Nissan introduces for the 2000 model year the Frontier Desert Runner, a 2-wheel drive V6 King Cab compact truck that features the same heavy duty chassis, ride height and stance as the rugged Frontier 4x4 V6.
“We created the Frontier Desert Runner to have the 4x4 look and ride height without the extras associated with a 4x4 system, such as a higher sticker price and insurance rates,” said Jed Connelly, vice president and general manager, Nissan Division, Nissan North America, Inc.
“We think Desert Runner is perfect for style-conscious buyers who do occasional light off-roading.”
Desert Runner was inspired by vehicles that are used by off-road racers to pre-run a desert racing course, such as the Baja 500 or 1000. Instead of taking their 4-wheel drive race trucks to check out the course before the race, they use specially modified 2-wheel drive trucks with a high ride height, skid plates and large tires and wheels capable of traversing the rough terrain, albeit at lesser speeds. “We’ve captured the spirit of these pre-running trucks with Desert Runner,” said Connelly.
The Desert Runner debut comes on the heels of the introduction of the 2000 Frontier Crew Cab, the first compact truck with four forward-hinged doors offered for sale in the United States. “The addition of Desert Runner to our Frontier lineup gives Nissan the most comprehensive product lineup in the compact pickup segment,” said Connelly.
Frontier Desert Runner is built on the heavy-duty 4-wheel drive Frontier chassis, giving the 2-wheel drive the same rigidity, ride height, ground clearance and tough look as the 4-wheel drive pickup. This includes a full ladder frame with a number of measures taken to enhance torsional strength and resist twisting. Among those enhancements are a plate welded to the rear cross section of the frame and an integrated second cross member to reduce floor vibration.
The chassis features a double wishbone front suspension with stabilizer bar and rear rigid axle with multi-leaf springs and stabilizer bar to provide a more car-like ride. Standard engine and fuel tank skid plates help protect vital components, and a full-size spare ensures that, if there is a problem off-road, the Desert Runner will be able to continue the adventure – not always possible with a space-saver spare.
All Frontier Desert Runners are King Cab models, featuring an extended passenger compartment with dual side-mounted, side-facing vinyl jump seats providing plenty of space for four passengers.
Large fender flares with mud guards and special badging distinguish Desert Runner from other Frontier models. Desert Runner also includes decals and tailgate finishers, depending on trim level, and is offered in 10 exterior colors.
The well-equipped Frontier Desert Runner features dual front bucket seats with adjustable headrests, center console with integrated cup holders and center armrest with storage compartment and passenger assist grips. Other comfort and convenience features include full carpeting, large door-mounted armrests with map pocket and door cloth inserts and an auxiliary 12-volt power port.
Standard safety equipment includes dual supplemental front air bags with passenger shut-off switch, energy-absorbing steering column, front seat belts with adjustable shoulder belt anchors and pretensioners, two-point jump seat seatbelts, one child seat anchor, pipe-style steel side-door guard beams and, on manual transmission models, a clutch interlock.
Engine and Driveline
Standard equipment on Frontier Desert Runner is Nissan’s proven 3.3-liter V6 engine, with 170 hp and 200 ft-lbs of torque. The engine was specifically developed to have a broad, flat torque curve, developing 90 percent of its maximum torque at 1,500 rpm – where it is most useful for off-roading and towing.
At roughly 500 pounds lighter than a 4-wheel drive Frontier King Cab V6, Desert Runner offers the best power-to-weight ratio of any Frontier pickup.
Frontier Desert Runner is available with a 5-speed manual or 4-speed electronically controlled overdrive automatic transmission – unlike competitors, which only offer an automatic transmission with a V6. An optional limited-slip differential assists Desert Runner in light off-roading for traction-deficient situations, and a standard 19.4-gallon fuel tank ensures that Frontier Desert Runner can go long distances.
The automatic transmission offers up to 5,000-pound towing capacity, while the manual transmission has up to a 3,500-pound towing capacity. Like the 4x4 model, Frontier Desert Runner comes standard with a 4-channel, 4-sensor 4-wheel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), actuating on the front disc and rear drum brakes.
The 2000 Frontier Desert Runner lineup starts with the XE model, with options including an automatic transmission, Value Truck Package, Value Plus Package and Power Package.
The SE model adds many appearance and comfort features, including combination chrome/body color bumpers and 16-inch alloy wheels and 255/65R16 tires. Available on Desert Runner SE is a limited-slip differential, Power Package and Sport Package.