2002 Nissan Frontier 4WD Review

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Paul Wiley Cockerham Paul Wiley Cockerham Editor
June 23, 2002

Our top-of-the-line, near-$30,000 Frontier reminded me of the once-skinny kid who chugged steroids, hit the weight room and suddenly sprouted facial hair. It’s grown into an impressive-looking specimen, but questions remain about its capabilities.

With plenty of styling cues shared with the Xterra sport-ute, Nissan’s compact pickup has proved to be a hit with youths and wanna-be youths alike. Bolted-on fender flares and fascias on the tailgate and nose reek of testosterone. The nosepiece, in particular, gives the Frontier an almost cruel, Darth Vaderesque aspect, handy for intimidating slowpokes blocking the road. Kudos to the crowd at Nissan Design America in La Jolla, Calif., who sought to create a “modern industrial” look for the Frontier—they’ve succeeded in spades. A colleague’s Chevy S-10, parked alongside, looked almost puny in comparison.

Endless possibilities

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Now available in 19—count ’em—19 different models, the Frontier can come with a standard two-door cab, an extended cab, or a four-door Crew Cab; two- or four-wheel drive; three bed lengths; and three engine choices: a 143-hp, 2.4-liter four; a 3.3-liter V-6; and the latter’s blown variant.

The last is only one mill to spec if you’re at all concerned with getting anywhere in a reasonable amount of time—the 3.3-liter V-6 capped with an Eaton-built, Roots-type blower, fully warranteed by Nissan. Our black-on-charcoal Frontier was so fitted, and bright red decals proclaim to all your supercharged engine choice. The blower and enlarged fuel injectors provide horsepower and torque numbers of 210 hp and 246 lb-ft. You can chirp the P265/65R17 Goodrich Rugged Trails away from the line and as you start passing maneuvers, but torque peaks at 2800 rpm, and much as Steroid Boy discovers in a wind sprint, the engine runs out of breath. Nissan may have opted for a conservative blower pulley size before giving the blown mill the warranty.

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