New pickup truck

Nissan strikes a new path with 2022 Frontier

The Frontier is all-new for 2022.

Nissan

The model that was the first compact truck in the U.S. is all-new again. Marking the sixth generation of the cult-like nameplate, the Datsun 220 Hardbody that arrived on these shores in 1959, Nissan has redesigned its Frontier. The new truck hits the streets and trails with new looks outside and in, an improved powertrain and chassis, upgraded safety and technology, and an updated collection of elements that enhance its ability for work and play. The rugged and utilitarian model has sold more than 4 million units and created a segment that is one of the most popular in the market. Its remake is timely as America's truck market heats up and, although appreciated for its stalwart capability, the previous generation Frontier lacked some of the latest technology and amenities that today's truck buyers expect.

The 2022 Frontier goes on sale late summer and comes in 2WD and 4WD versions and S, SV, SV LWB, PRO-4X trims; the new PRO-X desert runner trim comes in 2WD only. The S trim in 4 x 2 with a King Cab starts at $27,840, while the S Crew Cab version begins at $29,340. The truck is available with 5 ft. and 6 ft. beds, it now has a taller bed height and seven percent more volume, plus standard trailer sway control. It can tow up to 6,720 lbs. and has a maximum payload of 1,620 lbs.


2022 Nissan Frontier While the powertrain is the same as before, almost every other part of the Frontier has been redesigned.Nissan


Notable is the pickup's styling changes. It's been designed with a more aggressive overall look, with sculpted and blocky cues, large fender flares and a high bodyside. It sports a larger and wider, machined-out grille and newly-styled lights with LEDs and daytime running lights in the front and LEDs in the rear. The back-end sports embedded tow hooks on 4WD models. The newest model is 5 inches longer, with the same wheelbase, and claims a best-in-class approach angle, a benefit for backcountry forays. Of note is an integrated bumper step and the built-in spoiler and interlocking handle on the tailgate and increased bed illumination. Among the options is Kicker Audio's portable tailgate set-up.

The recrafted cabin is more upscale than the previous truck. It sports Zero Gravity front and rear outboard seats, has the largest-in-class 9-in. color touchscreen and largest-in-class 7-in. driver assist display, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, smart phone integration, wireless charging, Wi-Fi hotspot availability and up to four USB ports. A new center console and shifter, new premium accents and trims, along with eight beverage holders and more stowage compartments, including under-seat storage in the rear, make the interior more user-friendly.

A single powertrain motivates the truck that has been re-engineered with 93 percent new parts; the 3.8-liter V6 gets 310 hp. /281 lb.-ft of torque and is shifted through a 9-speed automatic, with a 99-percent wider gear range. Nissan says it has best-in-class horsepower against competitors Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado, and the Ford Ranger. The electronically-controlled 4WD system has 4H and 4L settings, as well as 2WD and Hill Descent Control, when four-wheel drive is engaged. Hill Start Assist is standard.


2022 Nissan Frontier The 2022 Frontier's interior is more upscale and tech-forward than before. Nissan


A cadre of automotive testers put the new midsizer through a one-day evaluation of nearly 150 miles motoring on a collection of roadways near Provo, Utah, as well as along a lengthy off-road track with high-mountain hill climbs that had sections of rocky and rutted terrain. I drove a pre-production version of the PRO-4X that stickered at $44,315, including destination and delivery (the base price is $37, 250). This toughened trim has a host of off-road goodies that includes larger underbody skid plates, an electronic rear differential, beefed-up Bilstein shocks; 17-in. beadlock style alloy wheels with aggressive all-terrain tires and an array of badging that enunciates its identity. Options on the model I drove included Nissan's Technology Package, the PRO Convenience Package and the PRO Premium Package that brought add-ons ranging from heated outside mirrors, steering wheel and seats to bed upgrades with a spray-in bedliner to the Utili-track system bed system for carrying a wide variety of items to power outlets and a trailer hitch. Other notable items were the Fender premium audio with 10-speakers, leather seats and an Intelligent Around View Monitor with Off-Road Mode.

Throughout my test drive, the Frontier had great power on tap and seamless shifting as well as strong linear braking. Nissan says the new hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering and upgrades to the steering gear and stabilizer bar will make drivers more confident with driving maneuvers overall and when towing. I found it a bit heavy-handed, especially in slow-speed maneuvers, however, I like the weight and size of the steering wheel and it was competent at all speeds. I was impressed by the upgraded suspension set-up with bigger front and rear stabilizer mounts, plus new urethane jounce bumpers and hydraulic cab mounts that reduce road vibration. Also of note is the quietness of the cabin as a result of 41 new parts applied to reduce wind, engine and road noise.


