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New Car/Review


By Matt/Bob Hagin

Nissan Full Line factory footage (16:43) 28.8, 56k, or 200k

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 21,240
Price As Tested                                    $ 24,017
Engine Type              SOHC 12-valve 3.3 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 200 cid/3275 cc
Horsepower                                   170 @ 4800 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               200 @ 2800 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  116.1"/71.9"/196.1"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     4019 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  19.4 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                          P265/70R15 all-season
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                 50 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            15/19/18
0-60 MPH                                        N/A seconds
Maximum payload capacity                        1400 pounds
Towing capacity                                 5000 pounds
     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

(Bob Hagin was in the auto business in '59 when the first Datsun (now Nissan) pickups hit our shores. "They were rude and crude," he says. Matt Hagin has only seen photos of those old-timers but notes that pickups have changed a lot in 50 years.)

MATT - Nissan has been in the pickup business in this country for a long time, Dad. Apparently when the Datsun came into the U.S., there were no mini-pickups on the market so Datsun had that niche pretty much to itself.

BOB - True, Matt, but the public was hardly knocking down the doors of Datsun dealers to buy up those little haulers. I was working for a Datsun/BMW dealer at the time and can attest to the fact that the 120 pickup was not a hot seller. But since then Datsun has changed its name to Nissan and the company now makes trucks that are big, comfortable and powerful. Its newest Frontier model has been upscaled this year with the addition of a 3.3 liter V6 engine that puts out a very acceptable 170 horses and an even more appropriate 200 pound-feet of torque at only 2800 RPM. We're all aware of the fact that most "personal" pickups don't haul much more that garden supplies on the weekend, plus an occasional trip to the dumps, but if the need arose, this Frontier could haul some pretty good loads.

MATT - Our test rig is a 4X4 that came with a V6 engine and an optional four-speed automatic transmission which gives it a towing capacity of 5000 pounds. This makes it well suited for towing a fairly good sized sport boat. The optional limited-slip rear differential is a little pricey at $200 extra, but it makes pulling up out of a slippery boat ramp lots easier at the end of a day of wave-jumping. It's embarrassing to spin the rear tires all the way up the ramp just to pull the boat from the water. And since our tester was a King Cab model, it can haul around a couple of extra passengers, although it's a pretty tight fit back there in the tiny jump seats. But it works great as storage for stuff that can't be left in the bed.

BOB - Technically, there's not a whole lot that can be done to a pickup to make it "different," and the Frontier is pretty conventional truck stuff these days. The full-length ladder frame is sturdy and the independent front-drive unit is carried on torsion bars. In back is a solid rear axle riding on leaf springs. Although the ride isn't bad, there's no arguing the fact that this Frontier is a no-kidding truck. It has a two-speed transfer case and the self-locking front hubs allow it to be dropped into four-wheel drive at speeds up to 50 MPH. This beats having to pull over to engage four-wheel-drive and/or lock up the front wheel hubs manually, but the hubs are a slight drain on gas.

MATT - Being an inveterate pack-rat, I particularly like the way the bedliner on this truck can be divided up into three compartments with home-made partition boards. That way things like a tool box or other cargo won't slam against the tailgate every time I get on the accelerator or the brakes. There's a couple of other recesses built into the bedliner that will accept a couple of five-foot 2X4 boards so that sheets of wallboard can be carried. And tall as the Frontier is, a set of tubular step rails makes it lots easier to crawl up inside.

BOB - Like most other pickups in its class, the Frontier still uses disc brakes up front and drum brakes in back, but our truck came with a four-wheel anti-lock braking system. The system also uses a special sensor that "reads" the road surface and adjusts braking pressure to the rear accordingly. This is probably of particular value when the Frontier is lightly loaded and heavy braking could cause the rear end to skip around a bit if there's any loose stuff on the surface. Since all pickups are light in the tail, I've always preferred to have a lot of stuff in back when driven daily.

MATT - I imagine its always been that way with pickups, Dad.

BOB - Not with those original Datsun pickups, Matt, With a load in the bed, the thing you had to worry about was trying to stay up with traffic and not get run over.