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2017 Nissan Frontier Overview
Small light-duty pickups are once again finding their way into the hearts and minds of folks here in the U.S. who just don’t need an expensive full-size behemoth crowding their commuter out of the driveway, and Nissan’s compact 2017 Frontier is just such a sensible alternative.
Available in 2 cab configurations, the 4-passenger King Cab and the 5-passenger Crew Cab, this downsized truck boasts 5 trim levels, the S, SV, Desert Runner, Pro-4X, and SL, and 2 bed lengths, 5.0 and 6.1 feet. The shorter bed is standard on both cab configurations, while the longer bed is available only on Crew Cab trims.
All editions except the Pro-4X come with standard rear-wheel drive (RWD), while a part-time 4-wheel-drive (4WD) system with low-range gearing remains optional for the S, SV, and SL. The Pro-4X appeals to the adventurist with standard 4WD, an off-road suspension, off-road shock absorbers, and all-terrain tires, while the Desert Runner, sporting skid plates and the off-road suspension and tires, is only offered in RWD.
No upgrades or changes have been announced for the 2017 Frontier, which saw its last complete makeover in 2005. This might be understandable in light of the fact that Nissan is presently engaged in touting its brand-new 2017 Armada SUV and freshly minted 2017 Titan half-ton pickup. But in an era when “you snooze, you lose” tends to hold true, this refusal to modernize leaves the Frontier lagging even further behind more appealing and refined offerings such as Chevrolet’s Colorado and GMC’s Canyon, as well as Toyota’s recently redesigned Tacoma.
On the plus side, there is word that a comprehensively updated Frontier prototype, temporarily badged as the Frontier’s globally marketed Navarro variation and boasting a diesel powerplant, has been spotted near, of all places, downtown Detroit. Rumor has it this reworked version may be poised for a 2018 debut.
For the present, a standard 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder (I4) engine powers the RWD Frontier S and SV King Cabs. Putting out a mere 152 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque under the management of either the standard 6-speed manual transmission or an available 5-speed automatic, this normally aspirated powerplant lacks the ponies that many U.S. consumers expect in their pickup. EPA-estimated mileage of 19 mpg city/23 highway/21 combined with the manual and 17/23/19 in those trims with the automatic might ease that left-behind feeling, but note the I4 Frontier offers a maximum towing capacity of only 3,500 pounds.
For those with higher expectations, a 4.0-liter V6 powerplant comes standard on all Frontier Crew Cab iterations, and is optional on the SV King Cab with either RWD or 4WD. Cranking out 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque, the V6 also comes with a standard 6-speed manual transmission and optional 5-speed automatic. The V6 Frontier can tow up to 6,500 pounds when properly equipped.
Not only is the V6 exponentially more powerful than the I4--it isn’t much less fuel efficient either. Mileage figures range from 17/22/19 on stick-shift RWD trims to 15/21/17 when equipped with 4WD and the automatic. Need a further incentive to choose the V6? A reasonable MSRP on V6 iterations shouldn’t help you out.
As for comfort and convenience features, the base Frontier S is downright spartan inside and out, while both the Pro-4X and the flagship SL carry all the creature comforts the gentleman truck owner requires. Even the Frontier SV comes with a standard Bluetooth-integrated NissanConnect infotainment system that hosts smartphone apps and uses a 5.8-inch touchscreen, while the Pro-4X and SL trims both come with a 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate premium audio system.
Each of the Frontier’s cab configurations remains roomy enough for the driver and front passenger, but the King Cab, with its standard rear jump seats, offers almost no rear-seat legroom, and the Crew Cab is only marginally more comfortable. Considering the outdated interior layout loaded with cheap plastic accents, it’s no surprise that folks in the market for a light-duty truck often overlook the Frontier in favor of its more refined rivals.
On the plus side, this little Nissan pickup manages to retain a relevant exterior look despite its age, showing well against both the GM trucks and the Tacoma.
Standard safety features aboard the Frontier include the usual mandated equipment, with the SV and higher trims adding standard auto on/off headlights, NissanConnect emergency telematics, and front fog/driving lights. In braking tests, the Pro-4X came to a stop from 60 mph in 134 feet, which is about average for a small truck rolling on all-terrain rubber.
There is no government crash-test data on the Frontier, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has awarded the current Frontier its best rating of Good in most of its safety tests (seat and head restraints get a second-best Acceptable rating).
Have Laptop. Will Travel. I'm retired and travelling the country in a 34' motor home. I'm really digging meeting people . . and sometimes their cars . . . getting a sense of what makes this nation tick. The plan is to visit all the national parks in the continental US, then cruise to Alaska to visit Denali, and to Hawaii to check out Haleakala and the Hawaii Volcano's national parks. Anyhow, when I'm not horsing the motor home around the roadways, I'm tooting around in the 2012 Ford Focus that we tow behind, or making runs to Home Depot and various malls with the 2004 F-150 that just won't die.
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