So what’s the verdict?
With a new truck coming for the 2021 model year — and none too soon for Nissan — one might reasonably query one’s motives when considering the 2020 version. On the plus side, you do get a preview of the burlier V6, although you have to put up with the nine-speed transmission, which is two speeds too many when mated to this powerplant.
On the negative side, you get the most outdated midsize pickup currently on sale that isn’t a Toyota Tacoma designed for extreme backwoods challenges.
But is that a negative? Not in my book. The Frontier might be an also-ran for the next few months or into 2021, depending on how the pandemic progresses, but it’s my also-ran. As much as I’ve enjoyed the Colorado and the Ranger, and always thought of myself as Mr. Suburban Ridgeline Guy, if I needed a damn fine 4×4 pickup of midsize form, I’d run rather than walk to get myself a Frontier.
My tester wasn’t priced, but I reckon it could be configured at about a $38,000 sticker price, and that, friends and neighbors, is hard to pass up.
Now for the killer part: I drove the Frontier about 250 miles round-trip during my test week, and I found it to be a dandy freeway cruiser, even with a passel of offroadin’ goodies. If you could somehow merge a TRD Sport or Pro with a Ridgeline, the Frontier would be the result. Yup, even though the Frontier has a very old-school body-on-frame build and a hardtail solid rear axle, it serves up a sort of smushy ride that reminded me of the complaint Ridgeline and its unibody assembly.
Heresy! But there you have it. The oldest midsize truck on the market might, even in jacked up Pro-4X guise, be the most versatile — ultimately thanks to its ancient-ness and the advance over its long-ago competition that it originally represented. The Frontier has been a little more easygoing since the good old days, and that virtue now stands out.
The rest of the package is going to seem weird to any one who’s accustomed to modern technology and appointments, but if you’re able to think for yourself — and have a smartphone — you could construe the Frontier’s resistance to the newfangled as an appealing quality. I personally don’t mind a small infotainment screen, if what I’m actually supposed to be doing is taking in the glories of nature, looking for trails to blaze and streams to ford.
Bear in mind that the Frontier is also an all-American product, made in Mississippi.
Sure, the 2021 redesign has trucklandia all a-twitter. It should be a significant improvement on this little old war horse. That’s going to be good for business; Nissan sold about 70,000 Frontiers in 2019, but Ford moved close to 90,000 Rangers right out of the gate.
So Nissan can’t rely on the old two-truck race with the Tacoma. But in the process, we’re losing something familiar in this Frontier. Can’t dwell on the past, but we can lament the final installment of a defiantly low-tech pickup that wouldn’t otherwise let you down.
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