Tag Archives: Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X Crew Cab 4X4

Horsey Frontier both civilized and off-road ready …

Pickups are becoming so civilized it’s possible that urban cowboys won’t want to sidle up to them pretty soon.

All pickups used to be boxes on big knobby tires with a big ol’ floor-mounted stick shift, a metal bed and rusty (after a couple years) tailgate that flopped down like an exasperated teenager into the family couch. Pickups were strong and he-manly and cheaper than the sports cars that also identified their owners as high-T.

Sorry pardner, but much of that is long gone as crew cabs and modern technology have conspired to soften pickups and make them the family station wagons of today.

Nissan knows that, of course, but isn’t about to let its Frontier slide into sissydom. Last year it poured a new 310-horsepower 3.8-liter V6 with 9-speed automatic into the mid-size Frontier (a near clone to Ford’s Ranger in size and function). That gave Frontier the horsiest engine in class, plus a smooth-shifting tranny to boot, so a saddlebag full of power, but with refinement.

For 2022 the entire Frontier, outside of that engine and tranny, have been restyled and rethought to take on this growing market of mid-size pickups ruled by Toyota’s Tacoma.

Unlike last week’s smaller, stylish and refined Hyundai Santa Cruz, a compact crossover/pickup, Nissan went for the muscular manly styling that has dominated the market since the 1960s. It works, but isn’t so tall as to make a feller jump up into its cab like mounting a horse in one leap. Oh, this one added the fine off-road style step rails ($750), but they were hardly needed. No, the tested Frontier Pro-4X Crew Cab, designed for off-road loving pickup owners, sits low enough to make daily access easy.

Related video: Mark Savage reviews 2022 Nissan Frontier Pro 4x truck – YouTube

Where the hooves should be Frontier offers nubby R17 All-Terrain tires on painted alloy wheels, yet coupled with Bilstein off-road shocks the on-road ride is surprisingly supple and easy on the gluts. A rear suspension stabilizer no doubt helps too. The fam won’t mind riding in Frontier because of usual pickup ride quality (bouncy), and the driver will appreciate the giddyup provided by that V6 while so many other mid-sizers go with turbo 4-cylinders. Nissan Only offers the V6.

Handling is surprisingly quick and responsive as Nissan engineers revised the steering ratio for more precise handling, an aid especially in avoiding highway lane fade. Not a lot of play in this wheel. Downside is the steering is quite heavy in Frontier, very trucky, not crossover-like at all. Gym rats may like this while the rest of us could use a little lighter feel.

Useful, sure! Frontier has a 5-foot bed including spray-in liner, part of the $1,990 Pro Convenience Package. That package also adds Nissan’s snazzy Utili-track system with four adjustable tie-down cleats. That tailgate also is dampened so it doesn’t flop down too quickly, plus the tailgate locks, but no tonneau cover like the Santa Cruz has.

This one did add a grizzly bear-strong Sport Bar ($1,095) just behind the cab. It adds off-roading panache, but also includes a light on top to make bed loading easier at night. Nissan also includes side bed lights here. And while I loved Hyundai’s bumper infused steps this has a fold-down step on the driver’s side tail below the bumper. It’s easy to fold down and flip back up.

Frontier’s interior looks trucky, meaning muscular, black and off-road useful. There’s a knob on the dash to engage the 4-wheel-drive system, a big 9-inch touchscreen, large radio and climate control knobs and the usual steering-wheel hub with cruise and info screen controls.

I liked the functionality of it all and the black (really more of a charcoal gray) leather seats were soft and fairly comfy for city driving. Hip support was good, but the seats could use more lower-back support and the rear seats, while roomy enough for a couple adults could use some seat-back adjustments. The backs are nearly straight up and down and could be tiring after a short ride. The previous week’s Santa Cruz had a much more passenger friendly rear seat despite being smaller.

