The buying public is purchasing more and more of the larger-size pickup trucks and many of us are looking back at those small trucks and wondering what happened. At the 2013 TAWA Texas Truck Rodeo, there were 21 separate categories for over 60 vehicles entered, but not one of them was for Small Pickups. The closest category was the Mid-Size Pickup group that was easily won by the Nissan Frontier.
Other competitors in the category were the Toyota Tacoma Double Cab 4x4 and the Toyota Tacoma Double Cab TRD Off-Road. The Ford Ranger, GMC Canyon, Honda Ridgeline, or Chevy Colorado were not entered in this year's contest, an annual event conducted by the Texas Auto Writers Association. The TAWA group is a non-profit organization made up of active automotive journalists and associate manufacturer representatives.
The TAWA Texas Truck Rodeo was held at the historic Knibbe Ranch near Bulverde, Texas in the famed Hill Country northwest of San Antonio. Driving routes included asphalt, dirt, and rock roads for the non-4WD vehicles and more severe off-roading for those vehicles that had that capability. The off-road included extremely rough terrain that extended down into the gravel beds of the Guadalupe River, up slippery muddy slopes, and over out-croppings of hard-chiseled rock formations.
The 2014 Nissan Frontier PRO4X was named the winner of the Mid-Size Truck category. In the manufacturers' descriptions of their vehicles, the Frontier PRO4X is promoted as 'Raw power meets off-road athleticism.”
Following the Truck Rodeo, I was allowed to have a full-week's test drive of the Nissan Frontier PRO4X that had been entered in the competition and announced the winner. It was an attractive Metallic Blue exterior paint with several additional options added to the base package. It was a four-door crew cab that included a laundry list of included items, such as rear sonar system, rear window defroster, rear under-seat hidden storage bin, multiple power outlets, fog lights, cargo bed light, spray-on bedliner, and front tow hooks.
It had a bed extender and trailer-hitch package that included a Class IV tow hitch receiver as well as a sliding extender unit. I have come to enjoy the use of those flip-over bed extenders in pickup trucks. If there are more hay bales that will easily fit in the regular bed area, the tailgate folds down, the extender flips over, and you have approximately 2 to 3 additional feet of space that are secured from falling out the back. In addition, the extender can hold items near the back of the bed when the tailgate is closed. The Nissan Frontier PRO4X has an extender that can be easily slid from the front of the bed to the back of the bed, allowing easy configurations for whatever needs are necessary.
The Luxury Package was also added on to the test-drive model that included a Navigation System with a 5.8 inch color display, streaming audio via Bluetooth, leather seats, 8-way power and heated driver seat, 4-way power and heated front passenger seat, remote controlled heated outside mirrors, power sliding moon-roof with tilt, and a heavy-duty roof rack with sliding cross ties.
The Frontier was powered by a 4.0-liter V6 engine that furnished 281 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque. It was matched to a five-speed automatic transmission that also allowed a shift-on-the-fly 4-wheel drive system. It was outfitted with 16 inch off-road machine-finish alloy wheels and OWL Rugged Trail tires.
Because of the four door crew cab configuration with four-wheel drive and all the necessary additional items above the base level entry model, the pricing and mileage is not as good as I had hoped or anticipated. The base MSRP was $31,270. With the optional bed extender, trailer hitch package, special floor mats, the PRO4X Luxury package, and delivery charges, the bottom sticker price came to $35,645. It was EPA mileage rated at 17 mpg average and 21 mpg highway.
Capable? Absolutely. Versatile? Wonderfully so. Drives well? Comfortable and easy to maneuver. These are my opinions, but they are obviously shared by most of the automotive journalists who voted and judged at the the Texas Truck Rodeo. Check out the full capabilities of the Nissan Frontier PRO4X yourself and see why it was named winner of the Mid-Size Pickup Truck award.