1998 NISSAN FRONTIER XE
Used Pickup - 1998 Nissan Frontier XE in Sarasota, FL
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1998 Nissan Frontier ReviewThis car review is specific to this model, not the actual vehicle for sale.
Nissan serves notice to the competition.
Pickup trucks and country music go together like, well, like pickup trucks and country music. Maybe that's why Nissan chose to introduce its new compact pickup in Nashville last summer. If you want to impress me, just serve dinner on the stage of the Grand Ole Oprey and host a live country music show. Objectivity is sacred, of course, that other stuff is just fun. I swear.
What Nissan revealed in Nashville was a small pickup we predict will find a very receptive market. The two most asked questions at the introduction were: 'Why no V6?' and 'What's not to like?' To Nissan's credit, there wasn't an answer to the second question. As for the first question, a V6 is planned for next year; the V6 wasn't ready for the 1998 model and, rather than wait another year for the new pickup, the company decided to launch the new pickup this year and add the V6 as soon as it's ready. Besides, Nissan said, most buyers of compact two-wheel-drive pickups opt for four-cylinder engines anyway.
In the past, Nissan didn't name its pickups--though they were often referred to as Hardbodies--but Nissan gave its new truck a name: Frontier.
Nissan has completely re-engineered the Frontier. It's more than six inches longer and a half-inch wider than last year's model. Overall, the new Frontier looks rugged, though it doesn't have any singular design elements that stand out such as the Dodge Ram's aggressive fenders. Its flowing body lines are designed to impart a feeling of substance, strength and originality. The front is designed to look thick and brawny, while the tail lights and rear bumper are designed to look aggressive. Fender flares are standard on all SE and 4x4 models.
Seven models are available, Standard regular cab 4x2, XE, XE King Cab, SE King Cab, XE 4x4 regular cab, XE 4x4 King Cab, and SE 4x4 King Cab.
That's a lot of choices, so we've focused on a popular model: the SE 4x2 King Cab. More than 80 percent of all compact truck buyers opt for two-wheel-drive models, according to Nissan. Unless the truck is strictly all work and no play, an extended cab adds a great deal of convenience and versatility.
Granted, hauling a lot of passengers is not the King Cab's forte. The jump seats that are mounted on the sides of the cab facing each other are really suitable only for children. But flip those jump seats up, and a cavernous space is revealed that's useful for stowing stuff and carrying items that would need to be tied down in the bed.
The Frontier's bed is the largest and deepest in its class and features double wall construction so dents and dings in the bed won't show up on the exterior. Inner tie-down hooks are standard. Grooves cut into the walls of the pickup bed are designed to support pieces of plywood that can be arranged to form partitions for small items. A sheet of plywood can then be laid horizontally to cover the compartments. This feature should be particularly popular among owners who use their trucks for work.
The SE trim line comes with a sliding rear tinted window, fender flares, cruise control, and a tilt steering wheel.
Nissan's 2.4-liter, double overhead-cam, 4-cylinder engine is rated at 143 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 154 lb.-ft. of torque at 4000 rpm. A 3.3-liter V6 will be along later. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard, a four-speed automatic is optional. The automatic has been refined to reduce harsh shifting and gear hunting on steep grades. The towing capacity is 3,500 pounds with the manual transmission, 2,000 pounds with the automatic. Standard payload is 1,400 pounds.
The front suspension is a double wishbone design with torsion bars and a stabilizer bar. The rear suspension is a traditional truck rigid axle with leaf springs. There are disc brakes in front, drums at the rear. A two-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS) is standard.
The operative theme in truck interiors these days is 'car like,' which means if you don't look in the rear view and see the truck bed out back, you won't know you're in a pickup. After years of Spartan efficiency, truck interiors now have softer edges, better upholstery, thoughtful ergonomics and (gasp) comfort. Nissan's Frontier has it all.
Frontier SE comes standard with bucket seats and a center console with cup holders. Other niceties in the SE package are dual overhead map lights, driver vanity mirror, front door map pockets, cruise control, premium carpeting and variable speed wipers. A flip-up glass sunroof comes with a sunshade. A power package, standard on the SE, includes power windows and door locks with keyless entry and dual outside power mirrors. There is a shut-off switch on the console for the passenger air bag.
If you want to go for bragging rights with your truckin' buddies, you can add fog lights, Frontier logo floor mats, rubber bed mat, convenience net, tailgate net, 3- or 6-disc CD changer, chrome rear bumper and receiver tow hitch with hitch ball and lighting harness. Also available are a cellular phone docking station, engine heater, battery warmer, splash guards and the ever-popular chrome exhaust tips. The Frontier can be anything you want it to be.
We drove the Frontier over a wide variety of terrain in the Nashville area and down a good cross-section of roads. We took smooth Interstates and lumpy, twisty backcountry roads through towns with names like Tullahoma and Wartrace. We think Frontier owners will be very pleased using them as daily drivers. The Frontier doesn't really do any one thing spectacularly well, but it does almost everything very well.
Visibility is quite good, although the thick B-pillars present some blind spots. The ride is not truck-like, which we appreciated. Wind noise and road noise are minimal, impressive given the big P235R15 tires. After a full day of driving, we were none the worse for wear. This is a truck that is suitable for long-distance driving.
The power-assisted recirculating ball steering provides the right amount of road feel. Although the rear suspension design is nothing new, there was no tendency for the tail to move around over the rough bits--a problem with pickup trucks and leaf-spring suspensions. The brakes also worked well.
When we comment on air conditioners, it's usually because they're not up to par, but Nissan deserves credit for giving the Frontier a unit that can frost your Ray Bans. It was nearly 100 degrees and felt like 100 percent humidity in Nashville and we left our Frontier baking in the sun for quite some time, but we still had to turn the air conditioning down after just a few minutes.
The only flaw in this otherwise delightful picture is the engine. Despite its relatively large displacement (2.4 liters) and sophisticated technology, it doesn't make much horsepower and torque. Nissan points out that it is the most powerful four-cylinder engine in the segment. But it feels slow off the line at full throttle, and easily looses momentum on grades. Passing on two-lanes was a decision not lightly made. And the engine is noisy. But we've been spoiled by the proliferation of V6 engines and Nissan's 3.3-liter V6 will make a big difference.
The compact truck market is ultra competitive. The Frontier will be dueling with formidable opponents that include the Toyota Tacoma, Mazda B2500, Isuzu Hombre, Ford Ranger, Dodge Dakota and Chevy S10. But the Nissan Frontier is well suited for the fight with good looks, a good ride, a generous set of standard features and enough options to suit serious trucksters.
The only flaw is the lack of performance from the 4-cylinder engine. But one driver's insufficiency is another's just right. We look forward to trying this terrific truck with V6 power. When we do, we'll have to tune in to some serious country music.
SE King Cab 4x2.
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