When the new Nissan Frontier truck makes its debut this fall as a 1998 model, it opens the latest chapter in a history that started almost 40 years ago with the introduction of the first compact pickup in North America. Along the way, Nissan (and Datsun) badged trucks have launched numerous innovations - including the first half-ton capacity, first long bed and first extended cab design.
With the 1998 Frontier, Nissan's seventh generation truck and the third generation built in North America, Nissan resumes its leadership position with class-leading towing and bed capacity, as well as class-leading horsepower on the 4x2. In addition, the longer, wider Frontier features refinements in all areas of Nissan's legendary truck ruggedness, durability, reliability, comfort and safety.
"The new Frontier's powerful engine and rugged suspension are packaged with a modern exterior and spacious, car-like interior. We're confident that the Frontier will be a home run, just like the historic models that it follows," said Tom Eastwood, vice president, Nissan Division. "Our customers tell us that they're task-oriented people and derive the most pleasure from their trucks when they're using them. In other words, there's a lot to be done in life and the Frontier is designed - more than ever - to help them get it done."
For 1998, the Frontier is available in 2-wheel and 4-wheel drive, Regular and King Cab body styles and three trim levels - fully-equipped Standard (4x2 Regular Cab only), volume-leading XE and sporty SE.
Nissan's long-standing reputation for rugged and dependable trucks had a definite influence on the design of the new Frontier - both under the skin and the exterior itself.
Starting with a traditional full ladder frame, the designers enhanced rigidity through measures such as adding a plate to close the rear cross section of the frame, adopting an integrated second cross member to reduce floor vibration, changing the shape of the steering member and bracket, improving steering column rigidity and increasing the thickness of the cab's back panel reinforcement and insulator panel by 20 percent.
The body itself is 0.5 inch wider and substantially longer than the previous generation - plus 9.7 inches for the Regular Cab and 6.1 inches longer for the King Cab. The Frontier's styling emphasizes solid and dynamic flowing body lines to impact a feeling of substance, strength and originality - rugged but refined, like polished granite.
The look of the brawny front area flows into taut body sides with a thick appearance, providing a smooth, attractive front-to-rear reflection. The aggressive rear combination lamps and forceful rear bumper add a high quality feel. New badging with the Frontier name - the first to officially appear on a Nissan truck - is placed on the side doors (just below the mirrors) and on the tailgate. Fender flares are standard on the 4x2 SE and all 4x4 models (optional on 4x2 Standard and XE).
The Frontier's bed is the largest and deepest in class (17.1 inches) and features double wall construction so dents and dings in the bed won't show up on the exterior. The bed also offers a one-hand tailgate operation and an innovative flexible loading system.
Along with two-tier loading (the bed can be separated into upper and lower parts by horizontally laying a partition board), the bed can be divided into front, middle and rear compartments by vertically laying partition boards into the special holder slots. Inner tie-down hooks are also standard. Every Frontier carries a 1,400-pound payload.
The new Frontier's interior was designed to be more car-like in the areas of comfort, convenience and safety - without compromising the utility and functionality that attracts buyers to the truck category in the first place. As a result, the latest generation Nissan truck is the quietest and most useful ever.
Ergonomics have been improved by locating the audio, HVAC and other switches closer to the driver, while the instrument panel features large, easy-to-read gauges. Dual air bags with a passenger side cut-off switch enhance occupant safety.
Through use of formed door trim with large utility pockets and by moving the automatic shifter lever to a steering column mounting, the interior feels more spacious and refined. The car-like cabin, nestled within Frontier's rugged shape, is full of standard amenities ranging from cup holders and adjustable seat belt shoulder rings to coin holders and an LCD odometer with dual trip meters.
Special attention was paid to reducing the intrusion of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) into the cabin. Along with efforts to reduce mechanical noise, extra backing material has been added to the carpeting and there is more extensive use of sound absorbing and deadening material on the cabin floor.
Seating comfort has been enhanced through the adoption of low fatigue front seats on the XE and SE trim levels. By continuously supporting the occupants from the lower pelvic region to the upper lumbar area, good seating posture is maintained and the seats fit the occupants better. The seats feature a special seat frame design and optimum back spring positioning - helping reduce driver fatigue, especially over long drives.
Seating is offered in vinyl (Standard), woven cloth, velour or "sport woven" in a selection of bench and bucket seats - all with adjustable headrests. Side mounted and side facing rear jump seats are standard on all King Cab models.
Available interior comfort and convenience features range from power windows and door locks to advanced audio systems with compact disc player.
Driveline, Suspension, Steering and Braking
In creating the advanced drivetrain for the new Nissan Frontier, Nissan engineers concentrated on satisfying the "do-it-yourself" aspect of compact pickup owners - giving it class-leading towing capacity, the most powerful 4-cylinder engine in class (4x2) and a suspension that's as comfortable around town as it is rugged when the pavement stops.
The improved, standard 2.4-liter 16-valve DOHC 4-cylinder produces 143 horsepower and 154 ft-lbs of torque, with torque designed to be available where it's needed most in truck applications - at low-to-middle rpm.
Refinements to the engine over the previous generation Nissan truck powerplant include revised valve timing, air intake ducting and resonator tuning. Engine friction has been reduced through use of lighter pistons, thinner piston rings and the utilization of a single (vs. double) timing chain. The compression ratio has been raised to 9.2:1 (from 8.6:1). Benefits of these changes range from more responsive feeling acceleration to reduced emissions. Noise and vibrations levels are also lower due to the lighter pistons and a low-noise camshaft profile.
