2006 Frontier New Car Test Drive
When this generation of 3-Series BMWs was introduced in mid-'91, it won awards in all the automotive-enthusiast magazines. The modern, spacious interior, generous trunk space, and elegant, compact exterior turned a cramped, conservative but great-handling car into a roomy, stylish, relatively affordable and great-handling car. Sales have since boomed, and the car remains a perennial on everyone's 10-best lists.
For 1995, the 3-Series cars remain mechanically unchanged after a flurry of additions last year. A lower-cost 318i convertible was introduced in mid-1994, as well as the top-of-the-line M3 coupe, with a sizzling 240 hp inline 6-cylinder.
The major changes this year are new body-colored bumpers and outside mirrors for the 318i models, making them visually identical to the more expensive 325i models.
Our test car was a 318i convertible. With a wealth of standard features and little optional goodies such as heated front seats, the price registered at $31,520. No question about it, the darling of the '60s nuclear family - the station wagon - has made an almost startling recovery the past few years. Nearly relegated to the automotive ash heap during the '80s, the revived popularity of the venerable wagon has proved not every family with two parents, 2.5 kids and a dog wants a minivan.
And station wagons can now be found from the bottom of the string (Honda Civic) to the top (Mercedes). In between, there are wagons from Saturn, Subaru, Toyota, Volvo, Buick, Ford and the subject of our test drive, BMW.
Specifically, it's the BMW 525i Touring, the station wagon for the family with some extra cash to spend, the desire for the driving fun of a sports sedan, and the need for the cargo/passenger versatility of a wagon. In short, it's for the family that doesn't want to drive a minivan and can afford not to. BMW has moved the goal posts, pushed back the fences and raised the basket in the luxury-car game. Just when Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Audi, Cadillac and Lincoln thought they had a handle on what a luxury car should be, BMW introduces a new model from the 7-Series line, the 740i, and it's rethink time for the competition.
Not too surprising. BMW has been downright ferocious in the development and introduction of new models the past few years. There have been new 3- and 8-Series models, coupes and convertibles added to the 3-Series, a 5-Series Touring (wagon) was introduced, V8 engines appeared in the 5- and 7-Series, the succulent M3 came on the scene, and so on.
And the public has responded to these actions: BMW of North America Inc. reported its 1994 sales figures at more than 77,000 units through November 1994.
We believe the new 740i will be another showroom success. Cars this good do not go unnoticed. Our model, with a number of standard goodies and no optional equipment, came in at $58,370, and proved to us to be worth every single sawbuck. The Nissan Frontier is a true mid-size pickup. Re-engineered just last year, the Frontier shares much of its inner architecture with the full-size Nissan Titan.
A powerful 4.0-liter V6 comes on all but the base model. Nissan's V6, rated at 265 horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque, tops any straight-5 or V6 the competition has to offer, and rivals the output of the Dodge Dakota's optional V8. Pair this with its strong chassis, and the Frontier offers up to 6500 pounds of towing capacity and 1500 pounds of payload. Yet it's maneuverable and easy to park.
Frontier is available with rear- or four-wheel drive, and in either King Cab or Crew Cab configurations. King Cabs come with two forward-facing rear seats and a 73.3-inch standard bed. Crew Cabs feature a roomy passenger compartment with amenities much like those you'd expect in a sport-utility vehicle, yet still provide a truck bed nearly five-feet long, even with the tailgate in its upright and locked position.
Frontier offers a Nismo (Nissan Motorsports) model, with special shock absorbers and tires, underbody component-protecting skid plates and an active traction system with technologies such as hill descent control and hill start assist.
Frontier was redesigned and launched as an all-new model for 2005 and there are no significant changes for 2006.
The 2006 Nissan Frontier is available in four versions: the base XE, the well-equipped SE, the more luxurious LE, and the Nismo off-road model. All except the XE are available in King Cab (an extended cab with auxiliary rear doors) or Crew Cab (four full-size doors) configurations, in rear-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD), and are powered by a V6 engine.
Frontier XE ($15,600) comes as a King Cab 2WD with a 154-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine though there is a choice of five-speed manual transmission or five-speed automatic ($16,650). XE has manual-crank windows and 15-inch wheels. For 2006, the glove box has been upgraded with a lamp and lockable door with dampened opening. Options include cruise control ($250); a preferred package ($1,500) that includes air conditioning, AM/FM/CD audio system, tilt steering column, sliding rear window and privacy glass. New for 2006 is a power package ($750) that combines cruise control with power windows, locks (with keyless entry) and mirrors.
Safety features include an optional airbag package ($550) with side-impact airbags for torso protection and side-curtain airbags for head protection.
Frontier SE comes as a 2WD King Cab ($18,500), 4WD King Cab ($21,200), 2WD Crew Cab ($20,650), or 4WD Crew Cab ($23,350). Standard equipment includes air conditioning, chrome front bumper and grille, a sliding rear window, an AM/FM/CD audio system, tilt steering wheel. The 4.0-liter V6 produces 265 horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard. Options for SE King Cab include a five-speed automatic transmission ($1,050), 16-inch alloy wheels ($300); a power package ($750) that incorporates windows, locks, mirrors and cruise control; and side-impact and side-curtain airbags ($550). Choose the Crew Cab and the option lists expands to include a sunroof ($700) and the power package with vehicle security system ($900).
All Frontier LE models come with automatic transmissions, including the 2WD King Cab ($22,300), 4WD King Cab ($25,000), 2WD Crew Cab $24,000) and 4WD Crew Cab ($26,650). LE models come with all the standard features of the SE plus power mirrors, windows and locks; fog lamps; chrome exhaust tips, door handles and exterior mirrors; remote keyless entry; height- and lumbar-adjustable driver's seat; leather-wrapped steering wheel; illuminated vanity mirrors; compass and temperature readouts; trip computer; sunglasses holder in an overhead console; driver's side seatback map pocket; and a first aid kit. LE options include an upgraded audio system with MP3 player and six-CD changer for the King Cab ($550); a Rockford Fosgate system for the Crew Cab ($850); a leather package for the Crew Cab ($1,700); and XM or Sirius satellite radio ($400).
The Nismo model is available as a 2WD King Cab with automatic transmission ($22,100), a 4WD King Cab with manual ($23,750) or automatic ($24,800), a 2WD Crew Cab with automatic ($24,150) or a 4WD Crew Cab with automatic ($26,850). All share most of their standard and optional equipment with the LE grade, but add as standard equipment special off-road wheels and tires, Bilstein shock absorbers, skid plates, and Nissan's Advanced Off-Road Traction System, which consists of limited-slip traction control, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control and Vehicle Dynamic Control.
The Advanced Off-Road Traction System is an option on SE and LE Frontiers with 4WD.
Options for all models include a sliding cargo bed floor tray ($220), a hard tonneau cover ($1,030), a sliding bed divider ($270), a non-sliding bed extender ($250), a sliding bed extender ($290), a tow-hitch receiver ($380) and bed rail caps and under rail bed liner ($430).
Safety is improved for rear-seat passengers when you order the optional side-curtain airbags that cover both front and side windows in the event of a side impact, providing head protection.