Our last few weeks in the Nissan Frontier were just as busy as ever while we took care of some last-minute maintenance, repairs, and testing a new set of tires before having to say good-bye to Elvis. Yes, we named the Nissan Elvis, since it was built in Tennessee. That’s where we began our long-term test by breaking it in on a cross-country drive home.

Right after our last update, we decided we couldn’t go another month with our worn-down BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A tires. After researching compatible tires on www.tirerack.com, we decided to test out a set of Continental CrossContact Eco-plus LX 265/75R16 Touring All-Season tires. These tires promise to improve fuel efficiency, lower CO2 emissions, extend tread life, and reduce road noise. We hit the order button, waited for delivery, and had the tires mounted and balanced for a grand total of $800.

Shortly after having our new tires installed, we took the Frontier in for its 30,000-mile service. This included an oil and filter change, replacement of brake fluid and new engine and cabin air filters. The total for the service was $334 including tax. Previous services included 7500-mile service, tire rotation, oil and filter: $69 plus replacement of the clutch pedal switch under warranty; 15,000-mile service, oil change, tire rotation, replacement cabin filter and vehicle inspection: $228 plus transmission replacement under warranty after discovering a bad bearing; 22,500-mile service, an oil change and tire rotation: $69 -- all for a year-to-date total cost of $700. For comparison, an oil change and tire rotation on our long-term 2009 Suzuki Equator was only $29. On our 2005 Toyota Tacoma, we paid $45 every 5000 miles for oil changes.

In our September/October issue we talked about spending a hefty $550 to replace our rear-sliding window. Two weeks after that repair, the windshield became victim to a rock launched from a work truck four lanes away. The rock hit with enough force to cause a dime-size webbed crack. Luckily, the crack was low on the glass and not a big deal until we started hitting 100-degree weather in Southern California. We called the guys at www.safelite.com, and they were out the next day to replace the front glass. That cost $235, including a $9.95 disposal fee and $24.99 mobile fee.

We tracked more than 2500 miles on the Continental CrossContact Eco-plus tires. Though we were not able to test how long these tires would last, they did prove much quieter on the road. But according to our fuel log, we saw no improvements in fuel economy. When all was said and done, we achieved a combined average 17.3 mpg -- the same as the month before on our old tires.

Though the aging interior and trusty V-6 engine seemed to be a common complaint when the Motor Trend staff borrowed the truck, the Frontier is enduring and fun to drive with carlike steering, an easy-to-shift six-speed gearbox, the PRO-4X suspension package that rides well on- and off-road, and the “just-my-size” feel for the weekend projecteer or the on-the-fly adventure seeker. The Truck Trend editors still love the 4.0-liter V-6, however. It provides more than enough power for the compact/midsize.

Nissan graciously let us keep our Frontier a couple extra months. Within the last 14 months of ownership, we’ve put just a hair over 31,000 miles on the odometer. We worked our tester to its capacities on a regular basis, and the truck shined through it all. Though it doesn’t have the power or luxury of a full-size truck, the Frontier can haul, tow, and play just as hard.


2012 NISSAN FRONTIER 4x4 PRO-4X
Months/miles in service 14 mo/31,017 mi
EPA city/hwy/comb fuel econ 15/21/17 mpg
tt obs fuel econ 17.3 mpg
Unresolved problems none
Maintenance cost $700 (4-oil change, 3-rotate tires, inspection; 2-cabin air filter; brake fluid; engine air filter)
Normal-wear cost $800 (4 Continental CrossContact LX20 tires, mounting, balancing)