This thing looks hot! As we drove across Michigan on I-94, Chevy, Ford, and Toyota pickup drivers obviously sped up or slowed down to cruise in the near lane, and check out our yellow SC. Thumbs were raised, heads nodded.

The 2001 Nissan Frontier gets a significant front-end redo and interior upgrade. But the big news is the factory-supercharged 210-hp V-6 now offered on the Desert Runner SC 4x2, the King Cab 4x4, and Crew Cab 4x2 and 4x4 models.

Much of what's newly appealing about the Frontier is its "techno" front sheetmetal (and plastic): a strong, simple face with big, clear-lensed headlamps and a cruel gape-mouth grille that looks like something you'd see on a bulldozer. Nissan officials say the look was inspired by the classy appearance of premium power tools. This industrio-mechanical design twist is complemented by husky fender flares bolted onto the wheel arches, a plastic tailgate cover, and a great-looking alloy-wheel design. The result is a factory-built truck with the look of a smartly done tuner toy.

The front-seat passenger buckets in our King Cab model were quite comfortable, and the fold-down seats in the rear of the extended cab area are fine for kids or even small adults`for a short ride. Nissan has thoughtfully increased the size of many of the interior controls so they can now be operated with gloves on. And the new instrument cluster's reversible gauges are easier to read during day or nighttime driving. There's also a new four-spoke steering wheel housing cruise control.

Although a 2.4L/143-hp DOHC four-cylinder is standard, we can't recommend it. A 3.3L/170-hp naturally aspirated SOHC V-6 and a four-speed automatic are also still offered; it's proven adequate, but no more than that. This rugged truck, with its extra-beefy ladder frame, is no lightweight, especially in 4x4 form. It truly needs`and loves`the power advantages provided by the manual five-speed and blower-assisted V-6 muscle.