The midsize pickup segment was effectively in stasis for about a decade, with its handful of trucks coasting along year after year with only minimal updates. Even if a particular truck grew stale, so did its competitors. That changed when General Motors completely redesigned its midsize trucks in 2015 and Toyota followed suit for 2016. As a result, Nissan is at a distinct disadvantage with its unaltered 2017 Frontier.
Its age is especially evident inside the Frontier. Controls are antiquated, materials lackluster and cabin noise levels excessive. Together these characteristics give a bare-bones look and feel that those competing models have risen above. Still its ride quality is surprisingly good, and in Pro-4X trim, it performs off-road with confidence. And it gets all of the practical details right, such as cargo tie-downs, a spray-in bedliner and a sliding bed extender. If you're just looking for these basics, the Frontier still holds its own in this class.
In our opinion, the 2017 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X is the truck to get. Sure, the four-cylinder gets slightly better fuel economy. It is also true that the less aggressive tuning and tires of other trims ride smoother, are quieter and are generally more pavement-friendly. But the Pro-4X benefits from that torquey V6, which makes us happy. And of all trims, its off-road worthiness makes it the most competitive against its peers, which were all recently redesigned. And you still get the utility of a truck, with features such as a spray-in liner and bed extender plus a maximum tow capacity of 6,290 pounds.
trim levels & features
The 2017 Nissan Frontier is a midsize truck offered in numerous configurations, depending upon your preference. It offers an extended-cab (King) or crew-cab body style and 5-foot or 6.1-foot bed length. The engine options are a 2.5-liter four-cylinder (152 horsepower, 171 pound-feet of torque) or a 4.0-liter six-cylinder (261-hp, 281 lb-ft), and both can be hooked up to either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. There are five trim levels: S is the base model; the SV, with an upgraded interior; the Desert Runner, which adds off-road-oriented features but with two-wheel drive; the four-wheel-drive-only Pro-4X; and the top-tier SL, which is the best-optioned overall.
Your first step into the Frontier is in base S trim, with two-wheel drive, extended cab, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission. It has 15-inch steel wheels, rear privacy glass and four-way manual-adjusting cloth bucket seats up front. Select the automatic transmission to get air-conditioning, cruise control, steering-wheel audio controls, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. These items can be added to the manual version via the S Preferred package. Meanwhile, crew cabs with the S trim add the V6 engine, 16-inch steel wheels, a sliding rear window and a six-speaker audio system as standard.
In SV form, you get the above (though the V6 engine is optional for SV extended-cab models), along with 16-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, power windows, locks and mirrors, a tilt-only steering wheel, upgraded cloth upholstery, a sliding rear window, a 5-inch NissanConnect touchscreen interface with Bluetooth audio connectivity and smartphone-integrated apps, a USB port, a media player interface, satellite radio and an additional 12-volt power outlet. Options include a sunroof on the crew cab, and for the V6-powered SV, a Value Truck package that adds foglights, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, a sliding bed extender, a spray-in bedliner, adjustable cargo tie-downs, a Class IV trailer hitch, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and two extra speakers on extended cabs.
The Desert Runner is a two-wheel-drive V6 only, in either cab configuration, and it builds on the base SV equipment list. It adds special styling details, foglights, high-performance shock absorbers, off-road tires and an eight-way manually adjustable driver seat. The SV Value package equipment isn't available with this trim.
For serious off-roaders, there is the four-wheel-drive-only Pro-4X. This trim features knobby off-road tires, specially tuned shocks, a locking rear differential, skid plates, automatic headlights, a 5.8-inch NissanConnect touchscreen with navigation, satellite radio and voice controls, the eight-way-adjustable driver seat, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a first aid kit. It includes everything in the SV Value Truck package except the trailer hitch and bed extender, which are optional. Crew cabs also get a 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system. The Pro-4X Luxury package, only available on automatic-equipped crew cabs, adds a sunroof, a roof rack with crossbars, heated mirrors, leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats and a rear-seat center armrest.
The top-level SL is only available as a crew cab with the automatic transmission. It loses the Pro-4X's off-road-oriented equipment but retains most of the items in the Pro-4X Luxury package, including a sunroof for long-bed SLs (the sunroof is a stand-alone option for short-bed SLs). Additional standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels and side steps that ease access to the cab. The trailer hitch and bed extender remain optional on the Frontier SL.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.