The 2013 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X is Nissan’s dirt readiest pickup, maybe more than the short of the Nissan Titan PRO-4X or maybe less. It comes not only with full skid plates from oil pan to transfer case to fuel tank, it’s also equipped with Bilstein off-road high-pressure shock absorbers, an electronic rear differential locker 4-wheel limited-slip and large BF Goodrich 265/75R16 Rugged Trail tires on special PR0-4X 16-inch aluminum-alloy off-road wheels.
And that’s just the start, of course. The chassis is set up to make the most of the headline dirty bits, starting with what Nissan calls its F-Alpha platform—the same underpinnings as Nissan’s full-size Titan pickup—a fully boxed ladder frame constructed of high tensile-strength steel, and all-steel double-wishbone front suspension and solid axle rear suspension with overslung leaf springs. Off road cred is abetted by long stroke suspension travel.
Off-road? Yes, the Frontier PRO-4X can take you just about anywhere you need a pickup to go. But how much sense does it make for day-to-day use in driving that won’t require hosing out the wheel wells when you go to the car wash?
That’s what we were to find out in a week of driving a 2013 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X mostly on pavement, using it as Mr. Suburbia might. First, we’ll admit this is something of an affectation, like wearing a shooter’s vest to a barbecue. Unless you’re toting a double-aught six, it’s—if you’ll pardon the expression—overkill.
Still, for those looking for that ready-to-go-anywhere look, the Frontier PRO-4X has it in spades…and jacks and a 12×12 piece of wood, and for good measure, a tow rope. The PRO-4X rides high above the gnarly-treaded BFG rubber—although actually not any higher than other Frontier models. Those include the basic Frontier S, plus the SV and SL in 4×2 and 4×4 configuration, and with rear-wheel drive only, the new-for-2013 Dessert Runner, and available only with four-wheel drive, the tested PRO-4X.
The four-wheel drive for the Frontier PRO-4X is part-time, with a locking center transfer case, good for use on dirt or slippery surfaces only, with no full-time all-wheel drive mode available. The four-wheel drive system with 2WD/4H/4LO modes is electronically controlled via a twist-knob on the dash.
Although a four-cylinder engine is available in lesser Frontiers, the Frontier PRO-4X, by virtue of its added weight to push and drivetrain to drive, comes only with Nissan’s 4.0-liter DOHC V6 producing 261 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque. The engine is part of Nissan’s acclaimed VQ series and, incidentally, is made in Tennessee. Our test Frontier was equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual is also available.
The 2013 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X is available in King Cab, for those who just need room behind the seats to throw the occasional stuff and a longer bed, or in a four-door Crew Cab if they’re people who need people. The rear doors of the Crew Cab provide access to a rear seat that actually has capacity for a pair of full-size adults. It’s moderately comfortable, though not the kind of thing for grownups to go cross-country in. Although there are three seatbelts for the rear seat, it’s only designed for two occupants. There’s no center rear headrest, and even in normal driving, a center passenger would whack his or her noggin against the rear window. Never mind what would happen in a rear-ender.
The front seats are comfortable, and the most noticeable thing for the front passenger will be the width of the center console—or lack thereof. Not that the cab is narrow. It’s just noticeable that the console isn’t as big as, say that of a Ram 1500, and the other seat isn’t so far away.
The Crew Cab has an effect on the size of the bed. From the front of the box to the tailgate is only 4’ 9’’ long. Temptation is, then, to get the bed extender, a three-bar gate that makes full use of the lowered tailgate to put stuff on. Of course, a load of golf balls would wind up on the road behind, and to load anything taller than the bed extender pivoted upwards will require removing it. And with the bed extender flipped forward to close the tailgate, the pickup bed is cut into halves. We suspect a lot of extenders will wind up in the corner of the garage.