Road & Travel Magazine

Auto Advice & Tips
Auto Buyer's Guides
Car Care Maintenance
Climate Change News
Auto Awards Archive
Insurance & Accidents
Legends & Leaders
New Car Reviews
Planet Driven
Road Humor
Road Trips
RV & Camping
Safety & Security
Teens & Tots Tips
Tire Buying Tips
Used Car Buying
Vehicle Model Guide

Travel Channel
Adventure Travel
Advice & Tips
Airline Rules
Bed & Breakfasts
Cruises & Tours
Destination Reviews
Earth Tones
Family Travel Tips
Health Trip
Hotels & Resorts
Luxury Travel
Pet Travel
RV & Camping
Safety & Security
Spa Reviews
Train Vacations
World Travel Directory

Bookmark and Share
2005 Nissan Frontier & Xterra

2005 Nissan X Terra and Frontier Truck Reviews

by Steve Siler

Although it’s been at it for years, Nissan really made a name for itself in compact pickups when it introduced its bold “Hardbody” pickups back in 1986. Great name for a truck, but in terms of size, the Hardbodies (and the “Frontiers” that replaced them in ’99) were less like bodybuilders than gymnasts. And as terrific as gymnasts are, let’s face it: when it comes to trucks, size matters.

Then came the perky Xterra, a boxy, extroverted SUV that shared the Frontier’s platform that became one of the few real automotive success stories of recent times, granting Nissan access to exactly the group it targeted during the vehicle’s inception: college-aged active lifestylers so coveted by marketers these days. But alas, like the Hardbody/Frontier, Xterra sported a cool, distinct name, but faced certain limitations in terms of refinement, power and size.

Well Nissan has sent its fraternal twins to the gym for 2005, adding size and strength in pretty much every dimension. Significant additional length and width elevates the new Frontier from “compact” to “mid-size” status—welcome news to those who use their trucks for what God intended them: hauling things. The Xterra doesn’t add a whole lotta length, but the width increase is likewise appreciable to people who use their SUVs for taking friends and gear around; broad-shouldered like the first Hardbody, but wider, taller and longer. We were in beautiful and charismatic Austin, Texas, at the international press launch of these great new trucklets to find out if bigger really is better.


2005 Nissan Frontier

The all-new Nissan Frontier is no less revolutionary than was the original Hardbody nearly two decades ago. For starters, it wears handsome new styling that brings it in line with the aggressive looks of the bigger Titan pickup, as well as the new, completely redesigned Pathfinder SUV. In fact, the front fascia is virtually identical to that of the Pathfinder, with the same angular headlamps, a new “angled strut” grille design and front bumper with surfaces that flow boldly into the flared front fenders. The body-sides, window shapes and rear end will look familiar to anyone who ever spent time next to the last-generation Frontier in a traffic jam, albeit with more road presence, thanks to the larger dimensions. The overall look is as brazen as a snowplow, yet it manages a certain amount of elegance that allows you to pull up to a swanky restaurant without embarrassment.

Just as important to truck shoppers as in-your-face looks is brute strength, as in 265 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque. This power comes courtesy of a meaty 4.0-liter V-6 derived from the glorious 3.5-liter unit found in many Nissan and Infiniti passenger, luxury and sports cars. The added displacement and other enhancements make it more suitable for truck applications, and while it makes gruffer sounds than the 3.5, it retains the overall smoothness. Full disclosure merits mentioning that Frontier is still offered with a four-cylinder, which has been enhanced this year (for what it’s worth), but the V-6 is so good that Nissan expects 90% of Frontier buyers to skip the four in spite of its innate fuel economy benefits.

A new frame with fully boxed rails adds rigidity and ruggedness, while the sturdier suspension and communicative steering design now make the truck feel like a bona-fide Nissan—ie: a sibling to the 350Z and Infiniti G35. Equipped with the gutsy six-cylinder, the new Frontier can tow up to 6500 lbs. while bestowing fuel economy that is no worse than last year’s wimpier V-6 models.

As for transmissions, a choice of six-speed manual or five-speed automatic is yours for the V-6, five-speed manual or four-speed auto for the four.
2005 Nissan Frontier Interior

The added size bodes particularly well in terms of spread-out room inside. There is newfound space for knees and elbows, and in Crew Cab models anyway, that back seat is actually usable by people, not just purses. The interior also benefits from many truck-market rarities like a double-decker glove box and an available moonroof on Crew Cab models. We love the new instrument cluster, which is sporty, legible and nicely detailed. Likewise the “center stack” controls are easily understood and require no hunting and pecking (in marked contrast to Frontiers past).

Like last year, it is available as a King Cab (with an extended cab, rear-hinged access doors and a kid-size rear seat) or a Crew Cab, with a much larger rear seat that accommodates real people (two comfortably, three in a pinch). The only loss is the long-bed model of the Crew Cab; it must make do with a slightly abbreviated cargo area (which, incidentally, can be protected by an optional protective spray-in bedliner). But in this case, “slightly abbreviated” means a full 5’ in length, which, combined with the aforementioned increase in vehicle width, means there’s considerably more space than in last year’s truck.

