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EAGLE ROCK, Mo. — In remote creases of the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri, a brawny four-wheel-drive version of Nissan's redesigned Frontier pickup truck — toting a new six-pack of power enthused with muscle — crawled slowly up a steep and rutted hillside trail, which was studded with stones and slick from recent rain.
This rough and lumpy trace challenged forward progress of the pickup with every inch of ground gained, but nubby tires gripped with assurance and sturdy shock absorbers from Frontier's off-road suspension package filtered the bumpy ride while still delivering sure-footed control for driver.
Beyond a thick cluster of hardwood trunks to the right, the terrain cascaded hundreds of feet down the hillside to a scenic valley dotted by oak and pine. Behind the tailgate, a jolting path over fallen logs through silted chutes had led to this high spot, which would be inaccessible to a conventional two-wheel-drive vehicle.
Despite adversities along the route, Nissan's truck forged ahead, smothering stone and trail goo with deep-tread rubber while mustering an armory of low-gear torque and applying the strength of 170 horses to propel almost 2 tons of truck metal deep into the backwoods. For off-road adventures like this as well as tough truck chores, Frontier needs the V-6 engine.
Nissan’s newest name
As the newest nameplate in Nissan's stable, Frontier rolled out as a 1998 compact truck outfitted with either rear- or four-wheel drive, plus regular and extended-cab variations — but only a single four-cylinder choice for power.
For 1999 models, Nissan’s added a V-6, which can be coupled to one of two four-wheel-drive models in stretched King Cab configuration. The Frontier's 3.3-liter V-6, borrowed from Nissan's Pathfinder sport-utility wagon, stacks a single cam on top and sequential multipoint electronic fuel injection inside to generate 170 hp at 4800 rpm. Its torque — a measure of the muscle that turns the wheels — runs up to 200 foot-pounds at 2800 rpm. The V-6 can be had with either the standard five-speed manual shifter or an optional four-speed electronic automatic.