Nissan has been selling trucks in this country for more than 40 years. In 1998, they decided to redesign the pickup and for the first time ever, gave it a name: the Frontier. Today, Frontiers range from the entry-level, two-wheel-drive XE Regular Cab to the top-of-the-line, four-wheel-drive Crew Cab SE V6. There are 11 Frontier models available for 2000, including the new Desert Runner King Cab and Frontier Crew Cab.
The Desert Runner is a two-wheel-drive V6 King Cab pickup truck, and Nissan expects to sell it to "style-conscious buyers who do occasional off-roading." Built on the four-wheel-drive Frontier chassis, the Desert Runner offers the same rigidity, ride height, ground clearance and rugged looks as the 4WD pickups, but at a lesser price. Available in XE or SE trim levels, the Desert Runner comes equipped with a full-size spare tire, extended passenger compartment with dual jump seats, large fender flares with mud guards and special badging. Weighing 500 pounds less than the 4WD pickup and powered by Nissan's 170-horsepower, 3.3-liter V6 engine, the Desert Runner makes 200 foot-pounds of torque at 1,500 rpm. The truck can be had with a five-speed manual transmission, which can tow 3,500 pounds, or a four-speed automatic transmission, which can tow 5,000 pounds.
For 2000, Nissan Crew Cab buyers will be among the first in the U.S. to own a pickup with four full-sized, forward-hinged doors. The four-door configuration allows five passengers to climb aboard easily. The Crew Cab's bed is about 18 inches shorter than the standard Frontier, but an optional bed extender is available. Built on the same chassis as the Desert Runner, the Crew Cab is also powered by the 3.3-liter V6 and comes as a two- or four-wheel-drive model. The 4WD Crew Cab features automatic locking hubs, a shift-on-the-fly feature and an optional limited-slip differential. Standard equipment includes ABS, air conditioning, rear privacy glass, AM/FM/cassette stereo and heavy-duty skid plates. A tubular-style roof rack that can be fitted to carry skis, mountain bikes, kayaks or luggage is optional.
Other Frontiers are available in a multitude of configurations: Regular Cab or Extended King Cab in basic XE or uplevel SE trim powered by either a 143-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline four or the aforementioned 3.3-liter V6 (the latter available in King Cab only). A five-speed manual and four-speed automatic are the transmission choices, and all Frontiers (except Desert Runner) can be selected with two- or four-wheel drive. Four-wheel-drive systems are of the shift-on-the-fly variety on V6 Frontiers, allowing the driver to select it at speeds up to 50 mph.
Inside, the Frontier has a user-friendly, if somewhat dated-looking, control layout. Seats are reasonably comfortable for front passengers, but only children or pets will want to ride in the rear section of the King Cab. Surprisingly, Nissan has not seen fit to offer a third or fourth door on the King Cab, and making use of the rear quarters a pain in the butt, at best.
With a relatively tame on-road ride, credible off-road credentials and the deepest cargo bed in the class, the 2000 Frontier promises comfort, utility and a model to suit nearly any pickup buyer's needs. And now, you can use all four doors to crawl inside.