The best thing about the new Nissan Frontier is its purity of truckness that was not sanitized in the redesign.
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The redesigned and re-engineered 2022 Nissan Frontier has not been such a compelling midsize pickup since the “Hardbody” of the mid-1980s to mid-1990s. But the Frontier’s catchup to the competition has been a long time coming — and worth the wait. The Frontier’s last complete makeover was in 2005 for the second-generation.
Its timing is right for the resurgence of midsize and compact pickups. The Frontier is midsize and will compete with the Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger, Jeep Gladiator, and Toyota Tacoma. And the compact pickup segment is on the move with such just-released pickups as the Hyundai Santa Cruz and Ford Maverick.
The 2022 Nissan Frontier is about the same size as before but a complete re-engineering with some exterior styling cues from Nissan’s full-size Titan pickup. Look for its “brutally vertical face” and interlocking-style grille.
Also new is a simplified build order. The new Frontier has just one V-6 powertrain and nine-speed automatic transmission, in two- or four-wheel drive. And there are two body-style configurations of King Cab and Crew cab body styles, in short- or long-wheelbase lengths.
A 5-foot bed is standard on all Crew Cab models, with a 6-foot bed available on Crew Cab SV Long Wheelbase models. A 6-foot bed is also standard on all King Cab models. The King Cab has four seats, the Crew Cab has five.
The exterior styling is sturdy and handsome, but it is not covering a delicate beauty queen. The Frontier’s workhorse foundation is a heavy-duty, fully boxed ladder frame. The front suspension is a double-wishbone with twin-tube shock absorbers, and at the rear are multi-leaf springs and a solid Dana axle.
Put it all together and the Frontier has a 6,720-pound maximum towing capacity. Payloads range from a maximum of 1,480 pounds on some 2WD models to 1,230 lbs. for the top-line Pro-4X.
There are tire and wheel packages of 16 or 17 inches with tires sizes of 265/70R16, 265/65R17, or 265/70R17.
The Frontier is available in four trim levels in two- or four-wheel drive:
- King Cab: S, SV;
- Crew Cab: S, SV;
- PRO-X (2WD) and PRO-4X 4WD
- Crew Cab long wheelbase: SV 2WD and 4WD
Starting prices range from $29,365 for the King Cab S to $38,595 for the Crew Cab Pro-4X. MSRPs include the $1,225 freight charge from Canton, Miss.
Today’s Frontier Pro-4X Crew Cab was $47,145. The PRO-X and PRO-4X feature 17-inch painted aluminum-alloy wheels, all-terrain tires, Bilstein Off-Road shock absorbers, an electronic locking rear differential. Three steel skid plates shield the underside, and fender flares fend off some trail scouring. LED lighting includes headlights, daytime running lights, and fog lights. And standard interior features include a 9.0-inch color touchscreen, Nissan Door to Door Navigation, and NissanConnect with Wi-Fi hotspot.
Check here for current incentives and pricing.
With the complete redesign came a new integration of safety features and technologies.
Most notable is the optional Nissan Safety Shield 360. The group includes Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Assist, and Rear Automatic Braking. The $990 package is available on all models.
With all of the available driver-assist technologies, the Frontier’s tech suite lacks steering-assist to provide semi-autonomous driving.
Standard safety features include eight air bags, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, hill-start assist and hill-descent assist, and trailer sway control.
Starting with a blank box gave the designers space to design the needs of the North American driver. The front seat area feels spacious with a tall headroom of 39.1 inches, with a moonroof. Switches and controls are within easy reach and in logical placement.
Soundproofing the cabin was a priority. There is more insulation, improved rear carpet structure, and new front-door acoustic laminated. Overall, Nissan says engine noise was reduced by 5 decibels during acceleration, road noise has reduced by 3 decibels, and wind noise was trimmed by 2.5 decibels.
The interior plastics have a quality appearance and feel solid and durable with good panel alignment.
The digital dashboard (gauges) is bold with large text and graphics. And the various modes are easy to page through from the steering wheel controls. The 9-inch color infotainment screen is almost clipboard size and is not affected by washout from sunlight. The touch controls are simple to navigate.
The center stack of controls below the touchscreen has an easy-to-reach tier for climate controls. And a lower deck for seat heaters, parking assist, and the USBs. There are four USBs throughout, of which two are the C type.
Large sliding visors actually do a complete job of blocking even that sliver of light that typically gets through at the windshield pillars.
