Nissan Frontier PRO-4X King Cab | Haulers

Years ago, I owned a Datsun King Cab pickup that would carry my dirtbike and film equipment just about anywhere and get good gas mileage. Where is its equivalent today? There isn't one. Small trucks have grown up.

Datsun has become Nissan, and the Nissan nearest to my old truck is the Frontier, available in King Cab or Crew Cab versions with two- or four-wheel-drive. Powered by a 2.5-liter, 152-horsepower inline-four or a 4.0-liter, 261-horse V6, it’s priced from $18,000 to $31,000, with an amazing number of permutations in between. Though this body style has served Nissan well since 2006, the PRO-4X King Cab 4x4 is relatively new, introduced in mid-2010 as a 2011 model.

After a long, 1000-mile weekend towing a trailer and hauling a motocross bike in the PRO-4X, it’s clear that this horse is best suited to a specific course. The 24-valve V6 does just about anything you could ask, delivering strong acceleration from a standing start to triple digits, even with a full payload. But such performance comes at the price of fuel economy. Nissan lists an EPA rating of 14 mpg city and 19 mpg highway with the optional five-speed automatic transmission. I averaged 18 mpg over a weekend of high-speed highway miles, getting about 375 miles from a 21-gallon tankful.

The PRO-4X is one tough truck, sitting on a fully boxed-ladder chassis that’s strong enough to haul a Harley. There’s enough torque to handle the Frontier’s rated 6100-lb. towing capacity with ease. You can’t fit a bike in the bed with the tailgate closed, but you can add a sliding bed-extender for $276. The bed comes with an extruded-aluminum channel and traveling chocks for attaching your tie-downs; smart system there. Four doors allow easy access to the rear seats or luggage area, although the flip-up rear seats are impractical for everyday use. Comfortable front seats up the cush factor, but BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A tires and Bilstein Off-Road High-Pressure Shocks serve up a ride stiff enough to remind you where this truck likes to run.

For $30,285 the PRO-4X comes with everything you need, including a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, air-conditioning, remote keyless entry and satellite radio. The Rockford Fosgate-powered audio system is good enough to let you enjoy classical music at highway speeds with no impudicity. Fit, finish and solid design add up to a truck that should outlast many motorcycles.

Small trucks of the past have evolved into bigger, heavier mid-sized models such as this Frontier: stronger, quieter and more comfortable, than their predecessors, but more expensive and less economical. For hauling dirtbikes across the desert, the PRO-4X is one to consider. For everyday use, however, Nissan’s Frontier SL puts the same power and amenities in a more practical package.

Tech Spec

Price (as tested) $30,285
Engine Type l-c V6
Valve Train DOHC, 24v
Displacement 4000cc
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Claimed horsepower 261 bhp @ 5600 rpm
Claimed torque 281 lb.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Front suspension Independent double-wishbone
Rear suspension Overslung multi-leaf with solid axle
Front brakes Dual 297mm ventilated discs w/ABS
Rear brakes Dual 287mm ventilated discs w/ABS
Tires P265/75R-16 BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A
Most motorcycles are longer than the Nissan’s bed, so you can’t close the tailgate. A bed extender keeps gas cans and gearbags from sliding out.