How The 2014 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X Tries To Hide Its Age

Front 3/4 view of the 2014 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X
The 2014 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X.

In the 1970s, the streets were awash with small pickup trucks.  There were Toyota pickups, Datsun pickups, Mazda pickups, the Ford Courier, which was the Mazda pickup with a Ford grille and badging and the Chevy LUV, an Isuzu kept secret because Isuzu had yet to sell its own vehicles in America.

Over time, the small pickups got bigger, and the number of them got smaller.  Today, there are really only two: The Toyota Tacoma and the Nissan Frontier. And they are not small at all.

It has been ten years since this generation of Frontier was introduced, five years since its last facelift. In large trucks such as the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and Ram, there has been rapid change and evolution. But the Frontier looks and feels like a relic from a different age.

Rear 3/4 view of the 2014 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X
2014 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X.

The Nissan Frontier PRO-4X is Nissan's attempt to keep the Frontier relevant, to bring some of what has been driving the large pickup market to this segment.  It is big, bold, feature-packed and pricey.

The base price is $31,850 for the Crew Cab model, A King Cab version is also available.  Standard are a four-liter V6 engine with 261 horsepower and a five-speed automatic transmission. It has a shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive system, a two-speed transfer case, an electronic locking rear differential, Bilstein off-road high pressure shock absorbers, four-wheel active brake limited slip, and 16-inch alloy wheels.  So far, so good.

It also comes with fog lamps, a cargo bed lamp, a satin chrome grille, body-colored front and rear bumpers, skid plates for the oil pan, fuel tank and transfer case, privacy glass for the reat, a manual sliding rear window with a lock, four adjustable tiedown cleats, a front tow hook and a factory-applied spray-on bedliner, as well as PRO-4X decals.

Interior view of 2014 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X
2014 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X Interior.

Inside is where the money really was applied.  An eight-way adjustable driver's seat with lumbar controls, albeit manual. The front seats are heated. The PRO-4X has its own unique interior trim with white stitching. The steering wheel and gearshift knob are wrapped in leather.  There is cruise control, a 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate premium audio system with ten speakers including subwoofers, a USB port, Bluetooth, sonar to the rear for parking, and dual-zone climate control.

And it is possible to add more, as the Nissan press fleet did to our test vehicle:  $570 went to a bed extender and trailer hitch package, $120 to floor mats and $2,650 to the PRO-4X Luxury Package. That adds satellite navigation with a 5.8-inch color display and voice recognition, leather-appointed seats with the PRO-4X logo, upgrades the front seats to power adjusted, includes remote-controlled heatd outside mirrors, a power moonroof and a roof rack.

With $860 destination charge, the as-tested price is $36,050, which strikes me as a lot of money for an old truck.  Yes, the PRO-4X package and the additional options provide some contemporary touches, but at its heart, the Frontier is 2004's best effort at a midsize pickup.  The age shows in the fundamentals, especially the powertrain. A 4-liter V6 and a five-speed automatic is a recipe for bad fuel economy and that is exactly what you get: An EPA-estimated 15 city/21 highway.

Ultimately, the Frontier is proof of the adage that competition improves the breed.  There just is not much competition anymore in this breed of truck.  The Toyota Tacoma is not on a rapid development cycle either.  A shame, really, since a cutting-edge small or midsize pickup could show the way for people who are in trucks bigger than they need.