Text: Paul Conde / Photos: Paul Conde | posted April 10, 2003 00:00
The Civilized Beast
Since its dynamic makeover featuring a new front fascia and a new tailgate, the Frontier has been making heads turn with its new distinct look. The truck has been constantly a leader in sales of the pickup segment. With the increased demand for pickups, it is definitely one of the top choices of every buyer.
We tested the Frontier on and off the road at a secluded farm in Baras, Rizal.
The new Frontier is basically similar to its predecessor except for some minor changes and additions which are mostly cosmetic. Inside the engine bay, it features the same QD32 3.2-liter powerplant, which is the biggest displacement engine in its class. Aside from the new front end and tailgate, a new set of chrome wheels were added to its exterior changes. Inside, leather wrapped seats, and an in-dash CD player.
The engine is quite respectable in terms of performance although it lacks the certain punch of a turbocharger which would definitely unleash this beast. Certainly, a 3-liter turbo-diesel engine as used by its cousins in other ASEAN countries would give the Frontier better engine brute. Power delivery to every gear is well balanced with its well spaced gear ratios. Overall engine performance was quite satisfactory, but still a feeling of thirst for more is left. Perhaps a beefed up version in the near future?
In terms of driveability, the Frontier gave little hesitation as each part of the drive was really smooth. The steering was incredibly smooth despite the bulk and weight. Steering response was very good as well as the wheels turned with ease. A really soft clutch pedal and smooth gearbox also added to the ease of the drive. Braking performance was quite commendable as the stopping works on demand.
The suspension of the truck similar to its predecessor is quite comfortable being a pickup, more of a balance of a an offroad beast and an urban warrior. The independent double wishbone front suspension worked great, the semi-elliptic leaf type had a bit of resistance. Overall the truck handled quite well on urban flat roads. When taken on the off-road, it felt quite precise and its ride height straight from the factory was quite adequate to do the job.
Needing more torque though on uphills for the additional pull as some really steep flat roads on the way to Teresa gave a little hesitation. Nonetheless it was able to negotiate uphills but a little more punch wouldn't hurt. A 4x4 model was designed to be taken outdoors hence a bigger engine is needed for the extreme outdoorsman who will climb every hill and mountain to get his does of natural high.
When we reached the dirt roads, we immediately switched on the 4x4 mode which was very responsive. The grip was felt on all fours. Encounters with some uneven moguls didn't seem to matter, the truck retained its balance and stability due to its large suspension stroke. The large wheel wells were definitely an advantage in this kind of terrain. With its high ground clearance, the Frontier had an excellent approach and departure angle which was an advantage on climbing on high moguls and rocks. We carefully negotiated each obstacle as this was still a production model and not yet a modified monster.
Some points of attention to be given attention to would be the rear leather backrests rubbing against the body of the truck which can make quite an annoying noise at times. The ease of use for the rear seatbelts was more of a chore. Another airbag could be added for the front passenger for an increased level of safety in addition to the standard driver-side airbags, and side impact beams.
Overall, the Frontier is definitely one of the top choices for a powerhouse pickup truck with stunning looks. This covers up for all the moon-like surfaces which they call urban roads, flooded streets, horrendous traffic and lawless public utility vehicles which terrorize the streets. This brawny truck will take you through anything, anywhere, anytime.