Classic CARmentary: 1999 Nissan Frontier 4×4 SE-V6 King Cab

Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.

The funny part is that I talk below about how Nissan waited 13 long years to redesign its compact pickup.  This version only hung around for six years, but today you can walk into any Nissan showroom and drive away in a truck that was introduced in 2005!

The following review was written on July 5, 1999.

Since 1959, when it sold the first compact pickup truck in the U.S., Nissan (then Datsun) has built a reputation of rugged dependability for its pickups. So, when it came time to finally redesign its compact truck after 13 years, it decided to forego the trend towards car-like comfort and focus on its core characteristics: ruggedness and dependability.

The Frontier definitely doesn’t look soft, with its chiseled edges and imposing front grille/ bumper treatment. Our SE 4X4 also included large P265/70R15 tires on good-looking six-spoke aluminum alloy wheels, as well as step rails that are mounted a little too high but do help when climbing into the cab. The interior is the same story. While far more luxurious than that of its ancestors, Nissan decided that function was more important than form, and the squarish dash and sedate color schemes will neither impress nor offend. All controls were within easy reach, and the air conditioner did a fine job of keeping the cabin cool during 100+ degree dog days of summer.

Rather than the button or knob in newer, “softer” trucks, the four-wheel drive system is controlled by a small lever forward and to the left of the console-mounted gear shifter. The system includes a 2 speed transfer case – 4WD High for more traction in foul weather, and 4WD Low for steep hills or trudging through snow or mud at low speeds. Its concessions to civility are automatic locking hubs and shift-on-the-fly capability. In two-wheel drive mode, the optional limited slip differential provided a little extra traction without the gas mileage penalty of shifting into four-wheel drive.

Standard in the SE is a 3.3 liter V6, and, while not the fastest or smoothest V6 in the business, it is a good match for the Frontier and a better choice than the base 2.4 liter four, especially given the V6’s 5,000-pound towing/1,200-pound payload capacity. In keeping with the rugged image, the ride is “active” to say the least.

For a compact truck at a reasonable price that will get you to hell and back, the Frontier is a good choice.

For more information contact 1-800-NISSAN-3


Type: Two-door Extended Cab Pickup Truck
Engine: 170-horsepower, 3.3 liter V6
Transmission: Four-speed Automatic
EPA Mileage: 15 city/19 highway
Tested Price: $24,017