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The NISMO package may be particularly appealing to active types. It comes from the minds of Nissan Motorsports, a division that has worked only with cars in the past. Now it’s joining the off-road package movement to compete with Z71, TRD and other such models. NISMO—which is available on 2- and 4-wheel-drive models as well as King Cab and Crew Cab—gives you BFG Rugged Trail tires, skid plates and Bilstein shocks. Our only disappointment was the fun-to-drive 6-speed manual will be available only on the King Cab 4x4 and none of the Crew Cab models or the 2WD King Cab. But the NISMO does get an electric-locking rear differential and 4-wheel limited slip (ABLS) as standard equipment.

Nissan will bring more high-tech features to the Frontier that will assist off-roaders in extreme conditions. Hill Descent Control (HDC) allows for travel downhill without constantly hitting the brake pedal. This feature is engaged by the driver and is available only in 4WD mode. Hill Start Assist (HAS) allows the driver to stop on an up-slope, release the brake pedal and not roll back for up to two seconds as the driver shifts his foot to the gas pedal. This action provides for smoother, controlled acceleration up a steep hill and is always active in any 4x4 model.

Some other noteworthy off-road features are not very noticeable, and that’s the way Nissan want it. The frame is designed so that key underbody hardware and components are up into the frame for maximum ground clearance all around. The move also gives the truck a very clean appearance from the side.

I had a limited opportunity to drive the new Frontier during its press introduction in Texas. Unfortunately, the area was hit with tremendous rain storms most of the day, so travel was slow and deliberate just to see past the wipers. I did manage to form a few initial impressions, however.

The interior is roomy and versatile. The front passenger seat folds flat to double as a work area and there is rear underseat storage. The highway ride was quiet with little or no interference to occupant conversation. Interior materials on my LE model were upscale quality but not out of character with a rugged vehicle. Overall design was structured but still had a relaxing quality. In other words, it wasn’t so industrial that you had to play Devo CDs all day. The gauge layout on the instrument panel is easy to read, and the audio/climate controls are accessed hanidly. This is a truck interior that is functional yet warm enough to be inviting.

Having driven all the new compact/midsize trucks within three months of the Frontier introduction, I can honestly say I didn’t find a major difference in the highway ride quality. All the trucks are getting stiffer frames, beefier body structures and well-placed insulation. It would take a careful side-by-side study to determine if there were significant differences in ride quality. All have improved dramatically to challenge full-size trucks for roominess and comfort. With the exception of some feature availability concerns, the new Frontier has not yet disappointed. Otherwise I really didn’t make further judgments on the Frontier as navigating through flooded roads and trying to find the right turnoff kept my attention during the morning drive. We will be getting additional models for full tests in the near future and will have more in-depth reports. Also, the new Honda and Mitsubishi trucks will be introduced soon, giving the segment even more new blood and heating the up the competition. So how long will the spotlight stay focused on Nissan? Stay tuned.

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