On the plus side though are heated front seats and heated steering wheel, plus the driver’s seat is fully powered while the passenger’s seat is manual. The back seats also fold and there’s storage beneath the seats.

I liked the open wireless phone charger on the console’s tail by the driver’s seat and center storage box. That’s easy to reach and easy to see if the phone is charging. The charger and heated seats are part of that Pro Convenience package that also includes a 120-volt power outlet in the bed.

Oddly the space between seats and door panels is incredibly tight. I couldn’t easily get my hand between the two to retrieve an item in the door pocket. Not real user friendly!

On the safety front there’s automatic forward collision warning, but to get more safety gar you need the Technology Package for $990. It includes lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, a rear sonar system, rear automatic braking, high beam assist, smart cruise and traffic sign recognition. I feel blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert really should be standard on all vehicles today.

Some useful electronics are standard though, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, satellite radio, navigation, NissanConnect, Wi-Fi hotspot and voice recognition for audio features. There’s a rear-view camera of course, hill start and descent assist and a trailer sway control system, all pluses when towing or off-roading.

Speaking of which, the Frontier will pull 6,720 pounds, not quite the 7,500 that Ranger pulls, but sufficient for most average trailers and gear.

Making the Tactical Green ($395 extra) test truck a little nicer was the Pro Premium Package that adds a Fender premium audio system with 10 speakers, the leather seats, auto-dimming mirror with Homelink, sunroof and beadlock alloy wheels. Cost is $2,790.

I wasn’t a fan of the Army-style green, but the militarization of pickups seems a natural step at this point. Gun racks are still extra though.

Sadly gas mileage is pickup poor at 17 mpg city and 22 highway. I got 18 mpg in about 60% highway driving.

Pricing is higher than Ranger, mostly. A base 2WD Frontier S starts at $29,340. That’s for the crew cab with full-size rear doors, and let’s be honest, that’s what most folks want, and need. An SV crew cab goes for $32,140. Both also have a $1,175 destination charge.

There’s a Pro-X model that is 2WD only, but looks tougher like the tested Pro-4X, so blacked out grille with orange Nissan logo, and another on the steering wheel.

The 4WD Pro-4X lists at $38,415 including delivery and the tested truck hit $46,965 with all its options. That’s pretty steep for a mid-size pickup. But again, that’s where the market is headed for mid-sizers. Note too that mid-size pickups are as large as full-size pickups were 15-20 years ago.

I like the open running boards, made for off-roading, but easy to climb on.

A King Cab with small rear doors that open backward is also available and will save buyers a few bucks, but is far less useful for family hauling. And even most urban cowboys have a couple little outlaws to corral for soccer practice.

FAST STATS: 2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X Crew Cab 4×4

Hits: Useful family pickup, right size, good power, shifts, ride and handling. Lined bed, easy-lower tailgate, deployable step, strong tie-downs. Trucky interior but big screen, heated seats and wheel, big radio and climate knobs, smart cruise and safety suite, wireless phone charger.

There is an easy-fold step in back.

Misses: Heavy steering feel, seat backs need more side support, back seat backs too straight for long rides, low mpg, a bit pricey.

Made in: Canton, Miss.

Engine: 3.8-liter V6, 310 hp/281 torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Weight: 4,709 lbs.

Wheelbase: 126.0 in.

Length: 210.2 in.

Cargo bed: 5-foot

Tow: 6,720 lbs.

Payload: 1,460 lbs.

