2005 Nissan Frontier Review
Edmunds' Expert Review
- Class-leading V6 engine, larger size for improved passenger and cargo room, innovative bed features, advanced off-road systems.
- Fewer model options than competitors, average interior materials.
The Frontier is all new for 2005. Changes include a new and more powerful V6, two new transmissions, advanced off-road systems and a larger size for better passenger comfort.
Thanks to its Titan underpinnings and powerful V6, the new Frontier is right up there with the compact pickup class leaders in terms of performance, comfort and utility.
Nissan has been building trucks for the U.S. market since 1958. Now in its eighth generation of pickup offerings, the company's 2005 Frontier is the first all-new model since the pickup's last major redesign in 1998. Bigger, more powerful and bulging with muscular new lines, the 2005 Frontier now sports the big-truck swagger of the Titan full-size. Its grille is nearly identical to the bigger truck, while its exaggerated fender flares give it even more curves at each corner. The Frontier shares a number of significant features with the Titan, including an innovative spray-in bedliner, Utili-track bed channel tie-down system and fully boxed, all-steel frame. The new Frontier's wheelbase is nearly 10 inches longer than the old Frontier's for improved ride comfort and stability. The 2005 Frontier shares its suspension layout and many component designs with the Titan, including a double-wishbone front suspension and leaf spring rear suspension. The Frontier Crew Cab is identical in length to the extended-cab (King Cab) version, but a larger rear-seating area and forward-hinged rear doors make it a more flexible vehicle for family use -- at the expense of some bed space. The bed measures just under 58.6 inches in length and 61.4 inches in width -- gains of a couple of inches in either direction compared to the standard-bed version of the old crew cab. Interior storage space is also an important consideration when you're buying a pickup, and both the King and Crew Cab feature reconfigurable rear seats. Note that the new Frontier is not available in a regular-cab version. In a sign that Nissan is serious about dominating the compact truck market, the Frontier's top engine is a 4.0-liter V6 with 265 horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque. With that kind of power onboard, the Frontier boasts a maximum tow rating of over 5,500 pounds, according to Nissan. A 2.5-liter DOHC inline four-cylinder engine is standard on the base Frontier King Cab model. Inside the cabs, ergonomics and materials quality are much improved over the '04 Frontier. Also offered are supplemental front-seat side-impact airbags and available supplemental curtain airbags for side-impact and rollover protection for front and rear outboard passengers. With a tough new look, innovative features and big horsepower under the hood, the new Frontier should provide serious competition for the new trucks from Dodge and Toyota. This is good news for compact pickup buyers, who now have plenty of worthy candidates to test-drive when it comes time to shop.
Performance & mpg
A 2.5-liter DOHC inline four-cylinder engine is standard on the base Frontier King Cab model. A 4.0-liter V6, which produces a stout 265 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque, is standard in all other models. The V6 design includes Continuous Valve Timing Control (C-VTC) and Nissan variable Induction Control System (NICS). Transmission choices include a standard six-speed manual gearbox and an optional five-speed automatic. Frontier 4x4 models include a shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system with 2Hi/4Hi/4Lo modes operated by an electronically controlled, part-time transfer case.
Four-wheel disc antilock brakes are standard on all Frontiers. Optional are front-seat side-impact airbags and curtain airbags that provide side-impact and rollover protection for front and rear outboard passengers. The Frontier has not yet been crash tested.
The newfound power of the V6 Frontier is a far cry from the wheezy engines of last year's model. Step on the throttle in this truck and you get instant results, thanks to plenty of low-end torque and well-tuned transmissions. Ride and handling is improved as well; although, it's still a bit bouncy as you might expect from a compact truck. Advanced off-road systems like downhill assist control and hill start assist make off-road models capable performers in the rough stuff.
The Frontier's cabin offers straightforward controls, comfortable front seats and an attractive design. The larger overall size results in much improved passenger room, but the overall materials quality is still average. Like the Titan, the Frontier offers a utility bed package that includes a factory-applied spray-in bedliner and the Utili-track tie-down system. The Utili-track system provides 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, providing 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.
2005 Nissan Frontier models
The Frontier comes in two body styles -- extended cab (known as King Cab) and crew cab. Available trim levels include the base S model and uplevel SE. The base S comes with only basic amenities, along with front bucket seats and folding rear jump seats. The SE adds more features, including air conditioning; a CD stereo; power windows, locks and mirrors; alloy wheels; and cruise control. Leather upholstery and a 300-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo are optional. Compared to the King Cab, the Crew Cab has a larger cabin with expanded rear-seat accommodations as well as a pair of conventional rear doors that offer easier access to those seats.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
- Side Impact TestNot Tested
- Roof Strength TestNot Tested
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintNot Tested
- IIHS Small Overlap Front TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front TestGood
More About This Model
When Nissan decided to redesign its Frontier pickup, it scrapped the tired, old platform and started fresh. The 2005 Nissan Frontier doesn't have a single part carried over from 2004. Smart move since new midsize pickups from Dodge and Toyota have recently raised the bar. Another smart move was turning to its award-winning, new-for-2004 full-size Nissan Titan, for inspiration and hardware.
Nissan had already spent millions developing the F-Alpha chassis for its big truck, so it shortened and narrowed the Titan's frame rails to create the foundation for the new, larger Nissan Frontier. Utilizing a modified boxed-steel full-size frame in a midsize truck has never been done before, and the result is one of the most robust platforms ever offered.
