2012 Frontier New Car Test Drive
The 2011 Nissan Frontier is a midsize pickup truck that offers notably good power, admirable handling and able towing capacity. A wide variety of cab and trim levels offers plenty of options for perspective buyers. Engine choices include a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 152 horsepower and is EPA-rated at 19 mpg city/23 mpg highway with the manual transmission, and a hefty 4.0-liter V6 capable of 261hp that's rated at 20 mpg on the highway in the two-wheel drive version.
The Frontier is a stylish truck, yet it's clearly meant for work. In front is a distinctive grille and pronounced fender flares that give it a certain robust appeal. Inside is a continuation of the purposeful look, with all the controls in places that make them easy to reach and operate.
The ride is good with all models, and the handling is tight and fairly nimble. On gravel roads, we found the 4WD works well and enhances traction and control.
Two body styles are offered on the 2011 Nissan Frontier: a King (extended) Cab with rearward-opening rear doors and flip-down seats, and a Crew Cab with a conventional four-door layout and a 60/40-split-folding bench that seats three. All King Cab trims have a six-foot cargo bed, while Crew Cab models offer five- or six-foot bed lengths.
For 2011, the names and features of some of the trim levels have changed, although the model itself remains the same. Trim levels on the 2011 Nissan Frontier are primarily the same across both King Cab and Crew Cab models, except Crew Cab models are only available with the larger engine. All trims except for the base S are available with four-wheel drive. Maximum towing capacity on the 2011 Nissan Frontier is 6,500 pounds and top payload capacity of slightly more than 1,500 pounds.
Frontier S ($18,200) has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine on King Cab models and a 4.0-liter V6 on Crew Cabs. It comes standard with a 5-speed manual transmission, 15-inch steel wheels, manually operated windows, front bucket seats and cloth upholstery. You'll need to pony up for the S Preferred package to get air-conditioning and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player. Other options include a 5-speed automatic transmission, a bed liner, bed extender, splash guards and floor mats.
Frontier SV ($21,380) bumps up to 16-inch steel wheels on models with the four-cylinder engine and alloy wheels on the V6. Both get better tires, a chrome front bumper, a sliding rear window, keyless entry, cruise control, full power accessories, upgraded cloth upholstery and a tilt-adjustable steering wheel. Options for the SV include a Premium Utility package, which comes with a spray-in bed liner, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, steering wheel-mounted controls, Bluetooth and an upgraded six-speaker stereo system with satellite radio and a six-disc CD player. Models with the four-cylinder engines have the same transmission choices as the S. The V6 models come standard with a six-speed manual or an optional 5-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is available on this trim level.
Frontier PRO-4X ($26,620) is designed for serious off-roading and includes 16-inch alloy wheels, off-road tires, Bilstein off-road shocks, a locking rear differential, fog lights, underbody skid plates and a spray-in bed liner with tie-downs. Inside, the 2011 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X gets a leather-wrapped steering wheel, distinctive interior trim and gauges, a trip computer, built-in first aid kit and an upgraded Rockford Fosgate audio system. The optional Luxury package adds a roof rack and cross bars, a sunroof, heated mirrors, leather upholstery, a rear armrest and heated power front seats.
Frontier SL ($28,880), only available on Crew Cab models, comes with 18-inch alloy wheels and includes most of the luxury options available on the PRO-4X, but does not have the rugged mechanical upgrades such as the off-road suspension and tires.
Safety equipment on all 2011 Nissan Frontier models includes two-stage front airbags, side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags, a tire-pressure monitor and 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 child seat anchor system. All 2011 Nissan Frontiers equipped with the V6 engine also get standard traction control.