The 2022 Nissan Frontier goes on sale in September, and it’s been 15 years in the making. If that sounds like Nissan’s been operating in tortoise years, you’re not wrong Normally, car– and truck-makers revise and update a lot. Nissan’s only nibbled around the edges since…George Bush Jr. was in the White House. That’s right, kids could’ve been conceived in the bed of the last brand-new Frontier and be getting their driver’s licenses just in time for the new truck’s arrival.
Luckily, to stretch some of that metaphor to the breaking point, the new Frontier is damn sexy. Designer Hiren Patel stressed that getting the proportions and the look of the truck just right was critical. He got involved in the design process after he saw some internal studies of where the Frontier might go (he’d already had great success with Nissan’s other trucks), and pushed for the greater refinements you’ll see on the 2022 product. Especially when it comes to the “face” of the Frontier, which has the right balance of ruggedness without seeming brash or mean. It looks confidently tough, but not in an in-your-face, brandished chest hair fashion that’s become a little too common in the truck space.
We got to test the Frontier in the wilderness of Utah recently—with a big swath of highway and a bunch of legit off-roading gnarl—and found just about nothing to whinge about, which should really make the competition get right back to the drawing board.
Here are three huge takeaways.
The 2022 Nissan Frontier Packs Legit Chops for Off-Road Churning
Nissan engineers were gifted a nine-speed transmission and excellent 3.8-liter V-6 with 310 horsepower to work with for every model. That’s a best-in-class mojo and drivetrain—and they made sure the transmission works smoothly both on- and off-road. We downshifted at will for passing on road, and clicked down for added climbing muscle on dirt, as well as for more engine braking and control on descents.
On 4×4 guises, you’re getting 4-Wheel Low for extra rock-crawling capability (up to 9.8 inches of ground clearance), and you can use the around-view camera monitors to see the corners of the truck for delicate maneuvering. What’s more, all 4×4 models have a larger steel skid plate and prominent, easy-to-reach tow hooks.
Buy the Pro-4X edition (we would!). The nose has been scalloped for a best-in-class approach angle for clearing undercarriage hazards. That model also boasts Bilstein off-road shock absorbers and more skid plates, but all 4×4 versions have hill-start assist, as well as hill-descent control.
They Crushed it With On-Road Comfort
Other trucks in the space, like the Toyota Tacoma, are also great on dirt. Nissan burned past competitors, though, by busting beyond the prior (mediocre) chalk line for on-road comfort. For instance, the seats are more supportive over long miles than the Toyota’s and they allow shorter or taller drivers to fit more comfortably, with better views of the truck’s corners. Plus, the cabin is like a sedan’s—quiet and reasonably refined. Too many mid-size trucks feel like economy cars on stilts, with wandering ride quality and cruddy plastic surfaces—almost like the manufacturers ignore the reality that these are daily drivers. Nissan got pretty close to the Honda Ridgeline in terms of ride comfort, which is amazing, since that rides on a passenger car chassis.
They also added stuff you don’t think about until it’s not there, such as plenty of cabin storage (you get a huge, four-liter center storage console) and eight cupholders, including several that can hold a 32-ounce water bottle.
There’s a Ton of Great Tech
Get the Fender audio system. Period. It’s not just loud; this 10-speaker system is crisp and resonates with excellent low notes, too. In a truck cabin—which is a big, square box with lots of reflecting surfaces—nailing clarity is brutally hard, but Fender did. If you care about music, it’s going to be worth the upgrade every time you drive the Frontier.
Also note the higher-grade trims feature LED headlamps that are ultra-bright, and you can get safety features like lane-keeping (automatic emergency braking comes standard). Automatic rear emergency braking is also class-exclusive, and that’s a key safety feature that prevents you from hitting another car when backing out of a parking space—or hitting a child who’d be too low to see with your rearview or sideview mirrors.
We should note the 2022 Nissan Frontier boasts a WiFi hotspot, wireless phone charging, dual USBs, as well as two front 12V outlets, plus gratis Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The Frontier’s bed comes in two sizes: A 40.1-cubic-foot of volume model (5-foot bed) and a 49.2-cubic-foot, 6-foot-long model. The struggle for lots of mid-size truck buyers is wanting the utility of a work truck, but not wanting the meh fuel economy and massive, garage-obliterating size of an F-150 (or of Nissan’s own Titan).
So: Full size or fun size? The Frontier may be great, but it hasn’t fixed that conundrum.
[$27,840 for RWD and $31,040 for AWD; nissanusa.com]Get it
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