In virtually every respect, then, the Frontier is a quantum leap over the any its predecessors, no matter how hard their bodies.


2005 Nissan Xterra

Since the funkomatic Xterra shares its fundamental architecture with the Frontier, it only made sense that when the Frontier got redone, so would the Xterra. In this case, the makeover resulted in a truck as significantly improved over the last one as the Frontier is over its predecessor. It doesn’t take a geneticist to notice the styling similarities between the Xterra and the Frontier, although the Xterra stays angular where the Frontier has some roundness, particularly in the fender area. Note the enclosed gear caddy on top of the Xterra, as well as the steps integrated into the side of its rear bumper to make accessing the roof rack a simpler affair. Retained from the last model is the bulge in the tailgate that houses a first aid kit accessible when the tailgate is opened.

The Xterra comes in three arrays, the base S (remember the “everything you need, nothing you don’t” spots?), the more hard-core Off-Road model (which adds skid plates, off-road tires/wheels and some interior enhancements) and the top-shelf SE. Regardless of trim level, the Xterra’s newfound size brings interior accommodations up several notches in both comfort and utility, with back seat riders enjoying the most notable increased legroom. Finally these are certifiable “road trip” vehicles for more than just two adventure-seekers. New cloth upholstery looks both attractive and durable.

The Xterra has the same unapologetically boxy new dashboard design as the Frontier, which includes the two-story glove box, and nicely detailed instrumentation. Also on the dash, one will find generously sized climate control knobs, a pair of power outlets—there’s one in the center console and cargo area—and a good standard stereo. Optional on the Off-Road model and standard on the SE is a Rockford Fosgate system with an in-dash 6-disc CD changer, MP3 compatibility, satellite radio capability and a subwoofer in the cargo area.

2005 Nissan Interior

Speaking of the cargo area, the Xterra’s trademark tall-roof profile and clever channel anchoring system gives it the ability to hold some 35.2 cubic feet of active-lifestyle gear with the split-folding rear seats up, 65.7 cubes with it down, or enough to hold two mountain bikes with the front tires off. Long items like surfboards will also fit with the front passenger seat folded forward. Got dirt? No problem…the “Easy Clean” cargo area lives up to its name.

Unlike the Frontier, the Xterra is no longer offered with the four-cylinder. Not a bad thing, since the old four would have a tougher time with the added weight of the fully boxed frame and additional powertrain components. No, the Xterra gets the sturdy 265-hp V-6 standard, yielding it the same 6500-lb towing capacity as the Frontier. The S and Off-Road models get a six-speed manual transmission standard with a five-speed automatic optional; the SE gets the autobox only. This lively powertrain is in perfect harmony with the playful attitude of the truck’s design, and there are plenty of off-road features to lend real dexterity to the Xterra if you’re so inclined to see what lies beyond the curb (see sidebar). Fuel economy, at about 17 in the city, 22 on the highway, is right in line with its V-6 competitors such as the Hyundai Santa Fe and Jeep Liberty, both of which have weaker engines.

So if you’re the kind of SUV buyer that wants power and ruggedness to back up its looks, the new Xterra should be on your short list.

Xtra Information ...
Though buyers have long loved the Frontier and Xterra for their mechanical simplicity and ruggedness, some new electro-gizmos have made their way onto the most off-roadworthy models of each (designated NISMO for the Frontier, “Off-Road” for the Xterra). At the touch of a button, Hill Descent Control (HDC) maintains a constant speed of five mph for controlled off-road descents. Hill Start Assist (HSA) maintains brake pressure for up to two seconds on steep inclines to facilitate smooth uphill starts, both on- of off-road. Finally—and this is good for those of us who are, shall we say, less than graceful with the clutch foot—trucks equipped with the six-speed manual have a clutch-interlock-cancel feature that allows the vehicle to be started and begin moving without engaging the clutch, thus saving the clutch from undue wear and lending some helpful smoothness during certain precarious off-road maneuvers.


SUV Pickup Truck
Model options:
S, Off Road, SE XE, SE, NISMO, LE
106.3 125.9
Overall length:
178.7 205.5
Engine size:
DOHC 4.0-L V6 DOHC 4.0-L V6
Manual/6 - Auto/5 Manual/6 - Auto/5
Rear/4x4 Rear/4x4
Power rack and pinion Power rack and pinion
Power 4-disc, ABS/EBD Power 4-disc, ABS/EBD
Air bags:
2 (fr) opt.2 (side) opt.4 Rollover protect. 2 (fr) opt.2 (side) opt.4 Rollover protect.
Fuel mileage city/hwy:

Manual/6: 17/22
Automatic/5: 16/22

Manual: 22/25
Automatic: 19/24
S: $20,850, Off Road: $23,450, SE: $25,350 XE $15,600, SE $18,500, NISMO $22,100, LE $22,300