2011 Nissan Frontier

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2005 Nissan Frontier

This 2005 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2014.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Larger, more powerful Frontier keeps pace with the market.
Pros:
  • Nicely redesigned
  • Almost car-like in Crew Cab form
  • Fast with V6
Cons:
  • Fuel-thirsty V6
  • Touchy brake pedal
  • Uncomfortable rear seat in King Cab version

To match Toyota and U.S. market demands, Nissan is producing larger pickup trucks after specializing in small pickups for decades.

Americans crave more room for people and cargo in everything from cars to pickup trucks, and Nissan's 2005 Frontier pickup has been redesigned to satisfy those buyers.

The third-generation Frontier thus has a 9.8-inch longer wheelbase (distance between axles) and is up to 5.6 inches longer overall than the 1998-2004 Frontier. It's also nearly 2 inches wider and 3 inches taller.

Two Trim Levels
The Frontier has a nice combination of civility and ruggedness. It comes in standard King Cab form with rear-hinged back doors that don't open independently of front doors and uncomfortable upright flip-up rear seats. The Crew Cab version has car-like front-hinged rear doors and far more comfortable rear seating.

The King Cab has a 76-inch cargo bed, and the Crew Cab has a 62-inch bed because its larger passenger compartment takes up bed space.

King and Crew Cab versions have rear- or 4-wheel drive that shouldn't be left engaged on dry roads, although the 4-wheel-drive system has low-range gearing for rugged off-road use. A locking differential for hard-core off-road fans is offered to keep the truck going during very rough off-road journeys.

All Frontiers except the base XE King Cab are fairly well-equipped, with such things as climate control and an AM/FM/CD sound system.

New Hot Rod Version
There's a new hot rod off-road NISMO version developed with Nissan's NISMO Motorsports group.

That Frontier NISMO V6 starts at $22,000 in King Cab form with rear-wheel drive and offers performance parts such as off-road-tuned Bilstein performance shock absorbers, skid plates and unique 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels with aggressive off-road tires.

Avoid the NISMO unless you don't mind a rough on-road ride.

There's quite a price range: King Cabs go from $15,500 to $24,700, while Crew Cab versions cost from $20,550 to $26,750.

Key Options
Options range from power leather front seats to a Hill Descent Control that allows steep hill descent without constant brake pedal applications. Also available is a Hill Start Assist feature that lets a driver stop on an upslope, release the brake pedal and not move backward. And a new off-road traction system is offered with 4-wheel-drive trim levels.

The Frontier gets a new 4.0-liter 265-horsepower V6 with 284 pound-feet of torque. It's tuned for truck use and is the most potent V6 in its class.

More Powerful Engines
The V6 needs a little more punch at lower engine speeds but mostly provides stirring acceleration. It provides maximum towing capacity of 6,500 pounds.

The V6 is standard in all but the base Frontier rear-wheel-drive King Cab XE version, which gets a new 2.5-liter 154-horsepower 4-cylinder not offered for other Frontiers.

The 4-cylinder replaces a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with 143 horsepower, and the V6 replaces 3.3-liter 180- and 210-horsepower V6s.

The 4-cylinder comes with a 5-speed manual gearbox or 5-speed automatic transmission, while the V6 works with either a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic.

Both engines have dual overhead camshafts, but the smooth V6 is more sophisticated and is the star motor.

As one might expect, the 4-cylinder with the manual gearbox provides the best fuel economy—an estimated 22 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway. The V6 and automatic provides only 16 and 20, although it's doubtful many Frontiers will be bought for the best fuel economy.

Shares Titan Features
The Tennessee-built Frontier is rugged partially because its fully boxed steel frame is a downsized version of the frame under the fairly new full-size Nissan Titan. That's the only pickup that competes head-to-head with formidable full-size American pickups in size and power.

The 2005 Frontier shares several other features with the Titan, including its suspension design, optional spray-in liner to protect the pickup bed from damage and an optional Utili-track bed channel tie-down system to prevent objects from bouncing around back there.

New Styling
There's modern new styling with short body overhangs, although the front end has garish chrome embellishments.

While quick, the Frontier's steering feels somewhat dead and should provide more road feedback. Also, the longer wheelbase makes the turning circle rather wide.

Civilized Ride
A double-wishbone front suspension and the longer wheelbase help provide a civilized ride for all but the NISMO version, although no Frontier rides as comfortably as most car-based "crossover" sport-utility vehicles.

Handling is quite good, and stopping distances are OK, although the brake pedal is a bit touchy. All Frontiers come with anti-lock 4-wheel disc brakes.

Safety Features
Safety items include optional front-seat side airbags and side-curtain airbags that cover both seating rows for side-impact and rollover protection.

The interior is attractive and functional, with easily read gauges, nicely shaped climate controls and high-mounted audio system controls. The front console has large dual cupholders, and all doors have storage pockets.

Nissan has experienced a dramatic turnaround in the past few years, helped largely by attractive new products. The new Frontier should keep things going in the right direction.

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BB01 - 9/22/2014 3:24:51 AM