As someone who’s spent their whole life around pickup trucks, getting the chance to test-drive the new 2022 Nissan Frontier was an exciting opportunity. Texas is often labeled the pickup truck capital of the world, and it is a full-size landscape. The Nissan Frontier has stayed relevant for so long without changing because it is a small honest pickup truck. Up until 2021, the outgoing Frontier had gone 16 years without a redesign or major update. I test drove the 2022 Frontier Pro04X off-road to find out what changed and what stayed the same.
Updated and Upgraded
Until now, the Nissan Frontier was like many of us with our phones. Constantly being notified about software updates and choosing to ignore them. Not because we have anything against updating our phones, but because we’re busy or feel the current version is fine. One usually hates a new software update that changes the layout of an app’s functions or rearranges personal settings. That being said, is the latest update on the Frontier worthy of praise? Yes. The interior is vastly improved with the latest fashion-forward trends in digital screens and creature comforts. The off-road-focused Pro-4X has been revised with tougher suspension components. In addition, the 2022 Nissan Frontier is powered by the new 310-hp V6 engine introduced in 2021.
2022 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X Off-Road Testing
I tested the Frontier in two different venues. The first was at the Star Hill Ranch during the 2021 Texas Truck Rodeo hosted by the Texas Auto Writers Association. Then, I tested the 2022 Frontier at General Sam’s Off-Road Park during the Texas Off-Road Invitational hosted by the Texas Motor Press. Both events provided an all-terrain environment to put the mid-size truck through its paces and test its 4×4 prowess.
The model tested for this article is the 2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X. With a starting price of $37k, the Pro-4X comes standard with front and rear stabilizer bars, twin-tube Bilstein shock absorbers, and an electronic locking rear differential with a solid Dana rear axle. In addition, the Frontier Pro-4X comes built with skid plates to protect the truck’s oil pan, fuel tank, and transfer case. While driving over a rock formation, these skid plates earned their keep while I played an unintentional drum solo on jagged rocks. In addition, shifting the transfer case into 4LO activates Nissan’s Intelligent Around View Monitor system giving drivers a 360 view of the trail.
While driving over a rock formation, these skid plates earned their keep while I played an unintentional drum solo on jagged rocks.
There is no mistaking a Frontier Pro-4X for another trim level. The name is stamped on the truck’s bedside. However, if you miss that detail, its standard Lave Red tow hooks, black over fenders, aluminum front skid plate, and 17-inch dark finish alloy wheels wrapped in all-terrain rubber will surely give it away.
The engine is the same for all trim levels. The 2022 Nissan Frontier is powered by a 3.8-liter V6 producing 310-hp and 281 lb.-ft of torque using a nine-speed automatic transmission with 2×4 or 4×4 configurations. This V6 debuted in the last production year of the outgoing model. It provides a significant performance improvement that adds a bit of fun to the Frontier’s versatility.
On sand-covered trails, I found myself grinning from ear to ear while making rooster tails and getting sideways in the 2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X USA. Other auto journalists have remarked on the Frontier’s heavy steering, which is noticeable. However, it is by no means a deal-breaker. In fact, it adds a bit of nostalgic ruggedness to the truck’s handling. If you’re used to one-finger power steering, it may take a minute to get used to the Frontier’s steering. In addition, the Frontier’s steering wheel is a larger diameter and can be tilted to a preferred setting.
Style and Performance
The exterior design of the 2022 Nissan Frontier is inspired by the famed “Hardbody” compact truck of the last century. Tribute to its classic ancestor can be seen in the flat surfaces separated with muscular flared fenders and a squared-jaw fascia. Car and Driver tested the Frontier Pro-4X and clocked its zero to 60mph sprint at under 7.5-seconds. The Frontier’s recorded top speed is 112 mph. That is faster than several V8-powered full-size pickup trucks electronically limited to 99 mph, which is good for bragging rights. The 2022 Frontier max payload ranges from 1,230 to 1,600 lbs. and towing capacity from 6,270 to 6,720 lbs. depending on trim level. In addition, Nissan added Trailer Sway Control as standard equipment for all Frontier models. Gas mileage, with four-wheel-drive, is rated as 17mpg city and 22 highway, and increases to 18 city and 24 mpg highway for two-wheel-drive Frontiers.
Additional tech on the Pro-4X includes digital readings on the instrument panel showing the vehicle’s pitch, roll, differential lock status, and what the four wheels are doing while driving off-road. Rear Automatic Braking, a class-exclusive, is new and works by applying the brakes if the Frontier senses it is going to back into an obstacle. It’s fail-safe if the driver fails to see the approaching fender bender using the 360 camera, backup camera, and mirrors. Standard safety features include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, automatic high beams, and automated emergency braking.
Those of us who’ve fallen for the feel, sound, and character of trucks from an era of vinyl bench seats, barefoot interiors, and mystical bulletproof reliability understands how much fun they can be in specific environments.
Buyers have 12 variants to choose from as Nissan offers the Frontier with two and four doors, all with optional 4×4 and a long bed variant for added cargo space. However, the Pro-X and Pro-4X trim are only offered with a short bed and four doors. Pricing starts at $27k for the Frontier King Cab S and jumps to $37,240 for the Pro-4X.
Modern with Nostalgic Character
The 2022 Nissan Frontier is a modern mid-size pickup truck with a manually operated parking brake, plenty of low-end torque, and traction control off switch. As a result, the 2022 Frontier is one of the last modern trucks for driving enthusiasts. Those of us who’ve fallen for the feel, sound, and character of trucks from an era of vinyl bench seats, barefoot interiors, and mystical bulletproof reliability understands how much fun they can be in specific environments. Yes, they can tow and haul, but they can also slide like a rally car on back roads and make donuts as good as any muscle car.
In a “save the manuals” like mindset, there are people who yearn for a simple, affordable, capable pickup truck without needing to settle for plastic work truck interiors. The new Nissan Frontier, while subjectively affordable, has that sensible vibe just like its predecessor but with welcomed modern compromises. It feels honest, mechanical, and chock-full of grit. Yet, the interior is comfortable with Nissan’s Zero Gravity seats and Apple CarPlay, Android Auto connectivity as standard. It has a large center-mounted nine-inch infotainment screen. The instrument panel shows off-road information on a digital display sandwiched between two analog gauges. Lastly, the gear shifter is a simple straight lever instead of a buzzkill dial.
I was impressed with the 2022 Nissan Frontier’s performance and grateful for its character. It’s a niche argument, but because of little things like a manual parking brake the Frontier can do certain things modern trucks no longer can. I want to say it is my favorite modern pickup, but I cannot cement my opinion in stone until I get a chance to test it over a week-long period thoroughly. First impressions matter, but living up to the set expectation is what we (you) need to know. Until such time, I have no choice but to keep bugging Nissan to loan me a 2022 Frontier to test in the rural environment of South Texas.
*Header photo via Kevin McCauley.