2002 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab SC 4X4
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by Greg Wilson

For 2002, the Nissan Frontier Crew Cab gets a longer cargo box � its 74.6 inch bed is now the longest bed in its class. Inside, the Frontier Crew Cab has a new, sportier instrument panel with cockpit-style instruments and metallic-look interior trim. Crew Cab SC models have a supercharged 210 horsepower 3.3 litre V6 engine that is currently tied with the Ford Explorer Sport Trac for the most powerful engine in it class.

Longer cargo box adds utility

2002 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab SC 4X4
The Nissan Frontier Crew Cab was the first compact, four-door crew cab on the market in 1999. Crew cab pickups have longer, roomier cabs than extended cab pickups and they offer four regular doors rather than just two front doors, or two front doors and two rear-hinged rear door panels. Since the Frontier Crew Cab was introduced, at least six other crew cab pickups have entered the market including the Dodge Dakota Quad Cab, Ford Explorer Sport Trac and Toyota Tacoma Double Cab, as well as full-size crew cabs like the Ford F-150 Supercrew, Chevy/GMC Silverado/Sierra crew cabs, and the Dodge Ram Quad Cab.

The appeal of crew cabs, particularly in the compact segment, is the ease of entry into the rear seat, and the increased amount of rear legroom for rear passengers. Anyone who’s ever tried to get into the sideways-facing rear jump seat of a two-door extended cab pickup will know what I mean. The front-hinged rear doors of a crew cab are much easier to open than the rear-hinged door panels of an extended cab pickup which often don’t have external door handles and won’t open until the front doors have been opened. As well, a crew cab’s rear passenger area can serve as a spacious, secure, dry storage area when not in use by passengers.

In the 2001 model year, the Frontier Crew Cab received sportier, more aggressive styling, and a new supercharged 3.3 litre V6 engine on top-of-the-line Crew Cab SC models. That brought the Frontier’s engine choices to three: a 143 horsepower 2.4 litre four cylinder engine in the XE King Cab; a 170 horsepower 3.3 litre V6 in the XE-V6 King Cab, SE-V6 Crew Cab, and SE-V6 Crew Cab; and a 210 horsepower supercharged 3.3 litre V6 in the SC-V6 Crew Cab.

But while the 2001 Frontier Crew Cab had plenty of horsepower and a comparatively roomy interior, it had a comparatively short (1430 mm/56.3 in.) cargo box – even when compared with the Frontier King Cab. So for the 2002 model year, Nissan stretched the Crew Cab’s wheelbase to a 131 inches and switched to a longer 74.6 in. cargo bed which is now standard on all Crew Cabs.

The Crew Cab’s other major change for 2002 is a restyled, sportier instrument panel and an optional high-end Rockford Fosgate audio system.

Longest cargo bed in its class

2002 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab SC 4X4
Click image to enlarge

The Frontier Crew Cab’s new long bed is now the longest cargo box in its class – about a foot longer than the bed of the Toyota Tacoma Double Cab and the Dodge Dakota Quad Cab, and over two feet longer than the Ford Explorer Sport Trac’s bed. The Frontier Crew Cab’s cargo bed is now 1895 mm (74.6 in.) in length, an increase of 465 mm (18.3 in.) over the 2001 cargo bed which was 1430 mm (56.3 in.) in length.

The cargo box is double-walled to reduce the possibility of dings showing on the outside, and features a removeable, lockable tailgate, and four tie-down hooks. There’s also a cargo light above the rear window.

With the new longer bed, the overall length of the Frontier Crew Cab has increased by 452 mm (17.8 in.) to 5532 mm (217.8 in.), which makes it the longest crew cab pickup in its class – almost 400 mm (15.6 in.) longer than a Toyota Double Cab pickup.

As well, the Frontier Crew Cab’s payload has increased slightly to 484 kg (1,067 lb.) from 450 kg (992 lb.), and GVWR has increased to 2459 kg (5421 lb.) from 2359 kg (5200 lb.).

The 2002 Frontier Crew Cab 4X4 is 66 kg (146 lb.) heavier than the 2001 model, but fuel consumption, according to Transport Canada figures, has not changed: 15.5 l/100 km (18 mpg) in the city, and 11.8 l/100 km (24 mpg) on the highway.

Not-so-subtle styling

2002 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab SC 4X4
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The 2002 Frontier’s styling, updated in 2001, is certainly flashier than most other pickup trucks. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was designed at Nissan’s styling studios in La Jolla, California. Its “modern industrial” look features a bold front grille and bumper, tall hood, oversized headlights and large bolt-on fender flares featuring visible divot holes and rivet-type caps. As well, the Crew Cab SC has dark-tinted rear side windows, front fog lights, a tubular roof rack, and bold ‘supercharged V6’ graphics on the front fenders and ‘4X4 Supercharged’ decal on the rear fenders. Crew Cab SC models come with standard BF Goodrich Rugged Trail P265/65 R-17 inch OWL all-season tires with standard five-spoke alloy wheels. Crew Cabs have body-coloured bumpers and side mouldings, but King Cabs have black bumpers.

