Despite the fact that the Nissan Frontier PRO-4X mid-size, four-wheel-drive, crew cab pickup hasn’t had a major refresh since 2009, it can still compete with the likes of the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, and GMC Canyon.
I recently had the opportunity to test drive the 2016 PRO-4X both on highway and off pavement while taking my friend Bob on a visit to the Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort in Nathrop, Colorado, near Buena Vista. The trip provided the perfect backdrop for some pictures and video, and it was a great driving environment to put the Frontier to the test.
Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a week-long outdoor enthusiast, the Frontier has you covered with some impressive factory features. For example, it boasts 16” off-road all-terrain tires, Bilstein performance shocks, oil-pan, fuel tank and transfer case skid plates, along with electronic locking rear differential and hill decent/hill start assist controls for some hardcore rock climbing or regular commuting.
The brawny 4.0L V6 and its 261 horsepower felt more like a V8 leading its class with a torque output of 281 pound-feet. Mated to the 5-speed automatic transmission, it proved capable and responsive – no disappointment when trying to pass on a grade. The 5’ short bed made it easy to park and maneuver around town; the Utili-track bed channel systems with tie down cleats made even heavy cargo management easier; and the factory-applied spray-on liner assured us that there’d be no damage to the truck bed, no matter what we hauled. The back-up camera and rear sonar system helped to round out the working aspects of the truck.
It’s not a perfect pickup, though. The Frontier’s design styling, which blends modernism and traditional truck cues, worked well on the exterior, but fell a bit shy on the interior. The cabin was comfortable and practical, but it lacked the style and features of competitors. Heated leather seats and dual climate control were nice, but like the three-spoked steering wheel, they didn’t feel terribly special.
Also on the negative side was the lack of head-room and leg-room for the rear-seat passengers. The clunky and hard-to-use NissanConnect navigation app failed to provide accurate directions on several journeys. And sadly, the turning radius was poor — good luck if you need to make a u-turn on a side street. (It took me five points to turn 180 degrees.)
That said, the brawny V-6 combined with a stout 4WD system help the Nissan compete with some of its rivals while keeping costs down. In fact, the low price might just be its best-selling point.
All in all, the Nissan Frontier is a rugged old-school truck with cool features. The optional hardcore PRO-4X off-road package make this a great urban escape vehicle…last one out of town gets the check!
Model: 2016 Nissan Frontier
Towing capacity: 6,100 to 6,300 lbs
MPG: Up to 16 city / 21 highway
MSRP: From $32,340
Horsepower: 261 hp
Bed length: 60 to 73.2″
Other trims: 2016 Nissan Frontier S, 2016 Nissan Frontier SV, 2016 Nissan Frontier Desert Runner, 2016 Nissan Frontier SL