Test Drive: 2001 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab SC V6 trucks car test drives nissan
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A new supercharged 210 horsepower 3.3 litre V6 engine is now offered on the top-of-the-line Nissan Frontier Crew Cab SC-V6 pickup. The SC-V6 also gets aggressive new styling, a sporty new interior, a new 100 watt stereo system with an in-dash 6-disc CD changer and steering wheel audio controls, and a new locking tailgate.

 
See also Grant Yoxon’s review of the Frontier Crew Cab SC-V6



Aggressive new styling and supercharger raise profile of Crew Cab SC-V6

It was only a couple of years ago that Nissan introduced a four-door version of their compact Frontier pickup truck, but it already represents 75% of all Frontier sales. Obviously, compact truck buyers are willing to sacrifice a longer bed for more interior cabin space and ease of entry. The Frontier Crew Cab’s box is a full 46 cm (18 inches) shorter than the bed of the Frontier King Cab (extended cab model).

Still, Nissan must have decided that a roomier cab wasn’t enough for Crew Cab buyers. All 2001 Frontiers have aggressive new styling, and top-of-the-line Crew Cab SC-V6 models offer a new supercharged 210 horsepower V6 engine, the most powerful engine in the compact pickup class.

The supercharger, which forces more air into the cylinders to add power, is a factory-installed Eaton Roots-type supercharger which provides an extra 40 horsepower and 45 lb-ft of torque over the normally-aspirated 3.3 litre V6 engine available on the Crew Cab XE-V6 and SE-V6 models.

That brings to three the number of engines now offered in the Frontier: a 143 horsepower 2.4 litre four cylinder engine, a 170 horsepower 3.3 litre V6, and the 210 horsepower supercharged 3.3 litre V6 powerplant.

For 2001, Frontiers are available in King Cab (extended cab) or Crew Cab bodystyles in 4X4 and 4X2 models in XE or SE trim levels, but only Crew Cab SC-V6 models are offered with the supercharged engine.


Aggressive new styling

Test Drive: 2001 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab SC V6 trucks car test drives nissan
17″ alloy wheel

2001 Frontiers have more aggressive styling than previous Frontiers. The restyled nose features large headlamps and turn signals under clear plastic lenses, a grille with a single bar across the middle, and a protruding body-coloured bumper with a large air intake, integrated fog lamps, and a fake front skid plate. Huge fender bolt-on fender flares and standard P265/55-R17 inch tires and alloy wheels give the Crew Cab a wider stance, and a tubular roof rack adds to its sporty, ‘outdoors’ image. The SC-V6 model also features dark-tinted rear windows and a prominent ’4X4 Supercharged’ decal on the rear box. At the rear is a step bumper and a new tailgate with a prominent Nissan logo and a new locking feature.

Most of these exterior changes are purely cosmetic, but the locking rear tailgate is useful – both to prevent unauthorized entry to the box and to prevent the tailgate from being stolen!

 


Sporty interior

The interior of the Frontier Crew Cab is also much sportier than before. The black cloth upholstery in my test truck featured ‘chequered’ seat fabric and door inserts, and red seat-stitching which matched the stitching in the leather-covered steering wheel.

The dashboard has sporty silver-faced round gauges, including a tachometer, and a metallic-look upper instrument panel which surrounds three dials for the heater and air conditioning system. A new radio (borrowed from other Nissan models) features bigger, easier-to-see buttons and an in-dash 6-disc CD changer.

Test Drive: 2001 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab SC V6 trucks car test drives nissan
Interior shown in optional leather
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The Frontier’s front bucket seats are comfortable and front passengers have generous legroom and headroom. Between the seats is a folding centre armrest with hidden for CD’s and the like. I didn’t like the twist-and-turn handbrake lever near the steering column. Releasing it requires some bending and fumbling – a conventional handbrake or footbrake would be much easier to operate.

The Crew Cab’s rear doors are the conventional front-hinged type with external door handles, however the doors are considerably narrower than the front doors. Still, it’s much easier to get into the rear seat of the Frontier Crew Cab than into the rear seat of the Frontier King Cab.

The Crew Cab’s rear bench seat has a rather short seat cushion and an upright seatback, but there is adequate legroom and headroom for two adults. There are three rear seatbelts (two outboard three-point seatbelts and a centre lap belt), but the seat is really only wide enough for two passengers. A child seat can be installed in the rear seat, something that’s not possible in the King Cab version.

The Crew Cab’s rear power windows will roll all the way down, and there are two rear cupholders at the back of the console. The two built-in rear head restraints are too low to be of any use to adults.

If there are no rear passengers, the one-piece backrest can be folded down to create a longer, roomier cargo area. A split folding rear backrest is not offered.


Short 56 inch box

The Frontier Crew Cab is the same overall length as the Frontier King Cab but the Crew Cab’s cabin is longer and its box is shorter. The Crew Cab’s box is 56 inches long while the King Cab’s is 74 inches long. The Crew Cab does offer an optional ‘bed extender’, a tubular gate which flips over onto the lowered tailgate and extends the bed to six feet. This is useful, but it takes up space in the box when you’re not using it, and limits its versatility.

The short box includes four tie-down hooks, a double-walled cargo bed, and built-in inserts for cross-members to divide up the load.

Nissan has confirmed that 2002 Frontier Crew Cabs will be available with a 74 inch long box as well as the short box.


