Auto Review: Nissan’s durable workhorse

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Oct. 25, 2012
- Contributed Photo

With all the gadgetry and influx of new technologies that is infiltrating cars at an amazing rate, there’s still something to be said for simplicity, especially for vehicles we need to be rugged working companions. True, the lion’s share of the newer advancements in terms of fuel efficiency, safety technology, braking performance and suspension response are of benefit to all vehicles, but the latest touch-screen info-tainment goodies are not necessarily what is needed in a compact truck that is designed to be driven anywhere the job takes it (often with a substantial payload of heavy hardware needed for the job).

Nissan’s Frontier compact pickup hasn’t changed a whole lot over the last few years, as its solid chassis, rugged interior and straightforward drivetrain have been just the ticket to handle a broad variety of chores, day after day and mile after mile. In environments like this, there’s a lot to be said for keeping things as uncomplicated as possible, and Frontier is a truck that fits this role admirably.

Available in either a King Cab (that’s extended cab, in Nissan’s jargon) and Crew Cab models, both can be had with either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. We tested a 4X4 Crew Cab model, which is powered by a standard 4-Liter V6 with 261 horsepower and tuned for the kind of low-end torque a truck needs. The transmission is a five-speed automatic (a six-speed manual is also available) and the rugged 4WD system is a part-time unit with a low range suitable for rock crawling.

And speaking of mastering “unimproved” terrain, the Frontier’s suspension is impressive at conquering the nastiest obstacles off-road, but back on the tarmac this same suspension delivers a fairly busy ride that can get choppy over some surfaces. The robust frame and suspension, coupled with the stout drivetrain, permits a payload of 1,1390 pounds and a towing capacity of 6,100 pounds. Strong ABS disc brakes hauled our Frontier down from 60 mph in an average of 114 feet.

Inside, the Frontier Crew Cab is no rival for the kind of room you see in full-size crew cabs, but it can accommodate the driver and three companions for short stints. Our SV trim level included a Sport Appearance package that includes an eight-way manually adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support that makes for a very comfortable perch. Instrumentation is refreshingly conventional, and controls are likewise instantly familiar and logical, and helps make you feel at home right away. The upholstery appears ready for the long haul and easy to clean, which again is fitting for a vehicle that will likely see a lot of hard miles in its lifetime.

While Nissan’s venerable compact pickup isn’t loaded with the latest state-of-the-art gadgetry, it is designed to perform as only a solid work truck can. What it lacks in frippery, it more than makes up for in practical, functional design.

The 2012 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab 4X4 SV is EPA-rated 14 MPG city/19 highway and has a base price of $26,970. With options, our MSRP came to $29,085.


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