The 2011 Nissan Frontier may not offer all the towing and cargo capacity of a full-size pickup, but when you consider its powerful V6, roomy cab and impressive towing and off-road abilities, Nissan’s little pickup isn’t far off the mark. Although Nissan forgoes the regular-cab option offered on the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado, the Frontier remains a competitive work truck that can double as a comfortable daily driver and an even more enjoyable weekend warrior. Built on a sturdy, fully boxed frame, the Frontier is perfectly suited for towing and hauling, and its available V6 is more powerful than the 6-cylinder found in the Ford Ranger, the Toyota Tacoma and the Dodge Dakota.
For the 2011 model year, Nissan changed the Frontier trim names from XE, SE and LE to S, SV and SL. S and PRO-4X versions were offered for the first time with the Crew Cab configuration. See the 2011 Nissan Frontier models for sale near you
What We Like
Roomy interior; Utili-Track in-bed channel system; powerful V6 engine; PRO-4X off-road ability
What We Don’t
No regular-cab model; weak 4-cylinder engine; V6 can be fuel-thirsty; rear seatbacks in the crew cab are rather upright
Fuel Economy & Engine Specs
The base for the Nissan Frontier’s standard engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder unit good for 152 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. With the 5-speed manual, this engine achieves 19 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. The 5-speed automatic earns slightly less at 17 mpg city/22 mpg hwy.
Optional on the Frontier is a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 261 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque. This engine is offered with either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive and a choice of manual or automatic transmissions. Rear-wheel-drive models earn 16 mpg city/20 mpg hwy with the manual and 15 mpg city/20 mpg hwy with the automatic. All-wheel-drive versions of the Frontier achieve 15 mpg city/19 mpg hwy with the manual transmission and 14 mpg city/19 mpg hwy with the automatic.
Standard Features & Options
The 2011 Frontier’s trim levels include S, SV, PRO-4X and SL. The extended-cab model, dubbed the King Cab, has a 6-foot bed, while the crew cab brings a 5-foot bed. Frontier Crew Cab models can be equipped with a 6-foot bed.
The Frontier S includes a 2.5-liter engine, a 5-speed manual transmission, 15-inch steel wheels, a locking tailgate, cloth bucket seats, a fold-flat front passenger seat and forward-facing rear flip-up seats. The optional S Preferred package adds air conditioning and an AM/FM/CD stereo.
The Frontier SV adds air conditioning, a 4-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, chrome front and rear bumpers, a tilt steering column, a sliding rear window, rear privacy glass and front tow hooks.
The Frontier SV V6 gains a 4.0-liter V6 engine and alloy wheels. Optional on the SV V6 is the Premium Utility Package, which adds Bluetooth, a 6-speaker AM/FM/6CD stereo, satellite radio, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a compass, an in-cabin microfilter, an overhead sunglass holder, a spray-in bedliner and the Utili-Trak system.
The PRO-4X brings the 4.0-liter V6 engine, fog lights, body-color front and rear bumpers, a multifunction trip computer, a first aid kit, an 8-way manual driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, off-road tires, a locking rear differential, Bilstein off-road shocks and additional skid plating. Optional on the PRO-4X is the Luxury Package, which adds heated side mirrors, 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio, leather seating, an 8-way power driver’s seat, a 4-way power passenger seat, heated front seats, a fold-down center armrest, a power moonroof and a roof rack with crossbars.
The Frontier SL adds automatic headlights, 18-in wheels, side step rails, heated side mirrors, 10-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio, leather seating, an 8-way power driver’s seat, a 4-way power passenger seat, heated front seats and a fold-down center armrest. A moonroof and a roof rack are the only optional equipment.
The Nissan Frontier holds good resale values, better than the Ford Ranger, the Dodge Dakota and the Chevy Colorado but not as good as the Toyota Tacoma. All-wheel-drive models will likely cost a bit more than their rear-drive counterparts. To get a good idea of the Frontier’s price range, we suggest checking the used-car values at KBB.com. You can also search the Autotrader Classifieds to see what models are currently for sale in your area.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued no recalls for the 2011 Nissan Frontier.
Should a recall occur in the future, recall repairs are required by law, even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed, and if not, they’ll fix the car at no charge to you. You can also check the NHTSA website; simply enter your vehicle’s identification number for a list of recall repairs performed.
Safety Ratings & Warranties
Standard safety equipment on every Nissan Frontier includes front, front-side and side-curtain airbags, plus electronic traction and stability control. SV V6, PRO-4X and SL models equipped with the automatic transmission include hill-start assist, hill-descent control and Nissan’s Active Brake Limited Slip technology.
In 2010, the Nissan Frontier earned four out of five stars in the NHTSA’s front-end crash test, four stars in the side-impact test and four stars in the rollover test. In 2011, the government revised its crash-test rating system but didn’t retest the 2011 Frontier. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2011 Frontier top marks in its moderate-overlap, side and roof-strength tests.
The Nissan Frontier entered service backed by a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. If you can find a Frontier through Nissan’s certified pre-owned (CPO) program, the vehicle will have gone through an extensive 167-point checklist and will come with a 7-year/100,000-mile extended factory warranty from the original date the vehicle entered service. To qualify for the Nissan CPO program, vehicles are typically less than 6 years old and must have fewer than 80,000 miles.
Other Cars to Consider
2011 Toyota Tacoma — The Tacoma offers better resale value and a more powerful 4-cylinder engine, plus more trim variations. But its V6 isn’t as powerful as the Frontier’s, and it doesn’t offer features like the Utili-Track system.
2011 Ford Ranger — The Ranger is not as roomy or powerful as the Frontier, and it doesn’t offer a crew cab. The Ford also has lower resale values, and it can’t tow as much (6,000 versus 6,500 pounds).
2010 Chevrolet Colorado — Although the Colorado’s 4-cylinder engine is more powerful than the Frontier’s 2.5-liter engine, its 5-cylinder can’t compete with the Frontier’s V6 for power or towing ability. However, you can get a 300-hp V8 in the Chevy.
For the most basic needs, the SV V6 with the Premium Utility package makes the most sense. All-wheel drive is nice if you like to go camping or live where it snows on a regular basis. Those who frequent rugged trails and out-of-the-way places should look to the PRO-4X trim. No matter which Frontier you choose, we’d recommend finding one with the V6 (which excludes the entry-level S).