Why not start with a mic drop? The Nissan Frontier is not only one of the best options for overlanding, but it is also a runaway value. The King Cab V6 4×4 has an MSRP of $28,610 and includes an automatic transmission, air conditioning, cruise, power locks, and even keyless entry. At the dealership, they are regularly advertised for thousands less than MSRP. Impressively, you can actually order one with a 6-speed manual transmission, and the PRO-4X version includes skid plates, Bilstein shocks, and a locking rear differential.
The current iteration of the Frontier (D40) has been around since 2004, and sales have never slowed. In fact, Nissan sold 80,000 Frontiers in the US for 2018, and the model currently outpaces the brand new Ford Ranger almost 2:1. What is the explanation for their success? Value and reliability. The Frontier was awarded JD Power’s award for “Most Dependable Mid-Size Pick Up.” As overlanders, reliability and durability are what we need, and Nissan recognizes the overland community, as shown with their most recent concept vehicle, the Destination Frontier.
I took delivery of the Destination Frontier at the Overland Expo, and immediately put it to use driving the trails around Prescott, and on a road trip and desert adventure in California. Before I even entered the cab, the first thing I noticed was A REAL KEY, not some fob I might lose or that stops communicating to a security transceiver. Getting in the cab, there is a real shifter with a proper gate to hold each of the five automatic gears. The cabin in notably minimalist, which I liked, with cloth seats and a simple dash layout. It does look a bit dated, but entirely functional. The project is based on a 2019 Crew Cab SV 4×4 Midnight Edition.
On the Trail
This Frontier is tall with a combination of a Nisstec 3 inch suspension lift, Nitto Trail Grappler 33 inch tires, and a 3-inch body lift. The suspension was intentionally augmented with Hellwig overload springs on the rear to handle a typical overland load. This resulted in a firm ride when unloaded, but perfect once a weekend full of camping gear, water, and food was added. There is an impressive amount of ground clearance, but I would have left out the body lift for my purposes. It wasn’t needed to fit the tires and only serves to raise the center of gravity unnecessarily (but it does add to the aggressive look).
From the front, Nissan addressed both approach angle and self-recovery by fitting a Hefty Fabworks bumper and Warn ZEON 10-S winch. To the bumper, they also installed the new Baja Designs LP6 Pro lights, which are without a doubt my favorite driving lights available today with multiple output settings and integrated cornering and daytime running light functions. The factory steel rear bumper was left stock, but they did protect the quarter panels with steel rock sliders.
I drove the Frontier on several Arizona trails, including our local test track and a few higher speed desert routes in California. Overall, the vehicle had an easy time with most I asked of it, and it was only limited by the reduced articulation due to the overload springs in the rear and the heavy preload in the front coilovers. Even when lifting a wheel, the traction control did its best to control wheelspin. The Midnight Edition is not available with the factory rear locker.
Nissan is taking the overland audience seriously, which makes perfect sense. Their vehicles are designed for remote travel, including the long-respected Nissan Patrol. For this build, they installed a few thoughtful overlanding accessories, including a Rhino-Rack Pioneer Tray rack over the cab, and a Leitner Designs bed rack in the back. The bed rack includes both a fuel and water can and a set of traction boards. To the top, they installed the CVT Mt. Shasta rooftop tent. I liked a few things about the tent but didn’t care for the comfort of the mattress (too thin and too soft). In the bed, there is a Dometic CFX 50W 12 volt fridge/freezer on a slide.
Overall, the Destination Frontier is a fun overland inspired concept vehicle, but what it really highlighted to me was just how good the base Frontier is as a truck. In the days of $60,000 Gladiators, it is nice to see you can drive to the local dealership and cruise away in a brand new 4WD pickup for less than 30 grand. Then you can spend the cash you saved buying gas as you drive down to Argentina.