Online editor Melissa Spiering and I set out to pick up Truck Trend's newest long-termer, a 2012 Nissan Frontier King Cab PRO-4X, powered by a 261-hp, 4.0-liter V-6. We flew into Tennessee, and, after visiting Nissan's corporate headquarters in Nashville and touring the plant where the Frontier was built in Smyrna, we headed out at about 2:30 p.m. to start driving back to Los Angeles.
Our goal for the first day was to reach Memphis. Usually, this would take only about four hours, but we intentionally avoided the most direct route. Sure, if we had taken I-40, we would've gotten to Memphis by 6:30 at the latest, but what fun is that? We took roads like TN-99, US-412, and TN-152.
These routes often had two lanes in either direction, and become narrower through small towns. The secondary highways were flanked by lush, tall trees. The upside to the area's high humidity is that everything was green. In some cases, the trees covered hills that seemed to go on forever. In other cases, the spaces among the trees revealed idyllic meadows. The Frontier's V-6 has plenty of power, and thanks to the six-speed manual, it's easy to downshift and pass big-rigs and slow cars, and power up hills. While the Crew Cab may be more popular, this King Cab layout offers plenty of room for luggage and two people.
Several hours of enjoying these smaller roads meant that we didn't arrive in Memphis until after dark. We checked into the Heartbreak Hotel near Graceland, where every room has photos of Elvis on the walls; there's a heart-shaped pool; and pink Cadillacs serve as hotel shuttles.
The next day, we were on the road before 6 a.m., as we had to cover as much ground as possible. We soon crossed the Tennessee River and entered Arkansas, taking route 64 to the 167 to Eureka Springs. There was a lot more farmland, farm equipment, and feed stores than we saw in Tennessee. However, the trend of acres of vehicles sitting at small lots along the way, ranging from rust-buckets to amazing classics, continued. We also saw an unusually high number of old school buses that looked like they hadn't been driven in a long time.
The Frontier was fun on the gentle, winding curves as we wound through and over the hills into the Ozarks. While the sky was hazy with humidity in Tennessee, here, it was bright blue, and the temperature was a perfect 72 degrees and it wasn't humid. Downshifting into fifth gear helped on hills and while passing, but the Frontier's response was much quicker in fourth.
We arrived in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a small town brimming with character. Its entire central area is on the National Register of Historic Places. Downtown is filled with cool old buildings, and a charming bridge runs across the main street. Then we were off to Oklahoma, where we reconnected with I-40.
We drove into and out of several American Indian reservations. We finally reached a spot called Pops, a soda shop in Arcadia, Oklahoma, on Route 66. Just calling it a soda shop doesn't do it justice, as this place carries hundreds of different kinds and flavors of soda, from the familiar to imported sodas and oddball flavors like buffalo wing, bacon, and peanut butter. Out front, there's a giant sculpture of a soda bottle with a straw.
After dinner, we had to drive from Oklahoma to Amarillo, Texas, and the sun was starting to go down. What little traffic was on I-40 thinned as we continued west. We got to the Big Texan hotel after midnight. Four states, almost 800 miles, and 18 hours later, our day was finally done. The Big Texan is decorated with items like a giant bull on a trailer, a giant cowboy boot, a Texas-shaped pool, and multiple cars with bull horns on their hoods.
In the morning, our first stop on I-40 West was Old Town in Albuquerque, N.M., which has been in existence since the early 1700s. We had lunch at Casa de Ruiz (Church Street Cafe), a short walk away from San Felipe de Neri Church, the oldest church in Albuquerque, where services have been held without interruption since 1706.
We continued on I-40, and stopped at the Wigwam Motel #6, in Holbrook, Arizona. This spot is a great example of Americana, right down to the classic cars in varying stages of restoration parked outside each wigwam. There were also some cool trucks there, including a Chevy tow truck and an older Chevy half-ton, sharing space with a dune buggy.
At Williams, a historic town near Flagstaff, we called it a day. Williams was founded in 1881. A wrought-iron sign above the street leading to the historic downtown calls it the Gateway to the Grand Canyon. Visitors can take trains to the Grand Canyon, and the town is filled with restored buildings, one with a mannequin dressed up like an 1800's "painted lady" leaning out of a window. Williams was the last town to be bypassed by I-40, yet it wasn't all that far from the interstate, so it found a way to prosper. After a fantastic dinner at the Red Raven, we were ready for our last day on the road. That night, the Frontier's odometer hit 2000 miles -- it was at 280 when we picked it up.
Our next stop was on Route 66, so we exited I-40 and headed toward Peach Springs, where we ended up at the Frontier Motel. Along the way, we saw Burma-Shave ads like the ones from the early mid-20th century.
Lunch was in Kingman, and we then headed to Oatman, a former mining town that now attracts tourists because of its history -- and its donkeys. The Frontier eased through twists and turns outside of town, and the Colorado River (which serves as the Arizona/California border) was in sight!
After a few more hours and typical SoCal traffic, we arrived in L.A. The front end of the Frontier was covered in dead bugs and its King Cab crammed with luggage. The pickup had gotten us through seven states in four days. We covered nearly 2300 miles, and the truck got 17-18 mpg in a combination of city driving and wide-open highway.
If this trip is any indicator, the long-term Frontier is going to serve us well over the next year.
|2012 Nissan Frontier 4x4 PRO-4X King Cab |
|BASE PRICE ||$29,335 |
|PRICE AS TESTED ||$30,260 |
|VEHICLE LAYOUT ||Front engine, 4WD, 4-pass, 2+2-door truck |
|ENGINE ||4.0L/261-hp/281-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6 |
|TRANSMISSION ||6-speed manual |
|CURB WEIGHT ||4502 lb (mfr est) |
|WHEELBASE ||125.9 in |
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT ||205.5 x 72.8 x 70.1 in |
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON ||15/20 mpg |
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY || 225/169 kW-hrs/100 miles |
|CO2 EMISSIONS ||1.15 lb/mile |