One of our longtime top picks in the midsize truck segment, the Nissan Frontier offers gutsy, potent capability with the optional V-6 engine.
The four-cylinder base model offers an economy-car-like 152 horsepower from its 2.5-liters, and performance reflects that: it's wheezy, weak, and strains under any sort of load. Because it's barely up to the task, gas mileage isn't much better than the V-6, either--it maxes out at 19 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.
Step up to the 4.0-liter V-6, however, and the Frontier does a 180, providing 261 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque that makes it feel downright quick when unloaded, and easily up to the task of its working side. The V-6 Frontiers are rated for up to 6,500 pounds of towing capacity when appropriately configured. The V-6 is also available with a choice of manual or automatic transmissions. Most will opt for the automatic, and the five-speed gearbox (six-speed on SV, SL, and PRO-4X models) does a fine job matching the Frontier's power, torque, and use.
Many mid-size truck buyers aren't just looking for better gas mileage or lower prices--they often need better maneuverability as well. With the Frontier, you'll get it, but only up to a point; steering is good and the suspension controls the body well, but it can get choppy and harsh over broken surfaces.
Both 4x2 and 4x4 drive options are available, though 4x4 is limited to V-6-powered models.