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Nissan has hustle. You see it in the company's TV ads -- edgy productions done in black and white with models such as the supercharged Frontier pickup truck scrambling over boulder-strewn terrain in stop-motion fury like a four-wheeled Ostrogoth bashing away at the gates of Rome. "Eat more rock," the promos say -- and this truck can do that, no problem.
The Frontier, Nissan's compact pickup that didn't even have a name until just a few years ago, comes outfitted with a brashly-styled body kit (color-keyed on higher trim models) and an available supercharged 3.3-liter V-6 engine that howls wonderfully the heavier your right foot gets. Both the "blower" and the aggressive, look-at-me body kit set the Frontier apart from the more utilitarian offerings of Ford and Chevy, even the sport-oriented Ford Ranger Edge, as well as the generally more affordable but much more subdued Toyota Tacoma.
You'll need some time to select the model you need, though: There are at least 19 different possible Frontier combinations -- XE, SE and S/C (supercharged) trim levels, plus a Desert Runner model -- as well as the choice of 2WD or 4WD, and King (extended cab) or Crew (four-door cab) models. And there are at least eight separate sub-groups, including a Utility Package, Basic Gear Package, Value Truck Package, Power Package, Sport Package and Leather Package. So sit down and take your time; you'll need it to review what's available.
Some basics, though, to get you started: XE Frontiers are the rough and ready versions with a heavy-duty off-road frame; SE models are the purty ones with standard 16-inch aluminum rims and body-colored bumpers and fascias; while supercharged S/C models, the subject of this review, are the road kings, fitted with 17-inch rims and sport-tuned suspensions.
Since this truck was an all-new offering in 2001, changes for '02 are slight — but they're significant. Of particular note is the addition of an available full-length 74.6-inch cargo bed (56.3 is standard) for the crew cab, the longest of any available compact four-door pickup currently out there.