What would have happened if Goliath had to fight an old, seasoned veteran of wartime instead of a young kid who won the battle by thinking outside of the box? We’re not talking about a decorated veteran with biceps like Chuck Norris, we’re talking about a guy who can’t really fit into his uniform anymore and is a few steps slower than he used to be. We’re pretty sure that fight would be like Nissan going head-to-head with Toyota in the midsize truck war. Both manufacturers offer solid trucks that function as they were designed to, so why does Toyota sell nearly three times as many Tacoma pickups as Nissan sells Frontiers? To find out, we called up the press fleet and test drove a 2014 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X for a week. After putting it through some rigorous tests and real-world driving, we have a much clearer picture of what Nissan is bringing to the fight.

Starting with a Nissan Frontier crew cab with the 4.0L V-6, our tester also came with Nissan’s off-road package called Pro-4X; part of the options list included the Pro-4X Luxury Package, which included a 5.8-inch navigation screen, heated leather seats, power moonroof, and Bluetooth phone and audio control. That’s a healthy list of options, but that long list came with a steep price tag: $36,050. After looking at a few manufacturers’ websites, that price range is in F-150, Ram, and Silverado territory. We know everyone doesn’t want a big truck with a big V-8, but our tester returned 16.7 mpg, which is completely realistic for a fullsize pickup.

Power from the 4.0L V-6 comes on strong in the upper rpm range, but to get to that powerband, you have to endure some harsh noise and vibration. Four-wheel drive works very well in the dirt, and the ability to turn off traction control is a big perk. The optional Bilstein shocks are effective once the blacktop ends, however, when driving around town, the ride comfort is definitely compromised.

Inside the four doors is where Nissan has always fallen short. Though our leather-clad, navigation-equipped Pro-4X is an improvement over previous Frontiers we’ve tested, the cheap orange-colored gauges, low-res 5.8-inch screen, and pixelated backup camera really knock the pickup back a decade. It wasn’t all bad news, as several items did impress us, including the Rockford Fosgate audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, and rear cargo management system.

Nissan hasn’t given the Frontier a quality redesign in nearly 10 years—and it’s evident by the low level of refinement, quality of materials, and overall uninspiring performance. If Frontier is going to continue the battle with Tacoma and the upcoming Colorado and Canyon midsize variants, it’s time for the engineers to inject some new life into this platform before it receives a knockout punch.


Inside the Build
Base Price: $31,850
Price as Tested: $36,050
Engine
Type: 4.0L DOHC V-6
Displacement: 244 ci
Compression Ratio: 10.9:1
Horsepower: 261 hp at 5,600 rpm
Torque: 281 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm
Recommended Fuel: Regular Unleaded
Drivetrain
Layout: Front engine, four-wheel drive
Transmission: Five-speed auto
Brakes: 11.7-inch vented front/11.3 rear disc
Wheels: 16x8-inch
Tires: 265/75R16 BFG Rugged Trail
Performance
Tow Capacity: 6,300 pounds
0-60: 7.8 seconds
¼-mile: 15.7 seconds at 84 mph
60-0: 156 feet
Observed Gas Mileage: 16.7 mpg