Nissan Frontier truck follows in Titan's footsteps

June 11, 2004|by TIM SPELL/Motor Matters

Nissan is thinking big these days, unleashing bruiser trucks such as the full-size Titan pickup and Armada sport-utility.

There was no surprise when Carlos Ghosn, Nissan Motor Co. president and CEO, announced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that Nissan is building a bigger, more powerful 2005 Frontier compact pickup.

"The Frontier is a real truck," Ghosn said. "For truck buyers who aren't quite ready for the full-size version, the Frontier has all the strength of the Titan, yet is a more affordable, more manageable package."

Scheduled to go on sale this winter, the third-generation Frontier will be offered in King Cab and Crew Cab body styles, and in 4x2 and 4x4 configurations.


This Titan Junior will stomp into the market with a more formidable look, powerplant and size. Adopting a new, more capable Titan-style "F-Alpha" platform makes the creation of this more substantial truck possible. Crew Cab models, for instance, are 5.6 inches longer, ride on a 9.8-inch longer wheelbase and stand 3.4 inches taller than the 2004 Frontier.

Cargo box size also grows on both models to create greater hauling volume. Box width increases by 1.6 inches and depth by 0.8-inch. Interestingly, the King Cab's 72.4-inch-long bed is 2.2 inches shorter than its predecessor's and the Club Cab's box length is 2.3 inches longer than its '04 counterpart's.

While the 2004 Frontier has lots of macho going for it with flared fenders and a boxing-glove-inspired snout, designers give the more imposing 2005 model a design punch that's both aggressive and upscale.

The grille looks like a miniaturized version of the Titan's. It's framed in chrome with a pair of angled chrome struts and is filled with crisscrossed mesh.

Wraparound headlamps are shaped in a more refined fashion, but aren't as bold as the '04 model's. The new Frontier's deeper, more prominent grille also results in the downsizing of its lower valance, which looks like its predecessor's on a weight-loss program.

Both front and rear overhangs are shortened and the fender flares seductively wrap to greet the lower valance's sides. The fuel-filler door, which has been switched to the driver's side, bends with cuts into the rear fender flare.

Filling the wheel wells is a range of wheels and tires, including distinctive four-spoke 17-inch wheels wrapped in 265/65R-17 tires. Body sides are cleanly sculpted, and feature Titan-style strap door handles and horizontal channels grooved into the lower door sides.

The tailgate, however, loses its rows of grooves to sport a smooth surface. The more sophisticated tailgate also sheds the huge chrome "FRONTIER" lettering, and refines the handle and its black surround.

As pioneered on the Titan, the Frontier is available with a factory-applied spray-in bed liner and Utili-track tie-down system. The flexible Utili-track system consists of a pair of channels in the bed floor, one on the bed header panel, and a channel on each side. Removable cleats can be slid along the channels to create the desired tie-down points.

Importantly, this bed can haul a larger, heavier payload and, with the 4.0-liter V-6 engine, the truck can tow "more than" 5,500 pounds.

This new engine, which is standard on Crew Cab models and optional on King Cabs, cranks out 250-plus horsepower and 270-plus lbs.-ft. of torque. These output figures trump the '04's 3.3-liter V-6 output by approximately 70

hp and 68 lbs.-ft. of torque. Based on the 4.0-liter "VQ" engine series fitted into Nissan's Altima, Maxima, 350Z, Murano and Quest, the engine is specially tuned to accommodate workhorse truck demands. Transmission offerings for the new V-6 include a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic.

The base King Cab is available with a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder that produces an estimated 143 hp and 154 lbs.-ft. of torque. Transmission mates have not been announced.

Along with added power and larger exterior dimensions, designers pumped up the Frontier's interior size. The King Cab is fitted with flip-up rear seats to boost cargo space. A leather package is available, featuring perforated outer seat trim, as well as leather wrapping a handsome three-spoke steering wheel and T-shaped automatic shifter grip. The convenience of power-adjustable front seats, and heated seats and mirrors also are on the option list.

Nissan's think-big philosophy, with greater interior and exterior dimensions, and more V-6 workhorse grunt, allows the consumer to buy a capable compact that treks in a path closely behind its big Titan sibling.

Tim Spell is the automotive writer for the Houston Chronicle Cars &Trucks section.

Copyright Motor Matters, 2004

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