel drive only there's no all wheel drive here. So you have to select it via a little twist thing on the dash here. Now, competitor vehicles you'll have some new technology like Ford Ranger has that terrain select feature where you just pull up to wherever you are off road, spin the knob and determine exactly what it is you're going to be driving over and it makes all the various changes for you. There is nothing like that here. You have to know what you're doing in order to go off road in this Pro-4x. But once you actually figure out how you have to set things. Whether or not you need for high or for low, whether or not you want to engage the locking differential, it really travels over everything without a problem. It is really an mountain goat style off-road vehicle. And it does it very well, too. It's still very comfortable when it's off road. The Pro-4x Bilstein shocks work exceptionally well in keeping you pretty comfortable. You're gonna get beat up and you're gonna get pushed around depending on what kind of terrain you're going over like we most certainly did, but quite honestly it really didn't struggle very much at all despite all of the very terrain that we threw it at. We also got to sample how well the new Frontier tows by dragging a 5,600 pound boat and trailer behind it. And it actually equates itself pretty well. Now that is a very heavy trailer for a mid-sized truck. That's kind of pushing the limits of what I'm really comfortable towing especially since the Frontier doesn't have a built-in trailer brake controller. There is a wireless one that is available as an optional accessory according to Nissan. But frankly, I really like to have something in the cabin built in that controls the trailer brakes when I'm towing. Now that said, it does tow this 5,600 pound boat really without a problem. That kind of weight doesn't push the Frontier around at all. It feels very comfortable and really more at home doing it than say a Tacoma or a Jeep Gladiator, despite the Gladiator's height, tow rating, the Gladiator squats quite a lot. We didn't have that experience in the Frontier. It really didn't have a problem towing this enormous boat up grades, up hills. Now if you really want to get into it, accelerating with that kind of weight on the back, you know, that could be a little bit tricky because it really is only a 3.8 liter V6. You don't have the turbocharged engine that you get in the Ranger, but you know, for most duty, most light towing duty, I don't think it would have a problem at all. And I'd be more than comfortable towing with it. There are some pretty big differences between this thing and the truck that it's been aimed at which is the Toyota Tacoma. It is much more pleasant to drive. It's much more comfortable. There's a lot more room in here. Even with the sunroof in here, I still have of headroom which is not the case in a Toyota Tacoma. The biggest difference might be in just the steering and braking. The brakes in this thing are progressive, they're firm, they're not super crazy grabby like they are in the Tacoma, and the steering in here is a little bit different. It's not super light like you find in a number of competitor vehicles because it's not electronic power steering. It's still hydraulic belt-driven power steering. And so it's a little bit heavier than you'd feel in other trucks, but now that's okay. It does require a little bit more effort to turn, but it doesn't feel like you're piloting a video game and actually it feels like you're driving a truck. Feel and feedback is acceptable given the fact that this is an off-road truck with off-road tires. You're not gonna be doing much canyon carving in it unless of course, those canyons are off-road. All in all Nissan's update to the Frontier really is quite impressive. Now it doesn't have all the fanciest bells and whistles like you'd see in some of the other competitor vehicles, it doesn't have like the electronic terrain select stuff that you see in the latest Ford Ranger. But Nissan has also said that their buyers are really not interested in a lot of that kind of stuff. They've really instead focused on just competency. Making the thing better in the areas where it needed to be better. The interior, the powertrain, noise vibration, handling, that kind of stuff. It doesn't have all the extra bells and whistles but then again, you're also not paying for a lot of extra bells and whistles either. It actually comes in anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars less expensive than a comparable Toyota Tacoma and that really is what they were aiming for. The '22 Frontier will be available in very early September. The factories already cranking them out they just need to ship them to the dealers. Now it's going to start at just over $29,000 including destination fee for a base model S version all the way up to just about 40 to $43,000 for a loaded Pro-4x crew cab like this one. If you'd like to learn more about the new '22 Nissan Frontier, you can look everything up at cars.com. (funky country outro)
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