The wireless phone charging pad is conveniently placed on the shift console. Unfortunately, wireless charging is available only on the Pro models, in the $1,990 Pro Convenience package.
Nissan says that the front Zero Gravity seats are designed for initial softness with lateral support to help reduce long-range fatigue. And the seat support is excellent, but the eight-way power driver seat does not have seat-bottom tilt, and the manual lumbar is not quite adequate for some. Also, the lumbar lever on the seatback side is not easy to move and feels prone to breakage.
The front passenger gets a handy grab handle at the windshield pillar to hoist aboard. But then the passenger gets only four-way manual seat adjustment, which is no fun for the buddy when out on a trail run. And it’s just wrong on a $47K vehicle.
There are several areas for small-item storage, including the locking (and deep) glove box, a deep armrest console box with a 12-volt plug, and door panels with a 32-ounce bottle slot.
The Frontier’s raised hood complicates sightlines across the fenders, but the front doors have a cut-down at the side mirrors that significantly helps in cornering. In addition, the Around View monitor with a front view (trail cam) is an empowering assist when pulling into a parking slot, the home garage or when cresting the spine of a rock run.
Stepping into the back seat feels more compact than midsize, and the seatback is very upright without any recline. A low hump to the exhaust-trans tunnel aids center seat footroom, but legroom is short at 33 inches, and worse if there’s a tall driver ahead.
Details include a helpful B-pillar grab handle and an overhead grip, a wide fold-down center armrest with cup holders, bottle storage in the doors, and dual USBs with a 400-watt 120-volt household plug.
The tester’s 5-foot bed is nicely accommodated by the Pro Convenience Package, $1,990. It includes a spray-in bedliner, 12-volt plug, side lights, and the Utili-track system with four adjustable tie-down cleats. (Full package features in the specifications chart at the end of the story.)
Nissan’s 310-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 has welcome thrust when needed, but throttle tip-in can feel abrupt when starting out from the light. Engine torque (the pulling force) is substantial at 281 foot-pounds, but its power peak is high at 4,400 rpm. Consequently, passing power can take a second to engage. But the nine-speed automatic rolls easily through upshifts, and, mercifully, there are no paddle shifters.
Fuel economy is competitive with the other V-6 trucks in the segment, even a click better than the Toyota Tacoma, at least on paper.
The Frontier’s EPA mileage ratings are 17 mpg city, 22 highway, and 19 mpg combined, on the recommended 87 octane fuel. My driving over a couple of hundred miles returned 12 to 16 mpg around town and overachieved on the highway at 22.3 mpg. The 21-gallon tank will provide a comfortable cruising radius of nearly 400 miles and possibly many more on a long highway run.
The Pro-4X might have an intimidating appearance, but the suspension does an excellent job of not beating-up occupants.
The long, 126-inch wheelbase helps steady the highway ride, but my favorite addition is the Bilstein shocks at the rear, which make every vehicle ride smoother. You will feel the body rigidity with some head toss when swinging into a driveway, but Nissan finessed the spring rates for compliance with control.
Still, the turning circle is wide at 42.4 feet, which can require four-point turns on the trail or in the parking structure. And arms get a workout from the overly stiff Pro-4X steering weight. An electronic driver-selectable mode for steering weight would be welcome when negotiating a trail or in close parking conditions.
Stopping power is substantial for all models from four-wheel vented disc brakes. Here are two-piston, 11.7-inch rotors at the front and 11.3-inch single-piston rotors rear.
The underside is protected by steel and aluminum skid plates at the front, with steel plates at the transfer case and fuel tank. And there are two robust front tow hooks.
The $750 step rails appear to be of heavy-gauge steel and include bolt-on footpads at each door. It’s smart to make the footpads removable because they can easily be snapped off on rocks or other trail outcrops. Also, if the off-roader wants to take the time to unbolt the steps, the rails are snug to the body and will make good rock rails when negotiating rugged terrain.
I couldn’t get to the desert or trail to test the traction of the Frontier Pro-4X, but the editors of TFLtruck.com (TheFastLaneTruck.com) did. And their teamed awarded it “Best Off-Road Truck” of 2022.
TFL testing included off-road prowess, technology, performance, trailer towing, and efficiency. Their team evaluated the Frontier against three other new 2022 model pickups — the Ford Maverick, Hyundai Santa Cruz, and Toyota Tundra.
