For many truck buyers, the Nissan Frontier is the ideal size pickup. This long-lived second generation, codenamed D40, went up a notch from the compact first generation to midsize, along with most of its competition. The Frontier is well liked for its everyday usability, as well as how easy it is to drive and maneuver. A double-wishbone front suspension, with a solid axle and overslung leaf springs at the rear, results in a comfortable ride on most road surfaces.
There are no surprises in its construction. The body sits on a fully boxed all-steel frame, with the hardware tucked in and up to bring ground clearance of 8.9 inches for four-wheel-drive versions, while rear-drive models have 8.6 inches. Nissan has kept things simple with just King Cab and crew cab configurations. The King has a 73.3-inch bed whose cargo volume is 33.5 cubic feet. The Crew, with four conventional doors, usually has a 59.5-inch bed, with a cargo volume of 27.1 cubic feet. From 2007, though, the crew cab could come with the longer bed. In either cargo area, there’s a factory applied spray-in bedliner complemented by the company’s Utili-track tie-down system.
The smallest of the two engine choices is a 2.5L four, initially making 154 hp at 5,200 rpm and 173 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. This engine is available only in rear-drive King versions and is capable of returning 19 mpg city, 23 mpg highway using the stock five-speed manual. Subtract a single mpg from both figures for the five-speed automatic transmission.
Most buyers will probably prefer the 4.0L V-6, good for 265 hp at 5,600 rpm and 284 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The difference in performance is noticeable, while the difference in consumption is negligible: 16 mpg city, 20 mpg highway with the six-speed manual transmission, with one less mpg per category for the five-speed auto. This version also has a maximum towing capacity of 6,300 pounds (rear-wheel drive).
In 2006, a Power package became optional for the King XE, including keyless entry, cruise, and power accessories. As mentioned above, the long bed was now an option for ’07 crew cab models. At the same time, engine outputs were reduced to 152 hp and 171 lb-ft for the four-cylinder, while the V-6 dropped slightly to 261 hp and 281 lb-ft.
A Technology Package option came on stream in ’08, featuring an upgraded audio system with an auxiliary audio input, satellite radio, Bluetooth, steering wheel-mounted controls and a six-disc CD player. The Crew Cab’s tech pack included a 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system with a subwoofer.
The ’09 model year brought a light facelift and the Nismo trim was renamed Pro-4X. Only available with the V-6, it now included a Dana 44 rear axle, locking rear differential, Bilstein off-road shocks, skid plates, splashguards and white-faced dials.
Extra safety equipment differentiates the ’10 model year, with front side airbags, side curtain airbags, and stability control all standard (they were optional before ’10). Side-step rails were now an option for the LE trim.
Trim level names for the crew cab were changed in ’12 to S, SV, SL (the longer bed was optional on both the SV and SL), although the Pro-4X stayed the same. Fuel economy for the V-6 improved in ’13 by two miles per gallon on the highway, thanks to reduced engine friction and better aerodynamics. That year also saw the introduction of the DesertRunner trim with rear-wheel drive, a five-speed automatic transmission, Bilstein shocks (like the Pro-4X), and BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires.
An ’09 crew cab V-6 LE with four-wheel drive, the short bed, and the Technology package is valued in good condition at $16,371. A comparable Tacoma goes for $20,613, while a GMC Canyon is $15,028. And don’t forget the Suzuki Equator, the Frontier twin that was made in the same Tennessee facility as the Nissan. An ’09 RMZ-4 model with a crew cab books at $13,804.
|2005-2014 Nissan Frontier|
|Body type||2-door/4-door pickup|
|Drivetrain||Front engine, RWD/4WD|
|Airbags||Driver, front passenger, side curtain (optional, standard from ’10)|
|Engines||2.5L/154 hp (152 hp ’06-on) DOHC I-4; 4.0L/265 hp (261 hp ’06-on) DOHC V-6|
|Brakes, f/r||Disc, disc, ABS|
|Price range, whlsl/retail (KBB)||$5.042/$7,292 (2005, RWD King XE 2.5L I-4), $25,250/$28,406 (2014, 4WD Crew SL 4.0L V-6)|
|NHTSA frontal impact rating, driver/fr pass:||Four stars/four stars|
|Recalls||Too many to list; see motortrend.com|