Full 2008 Nissan Frontier Review
What's New for 2008
A slew of option packages and new equipment debuts for the 2008 Nissan Frontier. Most notable is the Technology Package, which includes an upgraded sound system, an auxiliary audio jack, Bluetooth, satellite radio and a security system.
Sometimes you don't need the maximum. Whether it's ordering a Triple Whopper with Cheese or going quail hunting with a full-auto 12 gauge, sometimes the biggest choice is overkill. Along those lines, not everyone who needs a pickup truck needs a titanic full-size model. Something more maneuverable and fuel-efficient with less hauling and towing capacity is more appropriate. The 2008 Nissan Frontier is one of the top choices in the compact pickup class, although with a maximum length of 18 feet, compact isn't exactly the most apt term anymore.
Like most trucks, the Frontier is available in a variety of different body styles and trim packages designed to give its diverse group of buyers an almost endless supply of choices. Whether you're a contractor in need of a work truck or a suburban-bound family man, there's a Frontier for you. The most basic model difference involves the King Cab (an extended cab with rear-hinged access doors) and the Crew Cab, which better tackles passenger-hauling duties. To compensate for the Crew Cab chewing into bed length, Nissan offers the King Cab's 6-foot bed as an option to maintain the truck's hauling abilities. Plus, Nissan offers a unique bed feature known as Utili-track for securing cargo.
With abundant power, smart features and a rugged disposition, the V6-equipped Nissan Frontier places at the top of its class. There are some downsides, though. Interior materials could be better and optional packages are often grouped together, raising the price precipitously. You'll want to check out the Frontier's chief rival, the Toyota Tacoma, during your shopping process, though we've found that Nissan's small pickup provides a more forgiving drive on pavement and a more functional interior. If buying a full-size pickup seems like overkill to you, the 2008 Nissan Frontier is the best not-so-compact alternative.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Nissan Frontier is a compact-class pickup truck available in two body styles: extended cab (known as a King Cab) and a crew cab. The King Cab is available in XE, SE, LE and Nismo trim packages, while the Crew Cab comes in all but base XE. King Cabs come with a 6-foot bed. Crew Cabs have a standard 5-foot bed, but a 6-foot bed is also available on SE and LE models.
The XE is bare bones with only a few features that include 15-inch steel wheels, front bucket seats and cloth upholstery, while the XE Preferred Package adds a CD stereo system and air-conditioning. The SE adds 16-inch steel wheels, a sliding rear window, air-conditioning and a four-speaker CD audio system. Bunched into a pair of packages (one for four-cylinder models, the other for V6 models), the SE's options include 16-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, cruise control, two- or four-wheel limited slip differential, a bed extender and keyless entry.
The Nismo and LE trim levels include most of the SE's optional equipment. Both add foglights, Utili-track bed channel system, factory spray-on bedliner and leather-wrapped steering wheel. The LE differs by having 17-inch wheels, side step rails and eight-way power driver seat, while the Nismo sets itself apart with an electronic locking rear differential, Bilstein off-road shock absorbers, special tires and skid plates. The LE/Nismo Traction Package adds stability control, hill-start assist, hill-descent control and a four-wheel limited slip differential (standard on Nismo).
The Technology Package (available on the Frontier LE and Nismo) includes Bluetooth, steering-wheel audio controls, an auxiliary audio jack, satellite radio, an in-dash six-CD/MP3 changer, and with the Crew Cab, a Rockford Fosgate 10-speaker sound system with a subwoofer. On LE Crew Cab models, the Technology Package must be ordered with the Leather Package (leather upholstery, power passenger seat and heated front seats) and a package that includes a sunroof and additional airbags. The sunroof and airbags are split into separate packages on the Nismo, but the sunroof still must be ordered with the Technology Package. The options packages are more easily ordered separately with the King Cab.
Powertrains and Performance
The Frontier XE and SE come standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 152 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual is standard with that engine, while a five-speed automatic is optional on the SE. Optional on the SE and standard on the LE and Nismo models is a 4.0-liter V6 that makes 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic is standard on the LE and Nismo trim levels. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the SE V6 and optional on the Nismo.
V6-powered Frontiers can be had with two- or four-wheel drive, while four-cylinder models are rear-wheel drive only. Properly equipped, a V6 Frontier can tow up to 6,500 pounds. Fuel economy estimates for the six-cylinder 2008 Frontier with an automatic and 2WD are 15 mpg city and 20 mpg highway.
Antilock disc brakes are standard on all 2008 Nissan Frontier models. Optional on all models are front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Additionally, Frontier LE and Nismo buyers can opt for the Traction Package, which provides stability control, hill-start assist and hill-descent control.
In government crash testing, the Frontier earned four out of five stars for driver and front passenger protection in frontal impacts. In side-impact crash tests, it received a perfect five stars for both front and rear-seat occupants. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety frontal-offset crash tests resulted in a "Good" rating (the highest possible) for occupant protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
Slide into the 2008 Nissan Frontier King Cab and you'll find fold-up jump seats and reverse-opening doors. The crew cab has a larger cabin with fully usable rear-seat accommodations (that also fold up) and conventional rear doors that offer easier access to those seats. The roomy cabins offer straightforward controls, comfortable front seats and an attractive design, though excessive use of hard plastic detracts from the overall look.
The Frontier's utility bed package includes a factory-applied spray-on bedliner and the "Utili-track" tie-down system. The tie-down system provides extra cargo-hauling flexibility through the use of five special "C" cross-section rails mounted in the bed (two channels in the bed floor, and one each on the bed side rails and the bed header panel). Removable utility cleats slide into the channels to provide a wide range of attachment points for securing cargo. In addition to the tie-down cleats, a full range of accessories are offered for use with the channel system, including bed dividers, sliding cargo trays, modular storage units and bike racks.
As you'd expect, acceleration is no more than adequate in the XE and base SE model, making it a decent choice only for those who need a low-cost, light-duty work truck. It's quite a different story with the V6-equipped Frontier, however. Step on the throttle and the 4.0-liter V6 comes through with plenty of low-end torque, and the automatic transmission delivers perfectly timed shifts whether you're maneuvering in traffic or flinging the truck around in the sand. Ride quality on pavement is surprisingly good for a compact/midsize pickup truck, and the steering is tight and communicative. All Nissan Frontier 4x4s are capable off-road, thanks to a maximum 10.1 inches of ground clearance and plenty of suspension travel, although the more specialized Nismo model is the best choice for off-roaders.