Automakers are in a no-win situation when it comes to horsepower. Namely, they never have enough of it to satisfy everyone. Most could add rocket assist to their latest models and they’d still hear someone complain that: “it’s a little weak.” But what if you’re Nissan, and your freshly restyled Frontier pickup, like its competitors, already has V6 horsepower? How much more? Well how about 40 horsepower, and up to 46 pound-feet of torque more? That’s the added output of the Frontier’s potent new engine, which mates the same 3.3- liter single-overhead-cam engine we loved in the Xterra SUV, with a Roots-type supercharger made by the blower specialists at Eaton. With the supercharger’s 3-lobe rotors spinning, peak output is 210 horsepower. Torque is 231 pound-feet with the 5-speed manual transmission, and 246 pound-feet with the 4-speed automatic. Our test truck was a manual and we liked its positive gear engagement, although the long throws, which seemed perfect for a truck, threw those who wanted to drive this blown Frontier like a sports car. Nevertheless, we still managed a very respectable 0 to 60 romp of 9-seconds flat. And a 1/4 mile time of 16.8 seconds at 81 miles-per-hour. While a turbocharger contributes most at higher rpms, a Roots-type supercharger adds more grunt off-the-line, plus more mid-range punch. So we weren’t that surprised that the top end pull was mild. Oddly, even with more pulling power, our test truck carried the same tow rating as the normally aspirated 3.3, 3,500 pounds with the manual, 5,000 pounds with the automatic. Fuel mileage for a rear-drive supercharged Frontier is EPA rated at 15 city/18 highway. We managed 17 in mixed driving. Driving at our test track showed this Desert Runner, like all recent Frontiers, to have a solid feel, with very stable handling, and a smoother ride than most small trucks. To back up its extra horsepower, the Frontier has received steroidal styling for 2001. The body on all Frontiers, including our 4X2 Desert Runner, is far more muscular, with industrial strength bumpers, and blistered headlamps with styling borrowed from the Maxima. All Frontiers sport angular fender flairs with 4x4s and Desert Runners adding even more beef as well as this cool exposed-rivet-cap look. While a new key-lock tailgate completes the Frontier’s big-truck styling. The Frontier gets a new look inside as well. The dash features clear gauges and our truck’s trendy pewter faces, and larger controls for heat and ventilation, as well as for the standard CD stereo. Although the stereo’s low dash position still makes it a stretch to use. So to compensate, Nissan added satellite stereo controls on the steering wheel. Which, in Desert Runner trim, also has contrasting red stitching to match the stitching on the available leather upholstery. In the rear of the Desert Runner’s standard King Cab, there’s plenty of small cargo room. Plus a pair of fold down kid-size jump seats. Though the real space is still in the Frontier’s big-for-its-class, 74.6-inch long, double- wall cargo box. Frontier pricing, however, is no more substantial than that of its competitors. Desert Runners start at $16,469 for an XE with a manual transmission. SE trim starts at $18,619. For the supercharger, add another $1549 to KingCabs and CrewCabs, but that includes leather upholstery and a 6-disc CD stereo. So, it’s a bargain upgrade. Indeed, Nissan surprised everyone when it added the extra punch of a supercharger to its 2001 Frontier, giving it a big boost over its competitors in more ways than one. It not only should satisfy those jaded customers who always want the feel of “just a few more ponies” under the hood, but it all comes in an eye-popping wrapper as well.
Engine: 3.3- Liter Sohc 6-Cylinder W/ Roots-type Supercharger
Torque: 231 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 9 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16.8 Seconds @ 81 MPH
EPA Mileage: 15 MPG City 18 MPG Highway