On August 20th 2020 I made the switch from a 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee (ZJ) to a 2014 Nissan Frontier Pro4X. Some would (and did) call this a downgrade. The ZJ sat on JK Rubicon axles with lockers, 35” Nexen Roadian MTX’s, Custom sliders, bumpers and a few other modifications. I would not call my switch a downgrade. Here's why.
I began the search looking at everything but the Frontier. Back and forth between a Jeep JK and a Toyota Tacoma. Both good, viable options. Through this search I would find I could not afford either. Not without sacrificing options and getting one with 150,000 miles or more. I knew the Frontiers were less expensive and I had spent the previous year watching my brother Matt (@mattsvolta) beat the crap out of his stock 2018 Frontier Pro4X. The thing just kept coming. Or I should say going, away from you, very fast, leaving you in the dust. I had my brother, Cody, go look at a Tacoma I found in my price range. It wasn’t great and he suggested I look for Frontiers one more time. And I am so glad he did.
I opened up the interwebs and punched in my criteria. THERE IT WAS!! The Unicorn. Or as it would later be named “Blue Thunder” A blue 2014 Nissan Frontier Pro4X. I immediately sent the pics to Cody and called him. “Duuuuude! I found it. This is the one. It has red wheels! Go look at it for me.” He was set to go look at the next day, along with another Tacoma I found. I waited impatiently all day to hear back from him. Finally he called, gave me the news on the Tacoma. A 2010 TRD with 130,000 miles, a lift, and 33” tires. It wasn't good. The lift was a hack job with inferior parts. An after market grill was installed and held on with a couple of zip screws and some zip ties. Worst of all, the undercarriage was covered in rust. They wanted $25,000 for this truck. Now the news on the Frontier. A 2014 Pro4X with 99,000 miles. It had a Bilstien lift, 33” tires wrapped around some red American Racing wheels. It also had a light bar nestled into the factory grill and a bed cover. For me the bed cover was a big deal as I had planned on getting one for whatever truck I decided on. They wanted 20,000 for this truck. So this truck was 5,000 less, had 31,000 less miles, 4 years newer, and suspension components that were name brand and seemed quality. No brainer, right? I decided, and told Cody that was it, I am
going to buy that truck.
The next day after work I shot down the hill and headed to the dealer. As we pulled up I could see it sitting towards the front of the lot. It looked even better in person. Examining the truck I would find that it checked all the boxes. A 2014 Nissan Frontier Pro4X, with a lift, red wheels, 33” tires, bed cover, light bar, rear locker, reasonable miles, clean light gray cloth interior. We called over the salesman. Asked a few questions and got the keys. The motor fired immediately and idled without hesitation. It really ran smooth. I popped the hood and looked for anything that looked suspicious. No funky wiring or what looked to be areas of concern. The radio turned on and the speakers were good. All other dashboard/display buttons and knobs worked as they should. The heater and A/C worked and it even had a back up camera. I got down under the car and was pleased to find there were no visible leaks, nothing damaged or signs of abuse. 99% of the body was straight and without damage. Lol. Behind the left rear wheel was some damage. It looked as though the previous owner had caught the body on a rock and put about a 4” gash in the body, but was in a place that was not super noticeable.
It was time to take it for a spin. We got in and took off through a mostly residential area. Again, the truck ran smooth. The throttle seemed responsive; the truck still had a lot of torque despite the larger tires. It didn’t lunge or jerk. No vibrations or harsh suspension feel. It was smooth. The only thing was a slight shimmy in the steering wheel. I chalked it up to tire balancing or perhaps a sloppy tie rod end. To me neither were large issues. I didn’t have any experience driving a stock Frontier for comparison. All I knew was I was in love with this truck. I pulled into a dirt lot, selected 4 Hi, then 4 lo and engaged the rear locker. Everything was great. The drivetrain was obviously in great condition. The steering was tight and responsive. The turning radius is not the best in its class but respectable. We got back on the pavement and I proceeded to give it the beans. Stomped on the gas pedal and it got up and went. Better than what I expected. “I'm buying this truck, and I am going to tear shit up in it, '' I said to myself.