For 2002, the instrument panel has been restyled with three “cockpit-style” round gauges, new dial-type heater controls, new metal-look plastic trim on the dash and doors, and a new console with a map pocket. The glovebox is now 25 percent larger and there are now three interior 12 volt power points.

The unpopular pull-and-twist parking brake was replaced with a more traditional foot-operated pedal system – however, the release for the foot brake is on the right side of the steering wheel column rather than the left.

For 2002, Crew Cab SC and SE models feature a new high-performance 300 watt Rockford Fosgate 9-speaker audio system with an in-dash 6-disc CD player with steering wheel audio controls and subwoofer. Nissan says this audio system would cost well over $1,000 on the aftermarket.

Another important feature on the 2002 Crew Cab is provision for the installation of a child safety seat in the rear passenger area, something not found in most compact pickups.

Roomier than King Cab, but not necessarily roomy

2002 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab SC 4X4
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To assist entry into the cab, the Frontier Crew Cab SC has a step-up bar running the length of the cab just under the doors. However, the step bar is too close to the body forcing you to step over it rather than on it. This requires a wider step when getting in, and the bar rubs on your pant leg when getting out. I would recommend not ordering it.

Once inside, the driver has a commanding view of the road, and outward visibility is very good in all directions. The driver faces three recessed gauge pods for the tachometer, speedometer and fuel/coolant gauges. They look sharp, but I found that the dark blue colour of the instruments made them hard to see on a cloudy day, necessitating turning on the lights to illuminate them.

The new silver-coloured metal-look plastic trim on the dash and doors won’t be mistaken for real metal, but it does provide a nice contrast to the black plastic dashboard.

The front bucket seats have fixed head restraints and a wide, but rather flat seat cushion. SC models have standard leather seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with attractive red stitching, and stitched red ‘SC’ logos in the seatbacks.

2002 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab SC 4X4
Click image to enlarge

Between the front seats is a unique two-level armrest: the top hinges sideways to make it easier for the driver to access, and the bottom half of the armrest/storage bin hinges from the rear, and is big enough for CD’s and cassette, and includes a hidden 12 volt powerpoint for charging phones.

There are two cupholders behind the floor shifter with built-in slots to accommodate mug handles � good idea! The Frontier’s interior includes an overhead console with an outside temperature display and a compass.

My test truck was equipped with a flip-up glass sunroof with a removeable sunshade. This type of sunroof does not slide backwards, and the sunshade has to be removed manually and stored in the backseat.

The Crew Cab’s rear doors are shorter than the front doors, however they open to almost 90 degrees, allowing easier entry and exit. The rear seat is not as comfortable as the front seats. The seat cushion is lower, the backrest is more upright, the head restraints are too low, and there’s minimal legroom. However, it’s much roomier than the Frontier King Cab (extended cab model with two doors), and there’s plenty of headroom, and the rear windows roll all the way down.

Crew Cabs can seat five passengers: there are three rear seatbelts (outboard 3 point seatbelts and centre lap belt), however the rear seat is best-suited to two adult passengers. Rear passengers have their own pull-out cupholders, a 12 volt powerpoint, and roof-mounted grab handles.

Driving impressions

2002 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab SC 4X4
Click image to enlarge

The Crew Cab SC comes standard with a supercharged 3.3 litre V6 engine with a factory-installed Roots-type blower which was developed in conjunction with Eaton Corporation, a noted manufacturer of superchargers. Engine-driven superchargers are air compressors that force more air into the engine, thereby increasing horsepower. The supercharged 3.3 litre V6 engine has 40 more horsepower than the unsupercharged 3.3 litre V6 engine (offered in the SE-V6 Crew Cab), and develops 246 lb-ft of torque at 2800 rpm compared to 200 lb-ft of torque at 2800 rpm in the unsupercharged engine.

I found that the supercharged engine offers excellent off-the-line acceleration and freeway merging power, and though there is an audible compressor whine under hard acceleration, the Crew Cab SC is not unduly noisy and is reasonably quiet while cruising on the freeway. The engine turns over at just 2,300 rpm at 100 km/h and 2,600 rpm at 120 km/h in top gear.

According to Transport Canada figures, the fuel consumption of the supercharged V6 is only slightly worse than that of the unsupercharged 3.3 litre V6 engine: 15.5 l/100 km (18 mpg) in the city and 11.8 l/100 km (24 mpg) on the highway. However, that’s thirstier than even the 4.0 litre V6 in the Explorer Sport Trac – and the Frontier’s engine uses Premium fuel.