Driving impressions

With 210 horsepower, 200 lb-ft of torque at 2800, and a fairly low first gear ratio, the 3.3 litre overhead valve V6 engine has plenty of torque for hauling loads up to 500 kg (1,100 lb.). Maximum towing capacity is 1588 kg (3,500 lb.) when equipped with the standard five-speed manual transmission, but when equipped with the optional four-speed automatic transmission, the Frontier SC-V6 will tow up to 2268 kg (5000 lb). Curiously, the SC-V6′s tow ratings are the same as the non-supercharged Frontier V6 model. Obviously, the supercharger doesn’t provide any additional help when towing.

Under acceleration, the Frontier SC leaps off the line quickly, but the driver must shift to second gear quickly because of the low first gear ratio. The standard 5 speed manual transmission has medium-length throws, and the gear lever itself is very long. The abundant engine torque makes it easy to drive in a higher gear without having to shift down regularly. In fourth gear, the Frontier SC-V6 will climb a 10% grade without having to shift down to third (without a load).

The engine is ‘growly’ under acceleration and gets rougher as you approach the 5900 rpm redline. As well, the Eaton supercharger makes a whining sound and there is some transmission gear noise – there’s no doubt that you’re driving a truck. However, my test vehicle was quieter than the pre-production model I drove a few months ago, and when cruising at highway speeds, the engine does only 2600 rpm at a steady 100 km/h, so it’s very quiet – as is the cabin.

Independent acceleration and braking tests performed by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada show the Crew Cab SC-V6 accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h (unloaded) in 9.7 seconds – that’s good for an 1882 kg (4148 lb.) truck. Braking performance was above-average: the SC braked from 100 km/h to 0 in just 41.7 metres (137 feet). The SC includes standard front disc/rear drum brakes with four-wheel ABS.

Gas mileage is relatively good in the city: 12.5 litres per 100 km (18 mpg), but poor on the highway: 14.3 l/100 km (23 mpg).

Over smooth pavement, the Frontier has a comfortable ride, but it’s a bit stiff over bumpy pavement, and the ride is choppy in highway driving. I found the power-assisted recirculating-ball steering also somewhat stiff. Handling is surprisingly good for a tall pickup with a solid rear axle – the standard Firestone Firehawk GTA 17 inch tires add a lot of grip.

Outward visibility is excellent – a defroster on the rear window helps melt condensation, frost and ice on cold mornings. Unlike some pickups though, the Frontier SC doesn’t offer a sliding rear window.

Test Drive: 2001 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab SC V6 trucks car test drives nissan
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Off-road, the Frontier SC-V6 Crew Cab really shines, for a number of reasons. With a high ground clearance, a torquey V6 engine, a low first gear ratio, a part-time 4WD system, and good outward visibility, the Frontier SC handles steep hills, uneven surfaces, and slippery conditions with relative ease. The Frontier’s part-time, shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system is engaged using a floor shift lever and has both high and low ranges.

Off-road, my only concern is the potential scuffing or scratching of the big, body-coloured bumpers. Black bumpers are available on the XE-V6, but they are not offered on the SE-V6 or SC-V6. If you’re going to go off-road, I recommend you don’t buy a Frontier with the bright yellow paint job.


Prices and features

Base Frontier Crew Cab XE-V6 4X2 pickups start at $25,798, Crew Cab SE-V6 4X2 models at $28,998, and Crew Cab SC-V6 4X2 models at $28,998. With a ‘Premium Package’ and four-wheel-drive, Crew Cab SC-V6 go for $34,998.

For the base price of $28,998, Crew Cab SC-V6 models include the supercharged 3.3 litre V6 engine with block heater, 5-speed manual transmission, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, power steering, fog lights, aluminum roof rack, rear defogger, body-coloured bumpers and P265/55R-17 inch all-season tires and alloy wheels.

Standard interior features include the 100 watt 6-disc in-dash AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers, air conditioning, power windows, power door locks and remote keyless entry, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, variable intermittent wipers, tachometer, digital clock, cloth seats, centre console, four cupholders, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual front airbags, and five seatbelts.

A top-of-the-line “Premium Package”, includes leather seats, special alloy wheels, low-profile tires, 4-speed automatic transmission, a distinctive tubular roof rack, and an anti-theft system.
Frontiers are built in Smyrna, Tennessee. Competitors for the Frontier Crew Cab include the Toyota Tacoma Double Cab, and the Dodge Dakota Quad Cab.

For detailed specs, see Nissan Canada’s web-site at www.nissancanada.com.

See also Grant Yoxon’s review of the Frontier Crew Cab SC-V6


Technical Data:

Base price $28,998 (4X2)
Price as tested $31,998 (4X4)
Type 4-door, 5 passenger compact pickup
Layout longitudinal front engine/part-time 4WD
Engine 3.3 litre V6, supercharged, SOHC, OHV
Horsepower 210 @ 4800 rpm
Torque 231 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm
Transmission 5 speed manual (4 speed automatic)
Differential Limited slip
Tires P265/55 R17, all-season radials
Curb weight 1882 kg (4148 lb.)
GVWR 2359 kg (5200 lb.)
Payload 477 kg (1052 lb.)
Towing capacity 1588 kg (3500 lb)
Wheelbase 2949 mm (116.1 in.)
Length 5080 mm (200.0 in.)
Width 1809 mm (71.2 in.)
Height 1687 mm (66.4 in.)
Bed length 1430 mm (56.3 in.)
Fuel consumption City: 12.5 l/100 km (18 mpg)
  Hwy: 14.3 l/100 km (23 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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