LAS VEGAS - Conceding that its Frontier is too dowdy and conservative to stand out in the competitive compact pickup market, Nissan Division is giving the vehicle a substantial reskin midway through its product cycle.
To be unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show next month, the freshened Frontier is much more than the minor fascia change that usually comes midway through a cycle.
The design, by Nissan Design International in La Jolla, Calif., uses large rhomboid headlamps and a gaping grille bisected by a large brushed-metal cross-member just below the hoodline to give the truck a heavy, scowling face.
The side panels are accented by almost cartoonish wheel arch treatments, the cladding punctuated by numerous functional octagonal rivets. The tailgate has a large, black plastic panel that is placed over the tailgate release, where a sizable Nissan logo is placed.
Inside, the interior has been spruced up with two-tone accents on the climate control, a color scheme that carries over to the tougher seat and door fabric. The tensile feel of the future-look knobs has been softened somewhat.
The instrument panel has been borrowed from the Xterra, with a definite italic font.
'It's a polarizing look, but we think most people will like it. That's a lot better than where it is now,' Mario Polit, Nissan category marketing manager, said at a Frontier press preview here.
Unfortunately, being a midcycle change limits what Nissan can do to the mechanical side of the vehicle, Polit noted.
The only major mechanical change will be the addition of an optional 210-hp supercharged version of the base 3.3-liter V-6. That model will have a reinforced suspension and transmission to handle the extra power the engine generates.
Otherwise, the Frontier's underpinnings will remain the same until the vehicle is redesigned for the 2003 model year.
The new-look Frontier arrives in dealerships in late July, Polit said. The supercharged version will come in November. Pricing will change little, if at all.