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HEELS ON WHEELS: 2016 NISSAN FRONTIER REVIEW



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HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE FRONTIER VEHICLE
Welding compact utility performance is the Nissan Frontier, with more eye-catching brawn than years past and a V6 engine that gets the job done.

I drove a 2016 Nissan Frontier with the larger 261-horsepower 4-liter V6 engine with 281 pound-feet of torque, a five-speed automatic transmission, and a shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive system. It also has a two-speed transfer case with 4Hi and 4Lo. Available a base S, SL, SV, Desert Runner, and PRO-4X trims as well as an extended king cab or crew cab, my Frontier PRO-4X with a crew cab came with the following standard features: unique white stitching interior trim; Rockford Fosgate premium ten-speaker audio system; NissanConnect with 5.8-inch touchscreen display and navigation; Siri Eyes Free; Bluetooth connectivity; XM Radio; rear sonar system; rear under seat storage; fog lights; manual sliding rear window; Utili-track channel system; front tow hook; sixteen-inch off-road wheels and all-terrain tires. Total price as described without options is $33,390.

Competitors include the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado – both which have received very impressive restyling and performance perks.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: While Nissan has made efforts to keep the brawny exterior looking fresh, the interior is staid, subpar, and at best can be described as straightforward (I’ve come to expect this treatment from Nissan’s less popular utility vehicles). Controls are outdated, layout lacks ergonomic thought, and I missed simple pleasures expected at this mid-trim level such as push-button start. I also experienced quality issues with NissanConnect’s connectivity and Bluetooth system. It appears Nissan reserved the best interior engineering for the Murano, which has NASA-inspired seats that are as finely crafted as they are comfortable and remain my favorite seating of any vehicle (including luxury brands). The PRO-4X Package ($2,100) adds leather upholstery, power and hearted front seats, a roof rack and a moonroof – all nice features; I’m just not sure how these features equate to crafting a more “pro” image for the truck and it is too pricey.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Murano ratings of “Good” in moderate overlap front and side impact crash tests, but “Acceptable” in head restraints and “Moderate” in ease of use with child seats. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not yet rated the model year. Standard safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes, vehicle dynamic control, and an advanced airbag system.

Cost Issues: The Frontier base S trim starts at $18,290, which gets you the standard 152-horsepower four-cylinder engine, decent suspension, and some second-row under seat storage (but not much else in terms of features). The base Toyota Tacoma SR starts at $23,660. My recent Tacoma TRD Sport trim test drive started at $30,025 but also featured such options as a moonroof, push-button start, and the premium JBL audio system with Integrated Navigation and App Suite, which brought the price to around $33k; a top-of-the-line Tacoma Limited starts at $35,105 and a loaded Nissan Frontier comes in a few thousand less than that.

Activity & Performance Ability: The ride under Nissan Frontier’s PRO-4X package with its Blistein shocks stronger front stabilizer bar, and modified suspension is far from smooth. The 4-liter engine unfortunately hesitates and delivers uneven acceleration – not what I experienced with the Toyota Tacoma, which now possesses more highway grace thanks to a better insulated cab. Again, Nissan delivered its best work to the Murano and Pathfinder with a V6 that shines under strenuous handling.

The Green Concern: Fuel economy for the Frontier’s 4-liter V6 engine delivers 15 miles-per-gallon city and 28 highway for a combined claim of 17 with four-wheel drive. The 3.5-liter V6 with four-wheel drive gets 17-city and 21-highway for 19 miles-per-gallon combined.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
The 2016 Nissan Frontier delivers straight utility as experienced from its 6.1-foot cargo bed, but that’s about it as this compact truck is outshone in just about every category by its competitors.

©2016 Katrina Ramser

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