2009 Frontier New Car Test Drive
The Nissan Frontier is a midsize pickup truck using a strong and proven 4.0-liter V6 engine, or a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder, with a fully boxed ladder-type chassis.
For 2009, the grille, front fascia, instrument panel have been slightly changed. There's also a new off-road model called the PRO-4X. The four-wheel-drive system for this model and other Frontiers is part-time 4WD with an electronically controlled transfer case offering shift on the fly.
The V6 engine boasts 261 horsepower, best in class, along with best-in-class towing and payload; but the EPA-rated fuel mileage with 4WD is just 15 mpg City and 19 mpg Highway. Safety features such as electronic stability control, side-impact airbags and airbag curtains are optional, while being standard with some of the Frontier's competitors. The Frontier earned four of five stars for the driver and five stars for the passenger, in government head-on crash testing.
We found the interior comfortable and well laid out, with good rugged standard fabric upholstery. The King Cab has auxiliary doors opening to two small folding seats, while the Crew Cab is a four-door with a three-seat bench in the rear offering comfort although limited legroom. The Crew Cab comes with standard or long wheelbase providing a 6-foot-long bed, same size as the King Cab's.
The ride is good with all models, and we drove them all, including the PRO-4X Crew Cab with off-road shock absorbers and rugged trail tires. The handling is tight and fairly nimble. On gravel roads, we found the 4WD works well to straighten things out.
The 2009 Nissan Frontier comes in a King Cab or Crew Cab, 2WD or 4WD.
Frontier XE 2WD ($17,460) comes with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission. The XE is the base model and has steel wheels, wind-up windows, no air conditioning. The Frontier SE ($19,560) upgrades with alloy wheels and other features. An automatic transmission is optional ($1050).
Frontier SE King Cab 2WD ($22,210) and 4WD ($24,910) come standard with the V6, mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or five-speed automatic. King Cab seats four. The Crew Cab ($1050) has four doors and seats five, with a shorter bed; a longer wheelbase version ($800) makes the bed the same length as in the King Cab.
The Frontier LE 2WD ($26,540) and 4WD ($29,190) come with the five-speed automatic, and add a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights and auto headlights, power sideview mirror, tubular sidestep, moonroof, roofrack with crossbars, eight-way driver's and four-way front passenger's adjustable heated seats, cruise control, first aid kit, and power doors, windows and entry. Long wheelbase versions are about $500 more.
The Frontier PRO-4X off-road model comes in crew cab and automatic transmission only, available in 2WD and 4WD. It has Bilstein off-road shocks, skid plates for the oil pan and transfer case, locking rear differential, and its own 16-inch alloy wheels with BFGoodrich P265/75R16 Rugged Trail tires. Also standard is a spray-on bedliner and tough fabric seats with red stitching, as well as cruise control, remote keyless entry, and power windows, door locks and sideview mirrors.
Option packages include the XE Preferred Package, SE Power Package, Value Truck Package, Moonroof Package (Crew Cab only), Side & Curtain Air Bag Package, Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS), Technology Package and Traction Package (4WD automatic only).
Safety equipment on all Frontiers includes two-stage front airbags, a tire pressure monitor, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution. Crew Cab models have three-point seat belts for all rear-seat occupants, including the center position, plus the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) child seat anchor system. Electronic stability control (VDC, for Vehicle Dynamic Control) is optional only on the LE and PRO-4X models. Front-seat side-impact airbags and airbag curtains are optional. Exterior Features There's a family resemblance between the midsize Nissan Frontier and full-size Titan, but the Frontier is two feet shorter and feels it. After climbing out of a Titan and into a Frontier, it seems right, unless you need an eight-foot bed for work or need to tow a big trailer.
The grille, headlights, front fascia and alloy wheels have been retouched for 2009, but not enough for anyone to notice. The fender flares are big and smooth. The front end is a bit cleaner and shinier, and the wheels, two types of 16-inch and one 18-inch alloys, have a bit more style. The Crew Cab looks cool with the optional tubular black aluminum roof rack, taken from the popular Xterra SUV.
King Cabs have rear-hinged auxiliary doors behind the front doors, for access to the two small forward-facing seats. Crew Cabs have four full doors and a roomy and comfortable rear passenger compartment that seats three. The King Cab bed is 73.3 inches Crew Cab bed is 59.5 inches, or almost exactly five feet. It takes a Crew Cab long wheelbase, another 14 inches, to get a bed the same length as King Cab.
A spray-on bed liner and Utili-track tie-down system are available. Using five rails (two on the floor and one on each side and forward bulkhead) and cleats that slide in the channels, all kinds of cargo can be held down.
The new PRO-4X is not totally new; it already existed under another name, the Frontier Nismo (Nissan Motor Sports), technically aftermarket but all Nissan, and available from dealers. It does away with a bunch of chrome, in particular the grille, bumpers, outside mirrors and door handles, making them body-colored. It's got its own 16-inch alloy wheels and big distinctive off-road tires.