2022 Nissan Frontier There's plenty of room for passengers and gear.Nissan


The truck performed well off-road with good angles of approach and departure, 8.5 inches of ground clearance and efficient low-range gearing. Unlike many other systems today, the Frontier does not have terrain programs, but it handled steep climbs and rutted track with ease.

Nissan says the Frontier is "right-sized" for garages and urban life. And, with 80 available options, buyers can set it up for their own adventures and personal needs. With a base work truck available and pricing that starts below many others in its class, it likely to be a homerun.

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Buying guide

How to buy a modified car: Three tips

This is a clean modified truck, but they don't all end up this way.

Bring a Trailer

Modified cars are a mixed bag. Sometimes, they're incredibly well built and better than the original, but too many times they're only partially finished or end up being rushed as their owners get late-project anxiety. Whatever the case, buying a modified car can be a stressful process if you haven't done your homework ahead of time. The good news is that you can get a good deal on a reasonably well sorted project or modified car, but you'll need to be careful. Looking at used Lexus LXs earlier today, it became clear that there are as many modified vehicles for sale as there are clean examples.

This LX got me thinking about the breakdown between buying a rig and building one. The modifications made by this Lexus' seller are almost exactly what I would do if I were building a light overlanding rig. What could go wrong? I'm still on the fence about the Lexus, but the three topics below will help you make the right decision on buying a modified car.

2004 Lexus LX 470 Even if the mods are well done, you'll want to have the vehicle inspected before you buy.Bring a Trailer

Understand your personal taste

I mentioned the LX470 and how the owner's updates were pretty close to what I'd do with the truck. That's an exception to the rule, because 90 percent of the time I walking away from a sales listing because of modifications, rather than the other way around. If you're hoping to find a tastefully modified car that matches your exact tastes, you could be waiting a while. If you're hoping to sell a modified car, the same is true in reverse. Finding a buyer for your extremely personalized project car may not be the easiest thing you've ever done.

2004 Lexus LX 470 It's a good idea to seek out vehicles in solid shape, regardless of mods.Bring a Trailer

Be aware of condition and quality

This Lexus looks to be well maintained and in good shape. It also doesn't hurt that the LX is one of the most reliable vehicles built by one of the world's most quality-conscious automakers. Even so, it's hard to know what you're getting with this, or any other, modified vehicle. There's a little rust in this image, but the lift kit, wheels, and bumper mods all look good. However, even if the truck looked brand-new, you'd want to get a pre-purchase inspection. An independent mechanic can tell you if there are potential issues that are unrelated to mods, and you'll want to be sure that any modifications are installed properly.

2004 Lexus LX 470 Some mods are more useful than others.Bring a Trailer

Keep an eye on the price

Most people are reasonable when it comes to selling their modified cars, but there are hundreds of "I know what I got" memes on the internet for a reason. Some sellers want to recover every penny of the money they spent customizing their cars. They're convinced that the mods drastically increased the car's value and can't understand why the customized car isn't as attractive to you as it is to them. Tread lightly and be careful not to insult the owner, but it's your job to work toward a reasonable, fair price.

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New American pickup truck

The new 2021 Ford F-150 is an all-around performer

The Ford F-150 got a complete overhaul for 2021.

Chris Teague

The Ford F-150 is one of the most popular vehicles of all time, coming in second only to the Toyota Corolla in lifetime sales. That makes the F-150 a vitally important model for The Blue Oval, so it's not surprising that it takes updates to the truck very seriously. That was absolutely the case with the all-new 2021 F-150, which sees a load of new tech, evolutionary styling changes, and an impressive new PowerBoost hybrid engine option.

2021 Ford F-150 A new hybrid powertrain option is a headline feature for the new F-150.Chris Teague

Ford offers the F-150 in a staggering number of trim, bed lengths, and powertrain options. Trims include XL, XLT, Lariat, Tremor, King Ranch, Platinum, Raptor, and Limited. Powertrain configurations include:

  • 3.0-liter turbo diesel V6 with 250 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque
  • 3.5-liter PowerBoost hybrid V6 with 430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque
  • 3.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged V6 with 400 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque
  • 5.0-liter V8 with 400 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque

I spent a week testing the F-150 King Ranch with a SuperCrew cab and the new hybrid powertrain. Pricing for the base F-150 XL starts at just under $31,000, but my King Ranch test truck checked in at $77,125 after a $1,695 destination charge. That bottom line price includes almost $16,000 in options, such as a $1,995 King Ranch chrome package, a $1,495 twin-panel moonroof (worth it), a $1,005 FX4 off-road package, and more.