A smooth-shifting 5-speed manual transmission is standard on all models, while an electronically controlled 4-speed automatic with overdrive is optionally available on 4x2 XE and SE models. The automatic has been refined to reduce harsh shift shock and gear hunting up steep grades.
All 4-wheel drive models come equipped with a standard 2-speed transfer case. The SE King Cab model includes automatic locking hubs, which allow the driver to roll into 4WD (at speed of up to 50 mph) without stopping or exiting the vehicle.
Fuel economy is rated at an EPA-estimated 22/26 mpg City/Highway for the 5-speed manual 4x2 and 20/24 mpg City/Highway for the 4-speed automatic equipped 4x2. Mileage estimate for the 4x4 model is 18/21 mpg City/Highway with the 5-speed manual.
The Frontier is the first Nissan truck to meet California's stringent low emission vehicle (LEV) requirements.
The Frontier's front suspension offers crisp handling, a more car-like ride through the use of softer tuning of springs and shocks and the best ride quality a Nissan truck has ever offered. Its smooth, composed, solid road feel comes from a combination of an independent double wishbone with torsion bars front suspension with standard stabilizer bar and solid axle with multi-leaf spring suspension at the rear.
Steering is recirculating ball type with standard power-assist on all models except Standard 4x2. Also standard are power-assisted front vented disc/rear drum brakes with standard rear anti-lock braking system (ABS) - upgraded to be quieter and lighter with reduced pedal kickback. The system pumps up to 18 times per second to help prevent wheel lockup and maintain steering control while braking.
Frontier 4x4 models use an advanced 3-channel/4-sensor 4-wheel anti-lock braking system with a special G-sensor that "reads" the road surface and adjusts braking control accordingly - overcoming the "skimming" effect caused by loose traction surfaces such as dust, gravel and sand.
Available wheels include aluminum alloy and full-faced styled steel. Standard tires include 215/65R15 all-season radials on 4x2 XE and SE models, while all 4x4 models come with 235/70R15 steel-belted radials.
Along with having the most powerful engine in its class (4x2), every Frontier features a best-in-class standard towing capacity of 3,500 pounds with the manual transmission. Automatic-equipped Frontiers have a towing rating of 2,000 pounds.
Safety and Security
Every Frontier comes with a long list of standard safety features, including driver and passenger side front air bags with a key-type shut-off switch for the passenger side.
The 1998 Frontier is also designed with hood buckling creases, front crumple zone, pipe-style side-door guard beams, energy-absorbing steering column and 3-point ALR/ELR seat belt system (front passenger only).
The 1998 Frontier will be the third generation Nissan truck manufactured at Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corporation U.S.A. (NMMC) in Smyrna, Tenn. NMMC represents an investment of over $1.4 billion and employs 6,000 people.
Members of NMMC staff have been involved in the creation of the new Frontier since the project began, helping institute such manufacturing enhancements such as a ten percent reduction in body parts for improved accuracy and an increase in the welding automation ratio to over 95 percent.
Frontier production also incorporates an advanced 39-step paint process that enhances durability and creates a lustrous, protective finish.
Like its predecessor, the Frontier will be offered in 2-wheel and 4-wheel drive configurations and in Regular and extended King Cab bodies. Three trim levels are also offered, bringing the number of available models to seven. In addition, a variety of equipment packages and optional equipment is available to help consumers "customize" their vehicle to meet their exact usage and comfort needs.
In its most basic form, the 4x2 Standard model starts with the 2.4-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual transmission, power-assisted front disc/rear drum brakes with rear ABS, styled steel wheels, tinted glass, double-wall bed with single handle operation and inner tie-down hooks, dual air bags and more.
The 4x2 is also available in XE Regular Cab and King Cab, as well as a SE King Cab. The XE trim adds such features as power-assisted steering, 15-inch alloy wheels, dual outside mirrors, chrome grille and bumpers, CFC-free air conditioning, digital clock in the radio, full carpeting and an optional 4-speed automatic transmission. Fold-down rear jump seats are offered on the King Cab in both trim levels.
The 4x2 SE trim level adds fender flares, a flip-up glass sunroof with sunshade, cloth bucket seats, center console with storage and cup holders, cruise control and tilt steering, tachometer, sliding rear window, privacy glass and body side graphics.
Frontier 4x4 models are available in XE Regular Cab and King Cab and SE King Cab, each with 235/75R15 tires mounted on styled steel wheels, fender flares and part-time four-wheel drive with locking hubs (manual on XE, automatic on SE). The top-of-the-line 4x4 SE King Cab also includes the sunroof, sliding rear window and privacy glass.
A number of equipment packages are available, including the XE Appearance Package, XE Comfort Package and a Power Package (King Cab only) with power windows, door locks and outside mirrors. A selection of audio systems are offered, along with retailer-installed accessories ranging from nose mask and bedliner to vehicle covers and tow hitches.
The 1998 Frontier is available in a choice of nine exterior colors, five of which are new to Nissan trucks this year. The new colors are Cheyenne Red, Deep Crystal Blue, Sierra Pine, Goldstone and Timber Frost, while the popular carryover colors include Aztec Red, Autumn Sunburst, Super Black and Cloud White. Two interior colors are offered - Gray and Beige.
"The 1998 Frontier is a great partner to every active lifestyle - designed to be used hard and come back for more," said Eastwood. "Whether 2-wheel drive or 4x4, Regular or King Cab, the new Frontier is a great tool and a great value."
All 1998 Nissan Frontiers are covered by a comprehensive 3-year/36,000-mile "bumper-to-bumper" Limited Warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile Limited Powertrain Warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile Corrosion Coverage and a Lifetime Seat Belt Warranty.