First Drive: 2005 Nissan Frontier

The Frontier has grown up.

Allyson Harwood
May 9, 2005
Photographers: The Manufacturer
When Nissan was asked why there wasn't a supercharger available on the new Frontier, the response was, "It doesn't need it." A good sign. The manufacturer was aware of the previous model's shortcomings in the horsepower department and went straight to work on it with the new truck.

Now bigger, sturdier, and more capable of towing and carrying cargo, the Frontier is the little brother of the Titan (how could it not be, with a shortened version of its F-Alpha platform and the same 4WD system?), but with its own attitude. Available in King Cab and Crew Cab body styles--regular-cab fans will have to look elsewhere--the truck's offered with a choice of two- or four-wheel drive, and two engines. The 2.5-liter inline-four, which comes to market a couple of months after the 4.0-liter V-6, is only offered with the 2WD King Cab, making the 265-horse six the engine most people will buy. Both engines are backed by a five-speed automatic or six-speed manual.
The 4.0-liter V-6 is a great match to this truck. It gets up to speed with authority and has enough juice that we're confident it could easily pull its 6000-pound towing capacity. It also represents the first time Nissan has been the segment leader in horsepower--a huge accomplishment, considering its competitors include Chevy, Toyota, and the 250-horsepower V-8 Dakota.
Because of the platform change, the new Frontier feels much more solid than its predecessor. Its wheelbase is nearly 10 inches longer and the overall length is up to 5.6 inches longer--even though this pickup is smaller than a Titan, there's no question it's bigger than the 2004 Frontier. It drives and steers like a more substantial truck. The new truck's handling has also been improved, but it's not quite as light on its feet as the compact it replaces.
Our tester was the NISMO Frontier, a package that's new for 2005. This truck will be offered as a King and Crew Cab with two- or four-wheel drive. All NISMO Frontiers come with an electronic locking rear diff, limited-slip, Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist, off-road-tuned Bilstein shocks, skidplates, and 265/75R16 BFGs. The preproduction truck we drove had more than its share of squeaks and rattles, something we hope will disappear come production time.
The Frontier has grown up. Its expanded beltline makes it more competitive with the likes of the Dakota and Tacoma, trucks that have also undergone recent upsizing. It's true, the new Frontier doesn't need a supercharger, but it would be a hell of a firebreather with one.



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