The Frontier's factory supercharger, a Roots-type unit co-engineered with Eaton, boosts power from 170 hp and 200 lb-ft in the normally aspirated SOHC 3.3L V-6 to 210 hp and 246 lb-ft; unfortunately, the manual trans can't handle as much torque and its engine variant is rated at just 231 lb-ft. Toyota's TRD supercharger lifts its 3.4L DOHC V-6's horsepower number from 190 normally aspirated to a pretty heady 254 blown. Torque is up from 220 lb-ft to 270 lb-ft of tire-prying twist. But that supercharged level of power comes at a hefty price for the Tacoma: $3137 for the supercharger, plus approximately $500 for installation.
Nissan says that, for '02, the 4x4 Frontier S/C will come with 265/65R17 tires-better suited for offroading than the '01 model's 265/55R17 Firestone Firehawk GTAs. The Tacoma comes with knobbier, skinnier 265/70R16 Bridgestone Dueler H/Ts better suited for trail-running. But because this test was designed as a street and strip showdown, our Frontier had the advantage with the low-profile Firehawks.
And it made good use of them: In the 600-ft slalom, the Tacoma wallowed and understeered its way to a 58.9-mph speed, unloading its inside front tire nearly the length of its suspension travel as it transitioned. It's a handful in such conditions. Yes, the Frontier handles the slalom course like a truck, but at least its 60.6-mph speed places it at the lower end of passenger-car performance territory. Its steering is better weighted, more responsive, and combines with the truck's more taut suspension and tires for quicker, crisper turn-in. The Frontier is relatively smooth and comfortable at freeway speeds, with good directional stability, while the Tacoma's suspension tackles bumps and potholes more harshly-and more in line with a 4x4 setup. At 70 mph or so, the Toyota feels a bit darty, especially in heavy winds. Lacking progressive-rate springs common in full-size pickups, the unloaded Tacoma simply rides harshly on most roads.
But it's better in a straight line. The TRD blower kicks in with a nice high-pitched whistle, not unlike the sound of those buzzy World Rally Championship cars you see on Speedvision, and the truck launches with a hearty squeal of its rear tires. It keeps on going until it hits fuel cutoff just shy of 100 mph (both trucks are speed-governed because of tire and driveshaft limitations). Make no mistake: The Tacoma TRD is not SVT Lightning-quick, but it is impressive.