5.23.2016

They Still Make One Like They Used To: The 2016 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X Crew Cab

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X Crew Cab
The 2016 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X Crew Cab.
Ten years is an eternity in the car business.  The Nissan Frontier has been with us for 12.  That's right, the midsize pickup truck you see here, has, with very few changes, been with us since 2004.  So, can it compete today?




That's something of a trick question, as there really isn't much competition now.   When the Frontier launched, there was the Toyota Tacoma, which has managed, like the Frontier, to stretch a mid-2000s design into the mid-to-late part of this decade, as well as the Ford Ranger, Mazda 2000, Dodge Dakota and the twins known as the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, all of which have since departed (with the Chevy and GMC being re-born in a larger size).

So, the best means of answering the question is to take the Frontier on its own merits, and then compare it to the Tacoma.

Exterior styling?  The Frontier is actually somewhat refreshing in the current world of (in our view) overly-macho trying-too-hard mini-Peterbilts.  Even the Tacoma is edging in that direction.

Interior view of the 2016 Nissan Frontier
2016 Nissan Frontier interior.
The interior?  Welcome to 2004.  Were it not for the touchscreen nav system in the center stack, there'd be nothing you wouldn't recognize immediately if you were handed the keys to a 2016 Frontier after a 12-year coma.  Toyota has just re-done the Tacoma's interior, so they're way ahead on this front if we're scoring points for staying fresh.  But ask yourself---is anything critical missing? It's not as though this interior was designed before the discovery of fire.  In fact, the lack of this year's hot trends keeps the controls simple and direct...and that felt kind of nice in the week we had our tester.

About our tester:  It was the PRO-4X Crew Cab. $32,690 gets you a shift-on-the-fly 4WD system, two-speed transfer case with 4Hi and 4Lo, an electronic locking rear differential, Bilstein off-road high-pressure shocks, four-wheel vented disc brakes, four-wheel active brake limited slip, hill start assist and hill descent control, 16-inch alloy off-road wheels (which may sound small in today's world of 20s and 22s, but they get the job done without turning the ride into an impresssive re-creation of a stagecoach) and all-terrain tires.

Nissan also loads the Frontier PRO-4X Crew Cab with standard niceties like heated front seats, a Rockford Fosgate premium audio system, NissanConnect with navigation and mobile apps, the aforementioned color touchscreen display, voice recognition, Bluetooth, USB connectivity and SiriusXM NavTraffic and Travel Link.  There's also a rear sonar system, dual-zone climate control and rear bed lamp.

Our tester added the optional PRO-4X Luxury Package (leather-appointed front power seats, dual power-controlled heated outside mirrors, a power sliding moonroof and roof rack with crossbars) for $2,100 and floor mats for $135. With $885 in destination charges, the bottom line was $35,810.

Downside?  The 4.0-liter V6, which makes 261 horsepower, is mated to a five-speed automatic, and that combination does you no favors at the gas pump, with an EPA-estimated 15 city/21 highway.  Toyota has re-fitted the Tacoma with a new 3.5-liter V6 good for 278 horsepower and it's hooked up to a six speed...which bumps up the fuel economy to 18 city/23 highway.  Not a huge difference, but still.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to what you're using a truck for.  And the biggest revelation about the 2016 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X Crew Cab was that we could picture being perfectly happy owning one.

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