New V6 adds muscle to small pickup
I’m not sure to what extent the ‘macho’ appearance of 4X4 pickups has on sales, but there’s definitely a familiar brawny, ‘take-no-prisoners’ look to the new 1999 Frontier King Cab V6 pickup truck now offered with a 170 horsepower 3.3 liter V6 engine (the same engine used in the Nissan Pathfinder) as well as a 2.4 litre four cylinder engine.
With its tall 265/70R-15 inch M+S tires, 9.3 inch ground clearance, prominent wheel flares, alloy wheels, and chromed bumpers, the Frontier King Cab 4X4 V6 pickup has a decidedly different character to the relatively humble-looking 4X2 Frontier pickup introduced in February of 1998.
Certainly, the Frontier has to compete with tough-looking competitors like the Ford Ranger V6, Mazda B-Series V6, Toyota Tacoma V6, and Chevy S-10/GMC Sonoma V6, but my guess is, 4X4 owners just don’t want to be seen leaving the parking lot of a ‘Monster Truck’ extravaganza in a wimpy 4X2.
The Frontier’s new V6 is available only on King Cab models in XE and uplevel SE trim. The 3.3 liter V6 engine has 170 horsepower compared to 143 horsepower for the 2.4 liter four cylinder engine. More importantly, the new V6 offers substantially more pulling power: 200 lbs-ft @ 2800 rpm compared to 154 lbs-ft @ 4000 rpm. That’s enough to tow trailers weighing up to 2268 kg (5000 lb) compared to 1588 kg (3500 lb.) for the four cylinder pickup.
But there’s one caveat. Only Frontier V6 models equipped with an automatic transmission can tow up to 2268 kg (5000 lb.). With a manual transmission, towing capacity drops to 1588 kg (3500 lb.). Hm…I wonder how many people will buy a Frontier V6 with a manual transmission thinking that it has a maximum towing capacity of 5000 lb.?
It’s the opposite situation with four cylinder Frontiers: maximum towing capacity of 1588 kg (3500 lb.) is with a manual transmission, and 907 kg (2000 lb) is with an automatic transmission.
The new V6 engine puts a lot more power to the road, and while sporty, is not unduly noisy at highway speeds. A new intake manifold system reduces the familiar ‘air rush’ sound associated with many truck engines. For a small pickup, however fuel consumption is thirsty, averaging 13.2 l/100 kms (22 mpg) in combined city and highway driving.
The shift lever for the standard 5-speed manual transmission is unusually long, but I found it easy to use because the handle is close to the driver and the throws are well-defined and not too long. King Cab 4X4 models have a floor shifter for the automatic transmission as well, while Regular Cab 4X2 models have a column shifter. A separate, shorter lever for engaging four-wheel-drive is just in front of the transmission shifter.
4X4 models have a standard part-time, 2-speed transfer case which allows the driver to shift into 4WD High at speeds up to 80 km/h, while Low gear can only be selected when the truck is stopped. Automatic locking front hubs are standard equipment on the ’99 Frontier.
Due to the King Cab’s extended cab length, its box length is about 3 inches shorter than on regular cab models (1895 mm/74.6 in. long compared to 1966 mm/77.4 in. long). At 17 inches deep, Nissan says Frontier cargo boxes are the deepest in its class, and all Frontier boxes have built-in grooves that allow the box to be divided into sections with 2X4’s or plywood sheets, maximizing storage versatility. Maximum payload capacity of a King Cab XE-V6 with a manual transmission is 586 kg (1291 lb), and with an automatic transmission, it’s 576 kg (1269 lb.).
The Frontier’s interior is simple and functional. All King Cabs seat four passengers with two front buckets and the two rear jump seats, but unlike the Regular Cab model, a three-person front bench seat is not available. The driving position is comfortable and everything is within easy reach. Noteworthy interior features are an attractive tweed-type seat cloth, center armrest and small storage bin, standard tachometer, pull-type hand-brake to the right of the steering column, twin reading lamps, and large outside rearview mirrors with a ‘breakaway’ feature.
My test truck had optional remote keyless entry, power door locks and windows, cruise control, power mirrors, tilt wheel, and an optional flip-up glass sunroof with a removeable sunshade.
Dual front airbags are standard and there’s a passenger-side airbag de-activation switch for transporting babies in child seats or children under 12 in the front passenger seat.
The rear seating area is best used for carrying cargo items rather than people. There are two small, sideways-facing fold-down seats, large enough for children under 14 going on a short trip. New for ’99 are two rear cupholders at the back of the center console. A sliding rear window is also available. To facilitate entry to the rear seats, the right front passenger seat automatically slides forwards when the seatback is folded down, however it does not automatically slide back to its original position when the seatback is folded up. With the rear seats folded up, there’s a roomy 14.4 cu. ft. of secured storage area behind the front seats.
Frontier’s come with a standard 3 yr/80,000 km warranty – that’s 20,000 km more than most other standard warranties – and a 5 yr/100,000 km powertrain warranty. The three year warranty also includes roadside assistance.
Nissan has a lot of experience making small pickups – they’ve been selling small pickup trucks in North America for 38 years, and have been building them in Smyrna, Tennessee since 1983. Incidentally, the Frontier earned ‘Best Compact Pickup’ honours in J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Survey in 1998 – not bad for its first year.
MSRP’s for Frontier King Cab V6 models range from $21,498 to $28,698.