Because off-road trail conditions are ever-changing, opinion comes into play when choosing the best of the bunch, according to the TFL crew.
“We compare all of the off-road specifications: ground clearance, approach and departure angles, tires, turning radius, off-road modes, transfer cases, and differential lockers,” wrote the reporting editor.
During the multi-venue evaluation, the Frontier got a workout in such areas as Colorado’s Webster Pass and Tombstone Hill trails. “Its midsize proportions shone through on narrow trails — while the Bilstein shock absorbers and aggressive all-terrain tires on the PRO-4X made ‘short work of most obstacles,’ the editors said.
Nissan has built small pickups since its first one in 1959. The Frontier has endured through good times and bad, and now the 2022 model reinstates its badge of honor.
For its reinterpretation, Nissan had many good trucks to cherry-pick great ideas while maintaining its engineering integrity. There aren’t any segment-separator features, but neither does the Frontier lack any utility features.
As tough as is the Frontier Pro-4X, it still is a comfortable and accommodating daily driver.
But the best thing about the new Nissan Frontier isn’t its hardware or software. It is its pure truckness that hasn’t been sanitized in the redesign. If you prefer a carlike pickup, consider the Honda Ridgeline.
Body style: midsize, LWB 4-door, 5-seat pickup with 5-foot cargo bed
Engine: 310-hp, direct-injected 3.8-liter V-6; 281 lb.-ft. torque at 4,400 pm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic with 7-position drive mode and tow-haul mode; part-time 4WD with high and low gearing transfer case; 4-wheel limited slip
Fuel economy: 17/22/19 mpg city/hwy/combined; 87 octane recommended
BY THE NUMBERS
Fuel tank: 21 gallons
Max payload: 1,230 lbs. 4×4;
Max towing: 6,720 lbs. with trailer-sway control
Front head/leg room: 39.1*/42.3 in. *w/moonroof
Rear head/leg room: 38.6/33.2 in.
Length/wheelbase: 224.1/126 in.
Height/width: 72.9/74.7 in.
Curb weight: 4,708 lbs.
Ground clearance: 9.5 in. front differential; 9.4 in. rear differential
Turning circle: 42.4 ft.
Pro-4X standard equipment includes: Intelligent key locking with push-button ignition, rearview monitor, PRO unique leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, PRO unique leather seat stitching, 7-inch driver gauge display, 9-inch color touch screen, 10-speaker audio system with satellite radio and Apple Car Play and Android Auto, voice recognition for navigation and audio, Bluetooth phone and audio, NissanConnect with Wi-Fi hotspot, 4 USBs (2 C type), 60/40 folding back seat with under-seat storage
Off-roading features: Bilstein rear off-road shocks, electronic locking rear differential, rear suspension stabilizer, 17-inch PRO alloy wheels and 265/70 all-terrain tires, shift-on-the-fly 4×4
Exterior features: LED headlights and high beams, LED running lights and fog lights, aluminum front skid plate and 3 steel underbody plates, sliding rear window, locking (and damped) tailgate, bed-rail protectors, high-mounted cargo light, 4 cargo tie-downs, LED rear lights, over-fender flares.
Standard safety features include: 8 air bags, hill-start assist, hill-descent assist, trailer sway control, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, brake-force distribution, brake assist, dynamic stability and traction controls.
Pro 4-X Crew Cab 4×4 base price: $38,595, including $1,225 freight charge; price as tested $47,145
Options on test vehicle: Tactical Green metallic paint $395; Off-road style step rails $750; Bed Access package $540; Sport bar $1,095
Pro Convenience package, $1,990, includes spray-in bedliner; Util-track system with 4 adjustable tie-down cleats; heated side mirrors; heated steering wheel and front seats; LED under-rail lighting; remote engine start; trailer hitch with wiring harness; Intelligent Around View Monitor with moving object detection and front trail view; wireless charging
Pro Premium package, $2,790, includes Fender 10-speaker audio system; leather-trimmed front and rear seats; auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink universal transceiver; auto tilt-and-slide sunroof with manual shade; 17-inch beadlock-style alloy wheels.
Technology package, $990, includes lane-departure warning; blind-spot warning; rear cross-traffic alert; rear sonar system; automatic rear braking; high-beam assist; intelligent cruise control; traffic sign recognition.
Where assembled: Canton, Miss.
Warranty: 3-years/36,000-miles bumper to bumper; 5-years/60,000-miles powertrainRead more