2022 Nissan Frontier First Test: Starting at the Back?

If you’ve read our first drive of Nissan’s all-new 2022 Frontier, or anything else we’ve written about the newest iteration of the midsize pickup, you already know what we think: It’s basically a woefully outdated truck under the fresh skin. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Nissan Frontier is a bad truck. Or does it? We kept an open mind as we ran the new Frontier Pro-4X through our testing regimen.

The 2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X is a heavy thing, tipping our scales at 4,966 pounds. That’s 300-500 pounds heavier than the last Chevy Colorado (a Z71 model) and Ford Ranger (SuperCrew Lariat) we tested. We’re sure neither the giant roll bar nor the superfluous side steps—both made of solid metal—did anything to help. Happily these are dealer-installed accessories ($1,095 and $750, respectively), and in the event we ever buy a Frontier, we’ll skip ’em both.

The Frontier’s heft taxed its 310-hp, 281-lb-ft 3.8-liter V-6, with the 2.5-ton Frontier taking 7.9 seconds to haul itself to 60 mph. To put that in perspective, the V-6-powered Colorado Z71 made it to 60 in a much brisker 6.4 seconds, while our quickest Ranger 4×4, with its 310-lb-ft turbocharged four-cylinder, did it in 6.7. Even our most recent Toyota Tacoma 4×4, the Frontier’s archrival and a truck saddled with its own outdated V-6—one smaller and less powerful than the Frontier’s—beat the Nissan to 60 by 0.2 second.

As for the quarter mile, the Frontier made the run in a leisurely 16.0 seconds at 87.9 mph, a time we normally associate with 1980s-era products. Again, had the Nissan been racing its rivals, it would have lost to the Chevy and the Ford by about a second; on the bright side, it would have had the Toyota to keep it company. Braking? The Frontier pulled up from 60 in 133 feet, again matching the Toyota, though the Chevy and Ford stopped half-a-truck-length shorter.

Our point—which perhaps we have overstated by now—is that the Frontier, as the newest competitor in the midsize truck segment, is starting out at the back of the pack, at least as far as the numbers go. But numbers don’t tell the whole story of a vehicle. From a subjective perspective, is the 2022 Nissan Frontier any better?

Unfortunately, the Frontier’s test numbers aren’t the only thing that make it seem dated. The ride quality, while certainly better than the outgoing Frontier’s, is still harsher and more jiggly than we expect from a modern-day pickup truck. The engine is noisier than it should be given how much acceleration it produces. And the nine-speed transmission is fine until it isn’t—it shifts smoothly in most situations, but when it runs into a scenario that confuses it, like climbing steep hills, it goes into gear-changing histrionics.

The Pro-4X is supposed to be the most off-road-ready of Frontiers, differing from other 4×4 Frontiers with its larger tires, off-road-tuned shocks, skidplates, and locking center differential. That’s a fairly short list compared to other off-road-prepped pickups like the Tacoma TRD Pro or the Colorado ZR2. Nissan’s own press materials refer to the Frontier’s simple low-range transfer case as “proven,” which is a marketing-friendly way of saying “stone age.” There’s nothing wrong with this simple old-tech setup—off-roaders have been off-roading in trucks like this for years—but the technology has moved on. We found that in soft-surface situations, where newer, smarter 4x4s have no trouble finding traction, the Frontier was literally left spinning its wheels.

We did a bit of towing with the Frontier Pro-4X and were very impressed by its stability, all the more so since off-road versions of pickup trucks often sacrifice towing ability. (That’s one upside, perhaps, of Nissan not bothering to give the Pro-4X a bespoke spring setup.) But the powertrain was once again the weak link: With a heavy load on the hitch, prodding the accelerator produced lots of noise but little change in speed.

We were so busy picking at the big-picture faults that we nearly missed some of Nissan’s small omissions, like the lack of a telescope adjustment for the steering wheel or an auto-down function for the windows. And on closer inspection, a lot of the interior trim bits didn’t feel like they were up to the task of justifying our test truck’s $46,965 asking price.

Now, for all of the Frontier’s faults—and obviously we found quite a few—we still can’t say it’s a bad pickup truck. The outgoing Frontier was a million-mile vehicle, and we have no reason to doubt the new Frontier will be every bit as durable and long-lived. It’s also going to be an upgrade for longtime Frontier owners, and palatable to those simply looking for a truck that can do most basic truck things. We’re just disappointed Nissan chose to blindly target the not particularly advanced Toyota Tacoma while ignoring the rest of the segment and breaking no new ground.

All through our testing, MT editors grumbled that the Frontier was the vehicular equivalent of a gallon of milk that’s past its sell-by date even before it leaves the grocer’s cooler. Nissan chose to bring a dated truck to market, and our instrumented testing shows that it’s starting out its (presumably epically long) life behind the competition—and the competition is only going to get better. Does anyone really want a truck that’s outdated before they even get it home?

Source: Read Full Article