Completely redesigned for 2005, the midsize Frontier pickup is built on a scaled-down version of the rugged F-Alpha chassis that also underpins Nissans full-size Titan. Made in Smyrna, Tennessee, and larger in every key dimension than its compact predecessor, the Frontier offers King Cab (with rear-hinged rear mini-doors) and Crew Cab configurations, in both 2WD and 4WD. All have a 125.9-inch wheelbase--up 9.8 inches from 2004--and can tow up to 6,500 pounds. Trim levels include the XE (King Cab/2WD only), SE, LE, and Nismo, an off-road package with unique suspension tuning, Bilstein gas shocks, skidplates, and other mechanical tweaks. The XE comes with a 2.5-liter I-4 engine, all others get a 4.0-liter V-6. We drove a well-appointed 4WD Nismo Crew Cab for this test.
Like Nissans other trucks, the new Frontier shows strong Titan influences, highlighting its bold profile with bright grille and bumper treatments and prominent fender flares. The XE an SE have 15-inch and 16-inch steel wheels with P235/75 and P265/70 tires, respectively, while the alloy rims on the higher-line models are wrapped in 265/65R17 (LE) and 265/75R16 BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A (Nismo) rubber. The King Cab has a 73.3-inch bed, the Crew Cab a 59.5-inch bed, and both offer extenders and dividers.
Tidy but understated, the Frontiers roomy cabin is dominated by monochrome plastic on the dash and door panels, set off by chrome door handles and brushed-aluminum accent trim. Main controls are well positioned, and the white-on-black gauges are easy reads in all lighting conditions--unlike the LCD radio/clock displays, which are not. The only reach of note is for the stability control, differential lock, and hill control buttons, on vehicles so equipped. Primary storage is in twin non-locking gloveboxes, a shallow open bin, and a smallish but usable covered hold in the center console, plus large pockets in each door complete with bottle holders. As a final touch, there are two variable-size front cupholders and a trio of 12V powerpoints. While air conditioning, AM/FM/CD sound system, privacy glass, and a sliding rear window are part of an XE Preferred Option Package, all are SE standards, as is a tilt steering column. Step up to LE or Nismo, and a full complement of power assists, keyless remote entry, a multi-function trip computer, cruise control, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel also join the mix. The LE even offers a leather interior option. The Frontiers front buckets are comfortable, but light on lateral support. Nismo and LE models have a height-adjustable drivers seat, and the passenger seat on all folds forward for added utility. The Crew Cabs aft quarters are roomy enough for adults, but a near vertical seatback on the 60/40-split rear bench makes it best suited for short-term duty. While the backs flip forward, the lower cushions also can be folded up to reveal two additional pop-out storage bins.
Beyond a rugged core structure and ABS brakes, the Frontier has dual smart front airbags, front seatbelts with pretensionsers/load limiters, active front head restraints, plus optional front-side airbags and full-length side curtains.