- The Washington Times - Friday, May 4, 2001

MODEL: Nissan Frontier SE
VEHICLE TYPE: Crew Cab pickup
PRICE-AS-TESTED: $25,025
MILEAGE: 16 city, 18 highway

Do you like your pickup truck brawny and wicked-looking?
Now that Nissan has aggressively restyled its Frontier, even buyers of compact trucks can get in on the latest urban guerrilla trend in automotive design.
Bristling with expressive pieces of plastic from the big, overdone front bumper to the pronounced wheel arches the 2001 Frontier is arguably the most daringly styled of the smaller pickups on the market.
It's also the only one offering a supercharger, which pumps more air into the engine and increases its power compared to a non-supercharged power plants. On certain V-6 Frontiers, the supercharger boosts horsepower to 210, compared to the typical 170 of naturally aspirated V-6s.
Torque with the supercharger is as high as 246 foot-pounds at 2,800 rpm, up from 200 foot-pounds in the regular V-6.
Designed specifically for the Frontier, this supercharger sounds impressive and not just on paper.
In a short test drive of a supercharged King Cab model, I felt decidedly quicker acceleration compared to a normal V-6 Frontier. It leaves the entry-level, 143-horsepower, four-cylinder Frontier in the dust.
The supercharger adds 6 to 7 pounds per square inch of boost under wide-open throttle. As you might expect, there was a slight whine from the Eaton Corp.'s Roots-type blower, which is fully warranted by Nissan and is installed at its Smyrna, Tenn., assembly plant. It came in as the engine neared 4,000 rpm.
Still, the SC models as the supercharged Frontiers are called do add stiffness and bounce to the Frontier's already truckish ride. The SCs come with big, 17-inch wheels and a revised suspension that includes stiffer front springs and more aggressive rear damper.
The supercharger also reduces fuel economy by 7 percent, said Larry Dominique, Nissan's Frontier product specialist, and the company recommends pricier premium fuel for maximum performance.
Furthermore, SC models carry manufacturer's suggested retail prices at least $1,250 above those of non-supercharged Frontiers, although they are also loaded with other features.
It's no wonder, then, that Nissan predicts 90 percent of Frontier buyers will choose models other than the SCs. Almost 50 percent to date have driven off in five-passenger Frontier Crew Cabs like the one I test drove.
In May 1999, the Frontier was the first small truck to offer four front-hinged doors and a shortened pickup bed. The combination now copied by others like the Chevrolet S-10 Crew Cab, Dodge Dakota Quad Cab and Ford Explorer Sport Trac transforms the pickup truck into a great vehicle for outings with friends and family.
The passenger- and cargo-carrying versatility is obvious, especially if you add the tubular bed extender a $299 option on the Frontier Crew Cab that stretches the usable room in the pickup bed from 4.5 feet to a more-normal 6 feet.
This is not to say that the back seat of a Frontier Crew Cab is roomy or particularly comfortable. Three adults sit real close in the back. Rear seatbacks are stiffly upright. The middle passenger gets only a lap belt, and only the outboard riders get the built-in head restraints, which are not adjustable.
Still, headroom of 39.3 inches in the front seat and 37.8 inches in back is competitive, and the high ride height of the test Frontier SE 4X4 gave me a much-appreciated view of traffic.
Rear-seat riders sit a bit higher than those in front, and they enjoy rear windows that open all the way down.
To better match the brawny look outside, the 2001 Frontier's gauges and entire dashboard are reworked. Gauges on the test truck, for instance, had black letters and numbers on a white background.
The test truck had new seat fabric, and Nissan is offering leather upholstery for the first time. But interior door handles are the same small, plastic levers, and rear doors have narrow openings.
The V-6 worked well with the five-speed manual transmission, although the tall shifter stalk involved some long throws.
The parking brake is a lever that you must twist and push back into the dashboard. Be careful not to pinch your fingers.
At highway speed, the Frontier has wind noise some of it kicked up by the optional tubular roof rack that was on the test Crew Cab.
For the 2001 model year, Frontier Crew Cabs have starting price plus destination charge of $18,569. This is for a two-wheel-drive model with five-speed manual transmission.
The 2001 S-10 Crew Cab comes only as a four-wheel-drive model with automatic transmission. It starts at $25,369.
Crew Cab shoppers include many new buyers to Nissan.



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