To find out if the new F-150 justifies its price tag, let's take a closer look at what makes it tick.

2021 Ford F-150 Though new, the 2021 F-150 sports familiar styling.Chris Teague

Powerful, efficient hybrid engine

Don't let the word "hybrid" fool you here – this is a serious powertrain. The PowerBoost twin turbocharged V6 and 35 kW electric motor produce a combined 430 horsepower and a whopping 570 pound-feet of torque, while a ten-speed automatic transmission pairs seamlessly with the engine and delivers smooth, almost imperceptible shifts. The hybrid setup feels a little clunky at low speeds, as the gas engine and electric motors trade off propulsion duties, but it's not a constant issue and does not detract from the truck's overall driving experience.

Depending on the configuration, the F-150 can extend to over 20 feet in length. It's also around eight feet wide, so there's no getting around the fact that it's not ideal as an urban commuter. Even so, the truck's quick, responsive steering makes it feel slightly smaller than it reads on paper, and it offers excellent outward visibility, which makes it less likely that you'll bump into, or run over, an unseen obstacle.

When equipped with the hybrid powertrain, the F-150 also comes standard with a generator built into the bed. A 2.4 kW Pro Power generator is standard, but the system can be upgraded to a 7.2 kW unit for just $750, which is a tremendous bargain in the world of generators. During the winter storms that ravaged Texas earlier this year, there were several reports of people using their new F-150s to power heaters, refrigerators, and other vital household systems while much of the state's power grid was down. Thankfully, my time with the truck was far less dangerous and dramatic, but the generator did get put to use charging my battery-powered chainsaw and tiller while helping a friend clear a small plot of land.

2021 Ford F-150 The new F-150 can be had with a giant 12.0-inch touchscreen.Chris Teague

User-friendly tech and an ultra-plush interior

I've always felt that Ford SYNC 3 was one of the best infotainment systems on the market, and the latest SYNC 4 software improves on that already successful formula. The base F-150 XL runs the system on an 8-inch touchscreen, but my King Ranch test truck came with an available 12-inch display. The screen itself is bright and responsive, and the software's simple, intuitive menu structure makes the whole package less distracting to use while driving. The system offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, Bluetooth, SiriusXM radio, HD radio, wireless smartphone charging, and the King Ranch I tested came with an options package that included an upgraded "B&O Sound System Unleashed."

If you had even a slight doubt that pickup trucks are really just lifted luxury cars with towing capabilities, the new F-150 will change your mind. The King Ranch trim comes with soft, exceptionally comfortable leather upholstery, and the front seats offer 10-way adjustability that allows the driver to dial in a near-perfect seating position. At this trim level, the front buckets come with heating and ventilation, but my truck came equipped with the $4,650 601A High package, which brings a massage function with a handful of different programs. It also adds a power tailgate, power-deployable running boards, a better B&O stereo, and 20-inch wheels. The options group is far from cheap, but after a few minutes spent being massaged at a traffic light, the price tag will likely feel like much less of an issue.

Ford stepped up the safety game with the F-150 for 2021. The truck now comes standard with the Co-Pilot360 package, which includes automatic headlights and high beams, a lane-keeping system, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, forward collision warnings, and a rearview camera with hitch assist. The XLT trim and above come with blind spot monitoring and a reverse sensing system, and the King Ranch trim adds adaptive steering, adaptive cruise control, evasive steering assist, intersection assist, and navigation.

2021 Ford F-150 The King Ranch trim features an over-the-top interior with soft leather and premium finishes throughout. Chris Teague

Pricey, but worth the money

Full-size pickup trucks are excessive in many ways, but there's no denying that they are some of the most useful vehicles on the road today. My need for a pickup truck is limited, as I don't tow and rarely haul anything that a midsize SUV can't carry. The cost of a full-size pickup truck, both to buy and operate, is hard to justify for me, but for someone who truly needs a full-size pickup, the PowerBoost-equipped F-150 is a compelling option.

At 24 mpg all around, fuel economy is solid, and the refinement of the powertrain means that there's no operational penalty for choosing the hybrid. On top of that, towing capability climbs to 12,700 pounds when the truck is equipped with an optional trailering package. All of that adds up to an F-150 that earns its price tag and looks good while doing it.

2021 Ford F-150 In case you forgot which F-150 trim you bought.Chris Teague

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