Even though the Frontier’s supercharged engine has more power and torque than the unsupercharged engine, Nissan gives it the same maximum tow rating of 2269 kg (5000 lb.). My guess is that the SC will haul more, but that Nissan is concerned about warranty claims on the supercharger.

Having driven Frontiers with both engines, I would recommend test-driving both the SE and SC Crew Cab models – you may not need the extra power and cost of the supercharged model. The supercharged engine is more powerful, but it’s also noisier and less refined – and the towing capacity is rated the same. Also, the SE-V6 model is available with a manual transmission and is offered as a 4X2 and a 4X4 � the SC comes only as a 4X4 with an automatic transmission.

I found the SC’s standard 4-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission to be a very responsive, smooth-shifting unit that performed flawlessly. The standard part-time 4WD system includes a floor lever with three positions: 2HI (2WD), 4HI (4WD), Neutral, and 4L0 (4WD Low Range). This type of 4WD system can only be used on loose or slippery surfaces to prevent wear to the 4WD drivetrain and to prevent binding when turning tight corners.

For such a tall truck with a high ground clearance, the Frontier handles very well – note how the big 17 inch tires protrude all the way out to the edge of the fender flares giving the Frontier a wide, stable stance. The Frontier has an independent double wishbone front suspension and a solid axle with leaf springs at the rear.

However, being the longest truck in its class has some disadvantages when it comes to parking and making tight turns. You have to give concrete pillars and curbs a wide berth when turning to avoid running the rear wheel over them. To make matters worse, the power-assisted steering effort is rather stiffer at slow speeds.

While no one expects a truck to ride as well as a car, I thought the Frontier Crew Cab’s highway ride was a bit too ‘jiggly’, probably caused by overly stiff shocks � the SC model has a ‘specially-tuned’ suspension. Still, those same shocks do a great job of absorbing punishing ruts, rocks, and obstacles on back roads, and the Crew Cab’s off-road performance is very good despite its long wheelbase.

In terms of utility, the new longer Frontier Crew Cab has the cargo box capacity and the horsepower to do the job � and it’s a very sporty-looking truck. But it’s also more difficult to manoeuvre, and uses a lot of (Premium) gas. Still, those are typical complaints for a pickup truck.

Prices and features

2002 Manufacturers suggested retail prices are as follows:

Frontier King Cab XE 4×2 2-dr 2.4 litre 4 cyl M5/A4 $22,898-23,898
Frontier King Cab XE-V6 4×2 2-dr 3.3 litre V6 M5/A4 $23,998-24,998
Frontier Crew Cab XE-V6 4×2 4-dr 3.3 litre V6 M5/A4 $26,298-27,298
Frontier Crew Cab SE-V6 4×2 4-dr 3.3 litre V6 A4 $29,498
Frontier King Cab XE-V6 4×4 2-dr 3.3 litre V6 M5/A4 $26,998-28,198
Frontier Crew Cab XE-V6 4×4 4-dr 3.3 litre V6 M5/A4 $29,298-30,498
Frontier Crew Cab SE-V6 4×4 4-dr 3.3 litre V6 A4 $32,698
Frontier Crew Cab SC-V6 4×4 4-dr 3.3 litre V6 Supercharged A4 $35,398

My fully-loaded Crew Cab SC 4X4 came to $36,374 with freight. Standard equipment includes the supercharged 3.3 litre V6 engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, part-time 4WD with auto-locking hubs, 17 inch tires and alloy wheels, limited slip rear differential, front disc/rear drum brakes with ABS, skid plates, tubular roof rack, pop-up sunroof, and lockable tailgate.

Standard interior features include leather seats, air conditioning, dual airbags, 300 watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with nine speakers and steering wheel audio controls, tilt wheel, cruise control, power windows with driver’s auto-down, power door locks and remote keyless entry, power mirrors, tachometer, variable intermittent wipers, and four cupholders.

The Frontier is built in Smyrna, Tennessee.

Technical Data:

2002 Nissan Frontier SC Crew Cab 4X4
Base price (4×4) $35,398
Freight $976
Price as tested $36,374
Type mid-size 4-door, 5 passenger crew cab pickup
Layout longitudinal front engine/Part time 4WD
Engine 3.3 litre V6, supercharged, SOHC, 12 valves
Horsepower 210 @ 4,800 rpm
Torque 246 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm
Transmission 4 speed automatic
Tires P265/65 R-17
Curb weight 1975 kg (4354 lb.)
Wheelbase 3330 mm (131.1 in.)
Length 5532 mm (217.8 in.)
Width 1808 mm (71.2 in.)
Height 1824 mm (71.8 in.)
Max towing capacity 2269 kg (5000 lb.)
Max payload 484 kg (1067 lb.)
Fuel consumption City: 15.5 l/100 km (18 mpg)
  Hwy: 11.8 l/100 km (24 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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