To answer complaints about the previous Frontier's lack of power, Nissan started with the 3.5-liter V6 from the 350Z sports car and redesigned it for maximized bottom-end power. Displacement was increased to 4.0 liters, and a new continuously variable valve timing control system was designed. Output is a class-leading 265 horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque, enough for a 6,500-pound tow rating.
Buyers can choose between an electronically controlled five-speed automatic and a close-ratio six-speed manual, which is a modified version of the Nissan 350Z transmission.
For off-road aficionados, all of the underbody gear, like the gas tank, has been tucked up above the bottom of the frame rails for maximum ground clearance, which has been increased to 10.1 inches on four-wheel-drive models. Front and rear overhangs have also been shortened to provide best-in-class ramp angles.
Optional features include an electronic locking rear differential; four-wheel traction control; Hill Descent Control, which keeps the vehicle from gaining speed down steep hills; and even Hill-Start Assist Control, which prevents the Frontier from rolling back when starting up a hill.
Although the highway ride is a bit choppy, the new double-wishbone front suspension really improves high-speed stability. This truck feels as solid at 90 mph as it does at 60 mph. We also like the crisp feel of the speed-sensitive power rack and pinion steering, and the appropriately throaty exhaust bellow. And off-road, the Nissan Frontier climbed over obstacles that took our breath away.
If you dream of driving in the Baja 1000, order the optional off-road package developed by Nissan's racing division, NISMO. It adds larger 16-inch alloy wheels, 265/75R16 BFGoodrich tires, Bilstein performance shock absorbers, the previously mentioned locking rear differential as well as skid plates on the oil pan, fuel tank and transfer case.
Two body styles will be offered, a Frontier King Cab with flip-up rear jump seats and rear-opening back doors, and a larger Frontier Crew Cab with four full-size doors and a spacious rear bench. Storage space is plentiful. The rear seats on both models flip out of the way, the front-passenger seat can fold flat and a large storage tray is tucked under the rear seats.
Cupholders and other little nooks and crannies abound, and the glovebox is split into two separate sections. A rugged spray-in bed liner is available, four tie-down hooks are standard and Nissan's outstanding Utili-trak locking tie-down system pioneered on the Titan is optional.
Four trim packages will be offered. Nissan says prices won't change significantly from 2004, which means somewhere in the low- to mid-$20Ks should buy you a nice truck.
A low-cost XE trim level is only available on King Cab models and comes standard with a 154-hp, 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine; body-color grille; and blacked-out bumpers. The Nissan Frontier SE is traditionally the big seller, however. It'll add the V6, an AM/FM/CD stereo and chrome exterior trim.
Stepping up to the Nissan Frontier LE adds foglamps, cruise control, keyless entry, power-adjustable driver seat, power windows and door locks, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, compass and trip computer and an overhead console. The aforementioned NISMO package includes everything an LE gets, plus a full array of off-road gear and a first aid kit.
We wrangled some time in a NISMO four-wheel-drive King Cab on the cracked asphalt highways and off-road trails of Central Texas, and found it to be fun, comfortable and confidence inspiring. The V6 is smooth, quiet and linear as it is in the 350Z, and has plenty of punch. This is a fast truck.
Only NBA-size giants would call the new, larger interior cramped, and we love the deeply padded and softly upholstered bucket seats. The large, comfortably padded steering wheel is packed with thumb-operated controls, and secondary controls like the turn signal, wipers and cruise control are well within reach.
Our only complaint with the Nissan Frontier is that every interior panel is made of rock-hard plastic. The fit and finish is stellar, and everything looks nicely sculpted, but the complete lack of soft-touch material is noticeable.
But let's face it: These are minor hang-ups in a truck that's as tough as Texas, especially one that turned the roughest Texas territory into a joyride. If you've got truck shopping to do this season, you'll have a lot of choices, but the 2005 Nissan Frontier belongs on your short list.
Used 2005 Nissan Frontier Overview
The Used 2005 Nissan Frontier is offered in the following submodels: Frontier Crew Cab, Frontier King Cab. Available styles include 4dr Crew Cab SE Rwd SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), 4dr Crew Cab SE 4WD SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), 4dr King Cab XE Rwd SB (2.5L 4cyl 5A), 4dr King Cab SE Rwd SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), 4dr Crew Cab Nismo 4WD SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), 4dr King Cab Nismo Rwd SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), 4dr King Cab SE 4WD SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), 4dr King Cab LE 4WD SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), 4dr King Cab LE Rwd SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), 4dr King Cab Nismo 4WD SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), 4dr Crew Cab Nismo Rwd SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), 4dr Crew Cab LE 4WD SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), 4dr Crew Cab LE Rwd SB (4.0L 6cyl 5A), 4dr King Cab XE Rwd SB (2.5L 4cyl 5M), 4dr King Cab SE Rwd SB (4.0L 6cyl 6M), 4dr Crew Cab SE Rwd SB (4.0L 6cyl 6M), 4dr King Cab Nismo 4WD SB (4.0L 6cyl 6M), 4dr Crew Cab SE 4WD SB (4.0L 6cyl 6M), and 4dr King Cab SE 4WD SB (4.0L 6cyl 6M). Pre-owned Nissan Frontier models are available with a 4.0 L-liter gas engine or a 2.5 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 265 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2005 Nissan Frontier comes with rear wheel drive, and four wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed automatic. The Used 2005 Nissan Frontier comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.
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Should I lease or buy a 2005 Nissan Frontier?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.