MPG: 17/22

MPG: 18.0 (tested)

Base Price: $38,415 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $37,788*

Major Options:

Premium paint, $395

Off-road style step rails, $750

Bed access package, $540

Pro Convenience package (spray-in bedliner, Utili-track system, 120-volt power outlet in bed/rear console, heated outside mirrors, heated seats, heated steering wheel, LED under rail lighting, remote start, trailer hitch w/wiring, intelligent around-view monitor w/moving object detection and off-road mode, wireless charging), $1,990

Pro Premium package (Fender premium audio w/10 speakers, leather-appointed front/rear seats, auto-dimming mirror w/Homelink, tilt/slide sunroof w/manual shade, 17-inch beadlock alloy wheels), $2,790

Sport bar, $1,095

Technology package (lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, rear sonar system, rear automatic braking, high beam assist, smart cruise, traffic sign recognition), $990

Test vehicle: $46,965

Sources: Nissan, www.kbb.com, *KBB Fair Market

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Model Test Drive Previews

A little of this and that …

It’s good to be good, but sometimes better to be lucky.

How would you like to drive a $117,000 Maserati? I’m betting you’d like it!

As a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) I’m lucky enough to get a few invitations each year to test cars before they hit dealerships, or just as they are about to go on sale.

Last week I joined about 30 of my MAMA colleagues in rural Chicago area to take short test drives in a variety of 2022 models. With luck, I’ll get most of these for a week’s test drive to give you a full evaluation, but for some that’s a month or more away.

So here’s a snapshot of what’s coming for 2022. These are my very short takes on my10-15 minute sessions inside some exciting new vehicles. There’s more coming, but this is what I got to drive.

High roller:

Gotta begin with the priciest, sportiest and most luxurious vehicle all rolled into one, the 2022 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo.

This is the Maserati Ghibli Trofeo. That’s NOT my house in the background!

I’d never driven a Maserati in my 30+ years of car testing and it was worth the wait. Trofeo was even better than I’d imagined and bathed in slinky Italian design and luxury materials. Starting at $110,000 this one cleared the high luxury bar at $117,000 with a black and red leather interior that smelled like it was fresh off the cow. I mean that in a good way.

Car was a medium metallic blue and buttery smooth in ride and handling but with a wildcat 580-horsepower twin-turbo 3.8-liter V8 under its long well sculpted hood. Think male Olympic gymnast muscle for proper bulges and ab toning.

That throbbing pulse under the hood is 580 horses from a silky V8.

That muscle is put to the pavement with rear-wheel drive and two performance drive modes, Sport and Corsa, or Track mode. Both created a sinewy yowl from the V8 and put instant power to the meaty rear tires.

For trim there’s real, yes real, carbon fiber for the nose’s splitter and rear defuser, plus cool Maserati Trident logos on the C-pillars, a fancy jewel-look analog clock on the dash and a subtle Italian flag color bar at the bottom of the B-pillar.

The PR folks called it a perfect dual blend of performance and luxury and who am I to disagree. As they said, GT (Gran Turismo) is in Maserati’s racy DNA and the Trofeo amply defines it.

More Duality:

While I’d take a Trofeo in a heartbeat, it’s well out of my price range. More in tune with that is the spectacular Hyundai Santa Cruz. It is NOT a pickup, no matter what you or I may think. The product planning experts from Hyundai were perfectly clear about THAT. “DO NOT call this a pickup,” they urged.

Hyundai’s new Santa Cruz shares its platform with the new Tucson.

OK, and I get their point. The Santa Cruz has been promised for a couple years, but Hyundai held off until they felt they had it nailed as the dual-purpose – Urban and Outdoorsy – vehicle they intended. Oh, you’ll think it’s a pickup when you see it, but it’s so much more than that, yet it does have a roughly 4-foot open bed in back.

Yet here’s the deal, the Santa Cruz looks like a super hip urbane pickup with swoopy modern lines, lights and grille, but it rides on the Tucson crossover platform and feels like a sporty crossover, yet still has that bed in back. This was designed in North America for this market and it’s comfy and composed, with a super quiet interior, yet offering oodles of power, quick handling (think Mazda CX-30) and a refined ride befitting an entry-level crossover.

Santa Cruz, NOT a pickup, but a crossover with a bed … ok?

Oh, and did I mention it’s cute as a button. Reminds me of Subaru’s former Brat, but much more refined.