We went back to the dealership and I said “I'll take it”. After some haggling (which didn’t go my way) and a long drawn out process figuring out the financials and signing paperwork, the truck was mine. I got in my new to me truck, drove about 2 miles and got some dinner before heading back up the mountain. By this time night had fallen and I then realized the headlights were not as great as they seemed in the daylight. No biggie. I hit the freeway and goosed it. The torque and power that 4.0 puts out is fantastic. It just goes. We quickly hit the bottom of the mountain and began climbing. I was unsure what to expect from this truck. It shifted and down kicked smoothly, it didn’t hunt for gears too much with its 2 speed transmission. jk. The truck just cruised up the inclines and gave me more power when I asked for it. I briefly turned on the light bar a few times and was like holy mackerel that's bright. I loved it, who doesn’t right? By the time I got up the mountain I needed gas, the Frontier is not known for its amazing gas mileage because it does not get amazing gas mileage. But it's OK. I pulled into the gas station a little hot and heard a fairly loud clunk. Who ever put the suspension on had not heard about the frontier coil bucket contact issue. Again, no biggie, I can take care of that.
I drive this truck to work everyday. About a 12 mile round trip. And it also serves as my offroad/overland/adventure/camping/hauling/ anything and everything vehicle. I can haul a shit ton of groceries. My drives to work are pleasant with the comfy interior. As a matter of fact the interior is so comfortable that my son can not stay awake if we drive for more than 5 minutes. He's 14. but seriously the seats are comfortable. The seat height is also perfect for me. It feels tall enough to see well over the hood but isn't cramping on the head room. Since the day of purchase I have put about 8500 miles on it. I drive it to work every day, run errands, drive up and down the mountain a few times a month, and take it wheeling. I have done tons of dirt roads and moderately difficult trails close to home. I've driven several hours from my home to take it on offroad trips. 4 plus hours on the freeway doing light speed is nothing for this truck. Like it's not even trying. There's a chance you saw a blue blur on the freeway and thought “what was that, I must be seeing things, I should pull over”. That was me.
Offroading this truck is amazing. If more people knew how capable it was, you would see way more on the trail. It has everything its counterpart has at a fraction of the price. The rear locker constantly comes in clutch. Even when I don’t really need it. It just gives me that confidence that it's there and locked. I soon found out that I wanted more from the suspension. It's a little soft for me. Not the truck's fault. Just the suspension the previous owner chose. I can still get cookin through the desert. I feel as though I have thrown quite a bit at this truck and it handled everything, I even jumped it a little by accident. From mild and semi difficult trails in Big Bear, to some quick desert running through the Mojave, and a little rock crawling in Parker, this truck can do a lot. It's the dark horse of the mid size truck market. It handles well in the snow and even better in all other terrains. In the next few weeks I hope to have a much better suspension put on and then who knows what this truck will be able to do.
In the year I have had it I have only a few small issues. Issues I wouldn't even call issues. Aside from regular maintenance this truck has needed next to nothing. The first thing I did was replace the upper control arm ball joint boots. The boots ripped because they had been rubbing on the coil bucket before I got a chance to trim them. I think they might have been ripped from the get go. In the beginning of 2021 I got a check engine light. The code was P0 something or other for a camshaft position sensor fault. Once that light came on the truck ran a bit rough. I researched it and ordered a new sensor. There are 2 camshaft sensors so I just replaced them both. It costs me about 60 bucks and a couple hours on a Saturday to put them in. problem solved. A couple months after that it threw another code and check engine light. This time for the crankshaft position sensor. Once again I researched it and ordered the part. About 20 bucks and an hour or so and problem was fixed. Although these were inconvenient I wouldn’t really consider them issues. Sensors are a consumable part. Sensors go bad all the time. The shimmy in the steering wheel came back shortly after I had fixed it by balancing the tires. Turned out to have some warped rotors, probably due to overheating the brakes from excessive harsh braking. Again, not a truck issue, more of a product choice or drive style issue. Other than that I have had no other “issues”
So, here I am, 1 year and roughly 8500 miles later and I still love this truck. Maybe more now since I have made some other upgrades like custom built sliders, front and rear bumpers and some offroad lights. Would I buy this truck again? HELL YES!!!!! You really can't go wrong with this truck. It's tough, reliable, capable, cheap (in price not quality), looks great, has good power. I can go on and on. So, if you want an awesome truck with all the goodies go get yourself a Frontier. There's a spot open, Matt and I are looking for the third tip of the trident. If that's not a selling point what is? You get to be part of a trident. A FRICKEN TRIDENT!
NOTE: Jose ended up purchasing a 2022 Frontier shortly after Casey wrote this blog post, so the third position of the trident has been filled. However, I hear the guys are now trying to form a pitchfork if anyone is still interested.- Cody