You have to give credit to Nissan. At a time when fuel prices are stopping new-truck buyers in their tracks and with full-size Nissan fans still in shock from the fact Dodge will be making the next Titan, in a midsize truck segment where sales have been flat for almost a decade, the company isn't standing still. In fact, it might be just beginning to get it right. The PRO-4X package was the Nissan Titan's equivalent to the Silverado's Z71 or F-150's FX4 off-road packages, but it never really caught on for Nissan's big pickup. However, it might make more sense in something smaller, where its personality is more in line with its younger buyers.

Nissan's offering the new off-road package in the 2009 Frontier and Xterra and, from what we can tell, it looks serious. Most of the original-equipment manufacturers' 4WD packages amount to little more than big tires and stickers, but Nissan has done much more here. It started by offering the PRO-4X package with a unique set of gauge backgrounds and cluster surrounds. Likewise, the seats are upgraded to offer more back and bottom-cushion bolstering, and special stitching with the package.

There are exterior upgrades as well. Paired with a redesigned front end and bumper, PRO-4X packages have colormatched bumpers, larger wheel flares to protect the larger tires, and a set of rather large and silly-looking stickers on the back bed panel.

But the real magic is underneath. The larger tires with the off-road bias are BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/As, sized at about 31 inches in diameter (265/75R16) with enough sidewall to allow for plenty of marshmallow-like conforming when aired down for hard-core rockcrawling. In fact, on the model we saw, the spare tire was matched with the package, but we haven't been able to confirm that will be the case once the package is finalized and offered to dealers. At all four corners are Bilstein high-pressure monotube shocks that have made a strong name for themselves at hard-core events like the Baja 1000 and Dakar Rally races. All other suspension parts and pieces remain the same; however, suspension bushings are unique to the setup to handle the expected added forces from being in four-wheel drive and on harsher dirt roads and trails.

You'll find extra skidplating protecting the fuel tank, oil pan, and transfer case. Also part of the new PRO-4X package is a rear locking differential, which allows the rear axle to prevent the differential from spinning each wheel at a different speed, with the push of a button. By forcing both rear tires to turn at the same rates, you utilize every ounce of precious traction when using every pound-foot of torque the engine can provide. The locker can only be engaged when in four-wheel-drive low range and will disengage when it detects wheel speeds above 15 mph. The Frontier has the same rear axle and locking differential technology as the Titan.

In addition, the package includes a Hill Descent mode--the ABS computer determines how to best go slowly down a steep grade, with no input from the driver. When it's engaged, all you have to do is steer the vehicle down the steep trail and the braking system will gauge which wheel has the most traction and can handle the most braking force, holding your speed usually below two or three mph. It even works in reverse.

The $2000 PRO-4X package adds about 200 pounds to the weight of the truck, which you subtract right off the bottom line of the payload number, but the extra strength and capability could end up saving your bacon. Besides, it looks cool, too. The PRO-4X-equipped trucks are offered in 2WD and 4WD trim, in King Cab and Crew Cab configurations.


2009 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X
Base price $26,280 (2WD)
Price as tested $30,000 (est)
Vehicle layout Front engine, four-door pickup
Engine 4.0L/261-hp/281-lb-ft DOHC alum V-6
Transmissions 6-speed manual; 5-speed automatic
Wheelbase, in 125.9
Length x width x height, in 205.5 x 72.8 x 69.7
Base curb weight, lb 4171
Max GVWR, lb 5600
Max payload capacity, lb 1429
Max towing capacity, lb 6500
Fuel econ, city/hwy, mpg 15/20
CO2 emissions, lb/mile 1.15
On sale in U.S. Currently

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