New Car/Review

1997 NISSAN 4X2 KING-CAB

by Matt/Bob Hagin

Nissan

SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 15,649
Price As Tested                                    $ 16,468
Engine Type                            2.4 Liter I4 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 146 cid/2960 cc
Horsepower                                   134 @ 5200 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               154 @ 3600 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                       116.1"/65"/190
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3008 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  15.9 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P215/70R14
Brakes (F/R)                               Disc /drum (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                 45 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            19/23/20
0-60 MPH                                         12 seconds
Payload                                        1,400 pounds
Max.towing capacity                            2,000 pounds
     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

(The "new" Nissan pickup truck is really 11 years old now, but it's still a classic example of a practical cargo carrier, says Matt Hagin. His dad Bob remembers when they were called Datsuns and traced their ancestry back to Longbridge, England, rather than Yokohama, Japan.)

MATT - The latest Nissan pickup has been "decontented" over the past couple of years and at this point, it only comes with a four-cylinder, 2.4 liter engine that puts out 135 horses. The V6 that was available in the past is gone and although the rear brakes utilize anti-skid braking as standard on all Nissan pickups, it's still not available on all four wheels. But the truck has a good payload capacity at 1500 pounds and it can tow as much as 3500 pounds, enough for a small recreational trailer or a medium-sized power boat. It's a very practical vehicle.

BOB - I'm glad that Nissan gave us a King Cab version for the week, Matt. I'm not king-sized myself, but the regular cab is pretty snug without that extra room behind the driver and passenger. The back seats are very tiny, like those in an old-style club coupe and are best reserved for little kids or an adult sitting side-saddle, but its a great place to stow gear and even luggage for overnight trips. Most modern mini-pickups never see a construction site and they're really a second family "car." Your brother Brendan uses his pickup that way and I don't think it ever carries anything heavier than his drum set.

MATT - These new Nissan XE King Cabs are hardly stark, Dad, provided you buy one with Nissan's Value Truck Package. That way, it comes with air conditioning, a four-speaker sound system, variable speed intermittent wipers, a tachometer, alloy wheels with 215/70 all-weather tires, plus a few extra goodies like a glove box light and a sunvisor vanity mirror. I appreciated the side window defogger system on damp mornings and it rode more like a passenger car than most of its competition. Underneath is a no-kidding truck with a frame that's built like a bridge, while its suspension system is the classic double A-arms with torsion bars in front and a solid axle with cart springs in back. If it does get pressed into hard duty rather than a life of leisure as a family car, it will do yeoman service and do it for many, many years. The bed has a double-thick wall, which keeps loads in back from denting through to the outside bodywork. It's something of a disappointment that the cab doesn't carry an air-bag on the passenger's side, but maybe one will show up on the next version.

BOB - This Nissan is no lightweight at 3000 pounds, which may partially account for the less-than spectacular performance. It takes 12 seconds to go from 0-to-60 MPH and its top speed is something that doesn't even show up on the spec sheet. There was a time when the SCCA had a professional road race series for mini-pickups, but it was soon evident that truck buyers didn't sign sales contracts expecting to win stoplight drag races. And it seems that the four-wheel drive option is waning and off-road enthusiasts are going more for sport/utility vehicles rather than 4X4 pickups. But trucks, both minis as well as the full-sized American haulers, are still hot sellers.

MATT - Nissan literally started the mini-truck business in this country, Dad. Until the mid-'70s, the company name was Datsun and the first vehicles that Datsun brought here in 1958 only carried a 1.0 liter engine that put out around 30 horsepower. The press packet that Nissan sent us stated that just 45 of them were sold.

BOB - How well I know, Matt. Before you were born, I worked for an American car dealership that took on the Datsun line. I was hired because I'd been working on British and other foreign cars for a long time and none of the other mechanics in the shop would touch them. I felt right at home when I first opened the hood on a '59 Datsun pickup truck and found a British Austin engine. Datsun was making them under a license and I really shined in that shop because I was the only mechanic that could keep them running.

MATT - Dad, someday I'm going to find some aspect of the car business that you haven't been involved in - but it may take a while.

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