After first getting into the 2013 Nissan Frontier PRO4X that was just delivered to me, I couldn’t figure out how to start the truck. Not a good way to start a test drive.
I looked for the push button start and couldn’t find it anywhere. After I realized the PRO4X didn’t have keyless ignition, I found keys in my pocket and slid the key into the ignition and it fired right up. So many cars now have it that I don’t think about the key anymore. After all, even the 2013 Nissan Altima comes with a keyless start. But after this, the PRO4X gets better.
After the first initial struggle, we loaded our hiking gear and headed out in the new 2013 Frontier PRO 4X for a day in the mountains. What better way to test the PRO4X than a day at altitude in the mountains of Colorado. The Frontier is definitely a mid-size pickup and not to be confused with traditional full size trucks. But our friends got in back and we didn’t hear any complaints on the trip up I-70 to Breckenridge.
The PRO4X ($31,270) with the optional 4.0-liter V6 powerplant had plenty of power loaded down with 4 adults. The 261 horses and 281 lb ft of torque powered the four-wheel-drive Frontier up I-70 with satisfying acceleration and pulled the steep Georgetown hill without a problem. The PRO4X four-dour model we tested has a stiffer suspension and we could feel it on the highway before we ever hit the trail. But buyers looking for a vehicle that can handle tough trails aren’t too concerned about ride comfort.
Inside, the cabin is comfortable up front and practical. The Crew Cab has a fair amount of room for a mid-size pickup but the back seat is a bit tight for adults if you’re travelling more than a couple hours. Our two hour trip up to the high country was reaching the comfort level limit for our two passengers, because of the upright angle of the seatbacks, and the lower seat bottoms. But for two people carrying cargo, this where the Crew Cab shines.
For those who need to transport lots of cargo inside, the Frontier gets high marks. For items you don’t want in the bed, the rear seats in the Crew Cab fold to create a secure storage area that creates a large cargo area that can be conveniently accessed through the rear doors.
The Frontier comes with a 6 foot bed option on Crew Cab models and gives extra cargo and equipment storage room for work or play. The available movable tie-downs offer added flexibility when it comes time to secure that load.
Off-road, the Frontier PRO4X was as good as they get. Nissan features a shift-on-the-fly 4WD system, a two-speed transfer case with 4/Hi and 4/Lo, larger 16-inch Rugged Trail tires, Bilstein off-road shocks along with a locking rear differential and underbody skid plates.
The off-road package took us up the McCullough Trail in Summit County and the PRO4X handled everything we threw at it. It crawled over rocks and forged a small stream with ease. Nissan says the Frontier with 4WD gets an EPA estimated 15/city 21/highway and 17/combined mpg. Of course, we didn’t achieve even close those numbers being loaded and at altitude.
For those looking for a capable off-road mid-size pickup, the PRO4X is a good choice. It will take you anywhere you need to go off the beaten path. The larger 4.0-liter V6 is the way to go and has plenty of power for pulling and towing. If you are going to be hauling passengers in the back seat, there may be better choices but there aren’t a lot of them. The Toyota Tacoma TRD is very similar in size and function and compares well. The Honda Ridgeline won’t be able to keep up with the PRO4X off-road. For extra passenger room, buyers will have to look at a full-size pickup.
What’s New for 2013
The 2013 Nissan Frontier drivetrain remains relatively unchanged but gets slightly improves fuel economy. Inside, there are some new available technology upgrades, including a rearview camera, dual-zone climate control and a navigation system. Nissan has also revised the truck’s trim level names and option packages, including the addition of a new Desert Runner model.