Again, I drove it briefly but already I’m feeling as if I’ve driven my Vehicle of the Year. It’s that good. The basics is it rides on a 118.3-inch wheelbase, is 195.7 inches long and has a generous 101.8 cubic foot interior. Yes, four adults will fit.

Base engine is a 191-horse 2.5-liter I4 while a turbo version making 281 horses is the upgrade and what I drove. It moves. It also tows, up to 3,500 lbs. with the base engine or 5,000 for that turbo monster.

Viewed from the front or rear, the Santa Cruz looks youthful.

Pricing will be $23,990 up to $39,720 and the target is 35- to 45-year-old single men that are college grads with no kids and a love of outdoor activities. But trust me, any cool person who feels a need for that small bed will want one. This will be a big seller and soon will be copied by everyone else in the mid-size crossover and pickup (oops) market.

Three other things, and I know I’m going on and on about this. But that short bed will haul a 4×8 sheet of plywood because the wheel wells are flat on top and the tailgate will latch at a 45-degree angle so the plywood will lie flat. The bed also is a composite material so no bedliner is needed and it also won’t rust. … And, the Santa Cruz has the first permanent retractable tonneau cover over that bed and it’s strong enough to hold 220 lbs. of weight to boot. Bravo!

That tonneau cover over the bed is heavy-duty and retracts too. It’s standard!

More trucky:

If you MUST have a real pickup. Well, a real mid-size pickup is the new 2022 Nissan Frontier. It’s got a huge ride height, big tires and super heavy steering that makes it feel like a monster truck even though its dimensions remain more moderate.

The 2022 Nissan Frontier is a pickup’s pickup made for heavy use.

Nissan upgraded the 2021 model after 16 years of few changes to the Frontier, by dropping in a 310-horse 3.8-liter V6. This year Nissan adds a 9-speed automatic transmission to make better use of that power while saving a little fuel too.

The 4X4 Pro-4X version I tested starts at $37,240 and with three option packages hit $44,315, still a reasonable price for such power and off-road ability. Styling tweaks such as blistered fenders give the Frontier a more modern appearance if that’s what motivates a buy, plus the off-road suspension is a winner.

In short, plenty of power, but a heavy feel to the wheel!

Finding a new path:

Nissan’s Pathfinder is new for 2022 too. Say that twice! Pathfinder is one of the original SUVs, originally launched in 1985. But it keeps morphing to add luxury (isn’t everyone?) to its rugged, capable and flexible mantra. Oh, and now it’s longer and has a third-row seat. (This is a theme among mid-size to large SUVS).

Sophisticated looks and a roomy third row seat for the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder.

Nissan has loaded up the Pathfinder with standard safety gear including rear automatic braking now, something it alone offers. But instead of making it longer like most SUVs, Nissan shortened the Pathfinder a bit, while adding to width and height, again by small amounts.

The result is a boxy but sophisticated looking truck, still packing its 3.5-liter V6 that creates 284 horsepower and capable of towing 6,000 lbs. Like the Frontier it adds a new 9-speed automatic, better for towing. And Trailer Sway Control is now standard on Pathfinder. A direct coupling system in 4-wheel drive also smooths out engagement, eliminating a delay in the switch to 4WD.

More acoustic glass quiets the interior and that third row seat is comfy enough for adults that something longer than a drive to the next suburb will now be acceptable.

MINI me:

I’m a short guy, so MINI has always been a car I love, plus it has BMW-type performance, probably because BMW owns the former all-British car company.

Top down, a Zesty Yellow (lime green?) MINI Cooper S is a show horse of a roadster.

I tested the 2022 MINI S convertible with a black cloth top adorned with a black and dull black Union Jack. Snazzy and clever, especially because it powers back automatically and you can stop it part-way back so the front is like an opened sunroof. Way cool!

Top up shows off the matte black Union Jack soft-top.

