INDIANAPOLIS — Not every pickup truck must be four-wheel-drive. When I was growing up too long ago, my father owned four successive Chevy pickups, in snowy Indiana, and not one had four-wheel-drive. They rode better, handled better, delivered better fuel economy, and still had enough ground clearance to handle hunting duties. That said, none of my dad’s trucks looked as cool as the 2022 Nissan Frontier PRO-X.
Even without four-wheel-drive, the PRO-X comes with all of the off-road kit. The new, brawnier body is fronted by a black grille, 17” black wheels with grippy off-road tires, steel step plates, and side bars. Strings of LEDs light up the front and rear while spray-in bedliner and a household power port are ripe for weekend toil and play. Look underneath to see front skid plates. It looks like the most trail-worthy pickup ever to roll out of a Nissan factory.
The larger body enables a roomier five-passenger cabin that looks like it can be hosed out before a night at the opera. Stitched dash coverings kiss a large touchscreen for controlling the 10-speaker Fender audio system, navigation, and media – made easier with wireless phone charging, Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Heated leather front seats, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, power sunroof, and dual-zone automatic climate control are primo on-trail or off.
Wherever power is sent, the 3.8-liter V6 dishes out a healthy 310 horsepower and 281 lb.-ft. of torque – not a lot for a full-size pickup, but plenty for a compact. It connects to the rear axle through a 9-speed automatic transmission. When kicked, it takes some time for the transmission to get its act together, but moves out when it does. And, you can move up to 6,470 lbs. of camper, boat, or side-by-side. Fuel economy is rated 18/24-MPG city/highway – a couple of digits better than 4x4 versions.
No matter the pavement condition, Bilstein shocks absorb all the rough stuff while providing a reasonably settled ride. The wider track improves handling, but those meaty off-road tires will do little to improve lateral maneuvers. You may still think four-wheel-drive is necessary for inclement weather and off-roading, but with today’s advanced traction and stability control systems, you can go surprisingly far without powering all the corners. And to make your journey as safe as possible, our truck came with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise, rear cross path detection with auto brake, and lane departure warning.
So, what don’t I like? Despite some nice stitching, there’s a lot of plastic inside. Handling is about what you expect for a heavily-tired compact pickup, which means it leans and bounces. There’s plenty of power, but gas mileage is no match for $5 gasoline. Step into the throttle and it takes seemingly forever for the 9-speed transmission to dial the right cog. Still, none of this would keep me from buying one.
Going back to the Datsun days, Nissan has long (sometimes too long) built one of the most popular compact pickups. Beefy styling, comfy interiors, and more space for all you love and carry make it a much better truck. Whether you get four-wheel-drive or not is up to you, but the PRO-X goes further than expected. A base price of $28,690, or $44,270 as tested, makes it tough competition for the Toyota Tacoma, Honda Ridgeline, Chevy Colorado, Ford Ranger, and GMC Canyon.
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2022 Nissan Frontier PRO-X
Five-passenger, RWD Pickup
Powertrain: 3.8-liter V6, 9-spd trans
Output: 310hp/281 lb.-ft. torque
Suspension f/r: Ind/Solid axle
Wheels f/r: 17”/17” alloy
Brakes f/r: disc/disc
Must-have features: Style, Simplicity
Towing: 6,470 lbs
Fuel economy: 18/24 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Canton, MS
Base/As-tested price: $28,690/$44,220