An Edge In Bed: 2008 Nissan Frontier 4X4

Off-Road, 4x4 Mini Me from Nissan

Mar. 03, 2008 By Katrina Ramser
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We know not everyone who needs a pickup truck wants a full-size one. Think of the Frontier as the "Mini-Me" of the Titan, with Nissan's signature angled chrome grill, geometric fender flares, and the same style frame and suspension system.

Better technology and a Utility Bed Packages stand out for what's new on the 2008. The Technology Package offers an upgraded sound system with an auxiliary jack, steering wheel audio controls, Bluetooth® Hands-free Phone System, XM® satellite radio, Nissan Immobilizer and Vehicle Security System. The standard Utility Bed Package on Crew Cabs and King Cabs called the Utili-Track has tie-down cleats, a full range of accessories is offered for use with the channel system, including bed dividers, sliding cargo trays and modular storage units.

ORC got their hands on a 5-speed automatic Majestic Blue 2008 Nissan Frontier 4x4 Crew Cab LE with the 4.0-liter DOHC V6 engine and a shift-on-the-fly 4WD system. Total vehicle cost is $31,660.

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The Frontier looks beefy for a compact without looking overly muscular – it has truly grown into a smaller Titan in appearance. Built on a fully boxed ladder frame, it has an all-steel double-wishbone front suspension and Dana 44 solid rear axle with leaf springs.

The biggest engine offered is a 261-horsepower 4.0-liter DOHC V6 with 281 lb-ft of torque. Frontier’s maximum towing capacity under this engine is rated at up to 6,500 pounds. The powertrain stats are almost exact to what is found in the Pathfinder and Xterra – and in the 350Z, Maxima, Altima, Murano and Quest, for that matter, but is specifically tuned for more low-range torque. For the 4x2, the Frontier offers a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. The Frontier is offered with a choice of transmissions – an advanced 5-speed automatic, a 6-speed manual or 5-speed manual transmission.

back seatLike all Nissans under the 4.0-liter engine, it was extremely motivated under acceleration and acted quick and nimble. However it's fuel hungry with estimated gas mileage being 14-mpg city and 19-mpg highway. Daily driving situations averaged me at approximately 14.5-mpg. On a consistent highway drive with little stopping and following speed limits, I got around 18-mpg. You start to wonder why not just get a full-size or half-ton.

The Frontier's claim to fame is the fact it was the first compact truck to ever offer a 4-door Crew Cab in America, fitting 5 people comfortably. Nissan’s latest generation of Crew Cab features a second row that is surprisingly comfortable and roomy. Moving about, it didn't feel like I was sausaged inside a compact truck. Second row has headroom of 38.7-inches and legroom of 33.6-inches. It folds up easily with the pull of a lever, one on each side, for plenty of cargo space.

The utility bed features begin with a very nice factory-applied spray-on bedliner. When we tied down our load using the Utili-Track system, we concluded the channel system was moveable enough, but that four cleats were just not sufficient. I suppose Nissan will sell you more, but we had to bring in our own additional equipment to properly secure the cargo down, which sort of defeats the point.

offoradAs far as off-road capability, the Frontier comes with the standard Nissan 4x4 four switch positions located in the center-console. The Frontier did not loose its traction under sinking grassy and muddy terrains with unexpected rocks and tree stumps at odd angles. As far as worrying about scraping the underbody, Frontier 4x4s have a maximum of 10.1-inches of ground clearance, which it made for suitable room in my case without having to buy a skid plate.

The concern on this model is the lack of agility when it comes to its turning radius. With a lock-to-lock turn of 3.55-feet and a curb-to-curb diameter of 43.33-feet, it's not possible to make any tight turns. Expect a lot of constant on and off-road backing up.

An advanced off-road Traction Package is available, and it's exactly what you'll find in the Pathfinder. It includes Hill Descent Control (HDC), designed to reduce driver stress when climbing hills, both in forward or reverse. Put the transmission in appropriate gear and simply switch on in combination with the correct 4x4 mode (4LO with vehicle speed under 15-mph or in 4H with vehicle speeds up to 31-mph.) And working with the HDC is the Hill Start Assist (HSA). This system keeps the brakes applied for up to two seconds to help prevent rolling when you switch your foot to the gas. The system also includes 4-wheel limited slip. 

The NISMO trim receives the Traction Package and in addition it also comes with an electronic locking rear differential; NISMO-spec Bilstein performance shocks; skid plates; front fog lamps; and 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels on P265/75R16 BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A off-road tires. My model had 17-inch BFG tires that gripped decent.

The 2008 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab is offered in SE, LE and NISMO models, in regular or Long Bed body styles.

Available options and packages include the XE Preferred Package, SE Power Package, SE Value Truck Package, Moonroof Package, Leather Package, Side & Curtain Air Bag Package, Side Step Rails, Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS), Leather Package, Technology Package and Traction Package. You do have to be careful which trim you chose, as the options differ between Crew Cab and King Cab.

My Frontier LE Crew Cab had the Moonroof Package, the Side Step Rails, the Leather Package and a nice roof rack that holds 125 pounds. The seats heated up fast. But I found the interior rather stale. There were no steering wheel mounted audio controls on my model. The stereo wasn't anything special. On the exterior, note that the hinge on the gas cover door is poorly made; several times I found it folded back or wide open.


The Nissan Frontier deserves attention for being one of the only vehicles in the compact truck class able to draw attention away from the segment leader, the Toyota Tacoma. If you want to compare it with the Tacoma, engine stats on the 4.0-liter V6s are about the same, with the Toyota possessing a slight edge in mpg, averaging 16-mpg city and 20-mpg highway driving to the Frontier's 14-mpg city and 19-mpg highway that we proved has even lower outcomes. The Frontier's gas mileage means death to the small, efficient pickup. 

But a bold-looking compact truck with excellent acceleration and a roomy Crew Cab still allowing for 6.1-ft of bed space is what small truck consumers are looking for. The Frontier makes sense for the active, outdoor crowd with a lot of equipment that needs tying down when trying to find that perfect mountain bike trail, campsite, or fishing spot on rough terrain. For true off-roaders, the specialized NISMO trim, which is the official truck of CORR, is the best choice.

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