This one also was a lime green (called Zesty Yellow), so easily visible in any parking lot and listed for $41,750.

The MINI still has a silky smooth six-speed manual and handling that puts most sport coupes to shame. Power remains generous (180 hp twin-turbo I4) in the S model and inside there’s still the big round screen mid-dash, toggles above and below and a digital oval instrument panel over the steering column.

Nothing you do with your clothes on is more fun than driving a convertible MINI!

At the other extreme:

Jeep isn’t known for its mini vehicles, in fact they just seem to keep getting larger, think Wrangler Unlimited and now the new Grand Cherokee L, with L meaning LONGER. Like GM’s Suburbans and Tahoes the Grand Cherokee now offers a stretched version of its boxy full-size SUV.

Big, boxy and long, the Grand Cherokee L adds 15 inches in length for a third row.

Not much to distinguish it in looks, beyond the usual Jeep nose, the rest could pass as a refrigerator on wheels. But it has a third-row seat and is 15 inches longer than what used to be a mid-size SUV, the Grand Cherokee. If you need the space and are a Jeepoholic then this one may be calling your name. Although remember the Grand Wagoneer is coming soon too.

Inside the dash is low and clean and offers a large info screen and easy-to-use info system. In back are push buttons to lower various seats for cargo hauling or to let the kids more easily de-board from that third row seat.

This silver tester was the Overland edition, so more attuned for trail-busting, while the Summit models are luxury (again) oriented and roughly sell in the $68,000 neighborhood.

Adding an electric boost:

Not a full-electric, but the new Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4XE enhances its 2.0-liter turbo I4 with plug-in electric hybrid power for use on or off-road. You’ll get 21 miles of electric charge that you can use for trips to the office (if you’re not working from home), or save for when you’re off-roading and want to cut your emissions when out in the woods.

Adding hybrid power doesn’t change a Wrangler’s looks, but helps MPG.

The red and black test vehicle had managed 34 mpg with a bunch of crazy car writers driving it for the day and still got battery power via regenerative braking so that juice helped get the heavy Jeep rolling from a stoplight and aided mpg.

I like the somewhat MINI-style levers, not exactly toggles, on the center stack to put the windows up and down. And remember you can take the tops off a Wrangler, and the doors if you’re really into outdoor driving. Sticker was $56,380 and included a $2,495 hardtop.

Going full-on electric:

This IS the future of cars and trucks, so get used to it. Now Volkswagen shows off its ID.4 compact crossover with a funky gear selector, but oodles of oomph. The tested Pro S model has about 260 miles of range while the standard has 250 miles of plug-in power.

Volkswagen’s electric crossover, the ID.4 is a speedster and quiet.

Oh, and the plug is not up front or on the nose here, it’s right where a gas filler normally shows up on the passenger’s side rear quarter panel.

I liked the ride, power and handling here, all smooth and kicky. But it’ll take any newcomer a while to figure out the buttons and shifter. That shifter is up by the instrument panel and requires the driver turn a knob to engage the gears, and turn it twice forward to go into Drive mode with Regenerative braking engaged. That allows the crossover to generate more power for the batteries when he or she lets off the accelerator and the electric motors slow down the ID.4 and the braking sends electrical charges to the battery packs.

Oh, and to engage Park, one must press the end of the gear selector knob, a bit clunky, but you’ll figure it out eventually.

Might be tough to tell here, but at right is a knob you turn to shift, see D/B for drive!

The good news is that there’s a wireless phone charger where that nasty old easy-to-use shift lever normally would be on the console.

Seems the German designers always have a new idea for some formerly simple function, and then VW puts an unusual name on the driving product, so Tiguan, Taos and now ID.4.

That’s it for now, but my 2022 vehicle reviews kick off with the new Kia Carnival minivan next week on the WUWM website, wuwm.com. Just search for Savage on Wheels! … and a few 2022s have snuck in already if you look carefully there, or on this site.

#mamasummerdrive