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Nissan Frontier 4x4 SC V6 pickup (2001)

SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyer's Guide

by Carey Russ

Nissan has a notable line of firsts in the compact truck field, starting with the first compact pickup sold in this country back in 1959. That was followed by the first half-ton model in 1969, the first long bed in 1975, the first extended cab in 1979, the first U.S. manufacturing plant - in Smyrna, Tennessee - in 1983, and the first compact crew cab truck for U.S. sale in 2000. For 2001, add the first factory-supercharged V6 engine in a compact pickup.

Nissan has supercharged a modified version of its 3.3-liter V6 engine to add performance to the Frontier's repertoire. The Frontier has also been restyled, with the former rather conservative look giving way to a bold, unmistakable appearance. The Frontier lineup is not one-dimensional. Engine choices include a 143-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder, the regular 170-hp 3.3-liter V6, and the 210- horse supercharged engine, with regular, extended-cab ("King Cab" in Nissan parlance), and the Crew Cab body styles, and 4x2 and 4x4 drivetrains. Add in the several trim levels offered, and there should be a Frontier for every compact truck need.

I've just spent a week with a Frontier Crew Cab with the supercharged engine. It's an interesting, and very versatile, vehicle. Because its bed has been shortened to make room for the real rear seat and four-door body, it really occupies a niche between a pickup and an SUV. If hauling 4x8 foot sheets of plywood figures prominently in your plans, this is not your truck. And, unlike some pickups that are becoming overly carlike, the Frontier still feels like a truck - nothing wrong there, it IS a truck, after all, not a car. If your plans include outdoor activities like mountain biking, camping, or climbing, there is plenty of room for four people inside and equipment in the back. And, as a rock climber friend pointed out, you can secure the bed extender vertically and then tie a tarp between it and the roof rack to make a weather-resistant shelter.

Versatility, style, and power!

APPEARANCE: The new Nissan Frontier looks like a pickup for the 21st Century. Nissan calls the design theme "modern industrial," and that is a good description. It's futuristic but functional, and looks rough-and-ready, able to tackle anything thanks to a new front fascia, hood, and fenders that give it a pugnacious style that stands out from the crowd. Bolt-on fender flares add to that, as does the SC V6's standard tubular roof rack. The plastic-covered front bumper looks like a push bar, and the large, complex headlamps look like they belong on a spaceship. They also project light well at night. The Crew Cab body features four real doors and a short but useful pickup bed, which can be enlarged by flipping the locking tailgate down and using the optional tubular bed extender. All Crew Cab Frontiers use the 4x4 chassis, with its extra ride height and 17-inch wheels and tires.

COMFORT: As befits a top-of-the-line vehicle, the supercharged Frontier Crew Cab is well-equipped, and offers a high degree of comfort and convenience for a small pickup. Interior space is equivalent to that of a compact sedan or small SUV, and far better than is found in any extended-cab compact truck. Two medium- sized people can fit in the rear bench seat, with tighter room for a third, center passenger. The front buckets seem to have come from a sports car, with good comfort and support. Power windows, mirrors, and door locks are standard with the SC V6, as are a good climate control system and 100-watt audio system. The "Supercharger Value Package" adds black leather upholstery with red stitching, a 6CD in-dash changer, pop-up sunroof, and more upscale features. The new Frontier's interior is as highly-styled as its exterior, with no loss of functionality.

SAFETY: The 2001 Nissan Frontier SC Crew Cab pickup has front crush zones, dual second-generation front air bags with passenger cut-off, side-guard door beams, and child seat anchors.

ROADABILITY: All Frontier Crew Cab models use the same chassis as the extended-cab 4x4 models. While it is longer than a regular-cab compact truck, it's nowhere near as long as a full-sized crew cab pickup, for easy maneuverability in urban parking lots or on off-road trails. The SC model has its own, firmer suspension tuning and relatively low-profile 55-series street-oriented performance tires. Despite its 4x4 height and clearance, there is little body motion in corners or over highway expansion joints. Like a vintage sports car, the ride is very firm, but it is fun to drive and handles well for a truck. The shift-on-the-fly dual-range four-wheel drive system is engaged by a floor-mounted lever.

PERFORMANCE: Nissan's 170-horsepower, 3.3-liter V6 has been significantly enhanced by the addition of an Eaton Roots-type supercharger. The supercharged engine's 210 hp at 4,800 rpm and 246 lb-ft of torque at 2,800 for automatic-equipped trucks (231 with the 5-speed manual) is just what the performance doctor ordered. The supercharger makes its presence known, with a strong midrange kick and a very noticeable howl under full-throttle acceleration. Power is good right from a standstill, with a very healthy midrange, useful for dealing with city and highway traffic or a steep off-road trail. A standard limited-slip rear differential helps get the power to the ground. Automatic-equipped Frontier Crew Cab trucks can tow up to 5,000 lbs; those with the manual transmission can tow up to 3,500 lbs.

CONCLUSIONS: Bold new styling and added power improve the Nissan Frontier for 2001.

2001 Nissan 4x4 SC V6 pickup

Base Price              $ 25,099
Price As Tested         $ 27,785
Engine Type             supercharged single overhead cam V6
Engine Size             3.3 liters / 201 cu. in.
Horsepower              210 @ 4,800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)          246 @ 2,800 rpm (231 with manual 
Transmission            4-speed electronically-controlled 
Wheelbase / Length      116.1 in. / 200 in.
Curb Weight             4,208 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower   20.0
Fuel Capacity           19.4 gal.
Fuel Requirement        unleaded regular gasoline, 87 octane
Tires                   P265/55 HR17 Firestone Firehawk
Brakes, front/rear      vented disc / drum, four-wheel 
                          antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear  independent double A-arm / solid 
                          axle with leaf springs
Drivetrain              front engine, on-demand dual-range 
                          four-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed      15 / 18 / 16
0 to 60 mph             9.8  sec
Towing Capacity         5,000 lbs

Supercharger value package - includes:
 leather seats, AM/FM/6CD changer audio system,
 steering wheel-mounted cruise control, security system,
 pop-up sunroof with shade,  tilt steering wheel  $ 1,549
Supercharger floormats                            $    79
Bedliner                                          $   309
Bed Extender                                      $   229
Destination charge                                $   520