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2014 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X: One tough truck

PRO-4X is the pick of the litter -  sturdy roof rack hauls canoes/kayaks
PRO-4X is the pick of the litter - sturdy roof rack hauls canoes/kayaks
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2014 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab PRO-4X

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The 2014 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab PRO-4X is one tough 4x4 truck for all manner of off-road and other sport truck adventures.

For 2014, the Nissan Frontier mid-size truck line comes in both King Cab and Crew Cab body styles, in 4x2 and 4x4 driveline configurations and in five trim grades: Frontier S (4-cylinder and V6), SV, PRO-4X, Desert Runner and SL (Crew Cab only).

Power plants include a choice of a powerful 4.0-liter DOHC V6 engine rated at 261 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque or a smaller 152-horsepower 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder engine (4x2 King Cab only).

The 2014 Frontier comes with a choice of transmissions – a 5-speed automatic, a 6-speed manual or 5-speed manual transmission (King Cab 4-cylinder models).

The Frontier 4x4 models include a shift-on-the-fly 4-wheel drive system with 2WD/4H/4LO modes operated by an electronically controlled part-time transfer case.

For our money, we think the Crew Cab PRO-4X is the ‘pick of the litter’ making a very capable and affordable mid-size truck - across the other trim lines - into a serious off-road and outdoor adventure truck.

Just recently, we did a week-long test drive of a 2014 Frontier Crew Cab PRO-4X in a bold Lava Red with the Steel Cloth interior, equipped with the 4.0L V6 and 5-speed automatic transmission - with a base MSRP of $31,850 (not including delivery).

In this configuration, the power train fuel economy is rated at 15/21 mpg City/Highway with an expected average of 17 mpg.

Standard on the PRO-4X 4x4 are Bilstein off-road high-pressure shock absorbers, skid plates on the fuel tank, oil pan and transfer case, an electronic rear differential locker 4-wheel limited-slip (ABLS) and unique machine-finished 16-inch aluminum-alloy off-road wheels with large BFGoodrich 265/75R16 Rugged Trail tires.

Our PRO-4X had body-colored grille and bumpers, outside mirrors and door handles and fog lamps. Comfort and convenience features included cruise control, remote keyless entry power windows and door locks, dual power outside mirrors, factory-applied spray-on bedliner and the Nissan Utili-track Channel system for cargo management.

The PRO-4X interior included leather-appointed white-stitched shifter knob and steering wheel, chrome accent ring around the white-faced meter gauges and trip computer, heated front seats, fold-flat passenger seat and a Rockford Fosgate 10-speaker audio system with SiriusXM and HD radio.

Our Frontier Crew Cab PRO-4X came with the available PRO-4X Luxury Package ($2,650) which features the leather-appointed seating with PRO-4X logo, 8-way power driver's seat, 4-way power front passenger's seat, dual heated outside rearview mirrors, rear fold-down center armrest, NissanConnect with Navigation system, the NissanConnect Apps, Bluetooth Streaming Audio, Hands-free Text Messaging Assistant, tilt and slide power moon roof and a roof rack with crossbars.

Also included was the very easy to use Bed Extender/Trailer Hitch Package for $570 that supports the cargo capacity of 1,100 pounds and 6,100 pounds of tow capacity.

Adding PRO-4X Logo Floor Mats for $120 – our 2014 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab PRO-4X (with delivery) priced out at $36,050.

Looking at our PRO-4X test truck, some things we really liked about its powerful off-road rugged capability included:
• 8.9-inch minimum ride height with decent Approach/Departure and Breakover angles
• 6,100 pounds of tow capacity
• Fold flat rear seating for cargo or equipment storage
• V6 engine with smooth shifting 5-speed automatic transmission that includes Hill Start and Hill Descent Assist
• Fully functional roof rack easily handles canoes and kayaks
• Cargo management system with bed extender

Some might complain a bit about a bit harder and stiffer ride on city roads and highways, the older generation cabin with its plebeian styling that is also bit noisy on the highway and a fuel economy that is nothing to write home about.

But you can be sure that a 2014 Nissan Frontier, in the Crew Cab PRO-4X 4x4 trim level, will pretty much never leave you stranded off-road.

The pickup truck mid-size segment for 2014 has only two brands left standing following the demise of the Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon at the end of 2012 - all following the earlier exit of the Dodge Dakota.

Mid-size segment sales had slipped in recent years as manufacturers concentrated their new truck product development on full-size and heavy duty vehicles which resulted in dramatic sales increases in those categories. During that period, Ram brand and Ford exited the segment and GM embarked on development of all new products for 2015.

For the 2014 model year, the players in the segment are the Nissan Frontier and the Toyota Tacoma.

GM is returning to the mid-size segment in late 2014 with all-new generation the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and the 2015 GMC Canyon that will have more capability, functions and features (approaching the levels of full-size pickups) including new interiors with upgraded materials and new power plants including a diesel engine in 2016.

Both Nissan and Toyota are planning to remain in the mid-size segment with development underway of a 2015 or 2016 version of the Nissan Frontier and a new or seriously upgraded Toyota Tacoma for introduction in early 2015.

What we see and hear so far for a next generation Nissan Frontier starts with a new diesel power plant that has already been shown at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show in February. The Frontier diesel will be a Cummins 2.8-liter 4-cylinder diesel engine adapted for use in the Frontier and will produce close to 200 horsepower with more than 350 lb-ft. of torque.

The Frontier diesel will also employ a ZF 8HP70 8-speed automatic transmission which may be a segment exclusive for them.

Nissan says, this powertrain combination will likely improve fuel economy 35 percent over the current V6-powered two-wheel drive 2014 Frontier which should put it somewhere in the range of 28-30 mpg.

The current other powertrain combinations are likely to continue with hints of a hybrid version being under consideration.

We are also hearing that Nissan is likely to stay with just the King and Crew Cab model, but increase the use of high strength steel and aluminum in body and frame, make some moderate body style changes, add upgraded interior styling and materials and pack in new and expanded technology offerings.

Whether it is the 2014 or an all-new generation Frontier, the PRO-4X trim level is and will be – one tough 4x4 truck – and a leader in the category.