The Nissan Frontier Hardbody Edition Is Just Cool

By automotive-mag.com 6 Min Read

How can you not like the Nissan Frontier Hardbody Edition? It’s just an appearance kit, sure, but it’s one that works, with throwback three-spoke wheels, 4×4 graphics, and a black front bumper that evokes its 1980s namesake. All it needs is some KC Daylighters on the sport bar to complete the package.

What’s funny is that the Frontier doesn’t need retro styling to feel like a throwback. Yes, this third-generation Frontier debuted just three years ago, but it’s based on the second-gen truck that came out in 2004. Even in 2021, this Frontier felt a bit old, and since then, we’ve seen the launches of brand-new versions of the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, and Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon. (Plus the arrival of the Hyundai Santa Cruz and Ford Maverick, and an update for the Honda Ridgeline, if you want to include car-based pickups.)

Quick Specs 2024 Nissan Frontier Hardbody Edition
Engine 3.8-Liter V-6
Output 310 Horsepower / 281 Pound-Feet
Weight 4,642 Pounds
Payload 1,480 Pounds
Towing 6,350 Pounds
Base Price / As-Tested $46,190 / $47,135

Get in the Frontier, and you’ll find bits and pieces Nissan’s used for decades. There’s no option for a digital gauge cluster, no big fancy infotainment screen, nothing. And where all the other mid-size rivals use turbo four-cylinders—hell, the Tacoma’s gone hybrid—the Frontier has a naturally aspirated V-6. It’s behind the times, yet it’s not a huge problem.

Usually when an automotive journalist describes a car as “charming,” it’s really damning with faint praise. Except, that’s not the case with the Frontier. This truck has all you need, and nothing you don’t. 

I’ve spent a lot of time in new Tacomas recently, and while it’s a great truck, a lot of its bang-up-to-date technology doesn’t necessarily make life better. The digital gauge cluster in that truck is hard to configure, and while the infotainment system is certainly better, you’re just going to use CarPlay or Android Auto anyway, so who cares? And why do we need such big screens?

Pros: Hardbody Package Looks Amazing, Simple Interior, Great Ride Quality. 

The Frontier’s driving experience is on par, too. Generally, the ride is very good, though you do get some of the low-to-medium-speed jitteriness common with unladen body-on-frame pickups. Out on the highway, it’s remarkably quiet, and the optional Bose sound system on this one is surprisingly good, too.

For some reason, the steering is very heavy at low speeds, which can be a pain. And admittedly, the naturally aspirated V-6 feels a step behind a modern turbo four-cylinder. It’s got 310 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque, which are good numbers, but the torque peak is way up at 4,400 rpm. The new Tacoma’s 2.4-liter four makes 317 lb-ft at 1,700 rpm, and even the low-output version of GM’s 2.7-liter makes its 260 lb-ft from 1,200 to 4,000 rpm. There were times in the Frontier where I wish I had a bit more grunt down low. In passing especially.

2024 Nissan Frontier Hardbody Edition
2024 Nissan Frontier Hardbody Edition

But beyond that, it’s hard to fault. The Frontier isn’t the last word in absolute refinement, but neither are any of its ladder-frame competitors. Despite Nissan not having the budget to pour engineering resources into its mid-sizer, it’s made something that’s still very worthy.

The Frontier Hardbody edition isn’t a full-on off-roader like the Pro-4X, but it does get some useful upgrades. It has all-terrain Hankook tires, an aluminum skid plate, and steel rock rails. That should be more than enough for light-to-medium duty off-roading, but the Pro-4X does add upgraded Bilstein dampers, a locking rear differential, and hill-descent control. 

2024 Nissan Frontier Hardbody Edition

Cons: V-6 Needs Low-End Torque, Overly Heavy Steering, Expensive

The biggest knock against the Frontier is that it doesn’t really present a great value proposition against its more modern rivals. This truck in particular is expensive. The Hardbody package is $3,890, it also requires the $2,190 Convenience Package and $995 Technology package. Those plus a couple other niceties push the MSRP here to $47,135. That’s about the same as a Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport hybrid, and not far off the $48,395 base for the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2.

A lot of its rivals have stuff you don’t necessarily need, but when the pricing is so close, the Frontier’s raison d’etre starts to fade away. You want all the latest tech and engines when they don’t really cost you any extra money.

And yet, the Hardbody is just cool. No mid-sizer on sale today looks this good, and regardless of price, that has an appeal all its own.

2024 Nissan Frontier Hardbody Edition
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