The Difference Between the Nissan Frontier and the Nissan Frontier NISMOby Michael G. Sanchez
The second-generation Frontier pickup was the first NISMO-branded product to be sold in the U.S. While the NISMO name may be unfamiliar to the average American car buyer, it's well-known -- and highly regarded -- by Japanese auto enthusiasts.
NISMO, which is a loose abbreviation for Nissan Motorsport International Limited, is Nissan's in-house performance and racing division. Since it was founded in 1984, NISMO has successfully competed in a variety of motorsports, including Super GT and endurance racing, and produced a wide range of performance parts and accessories for Nissan vehicles. Prior to the Frontier NISMO, though, the division's efforts were largely restricted to the Japanese market.
Officially a trim level, the NISMO package transformed the Frontier from a normal compact pickup to a vehicle with real off-road potential.
Exterior & Interior Dimensions
The Frontier was available in two sizes: King Cab (extended cab) and crew cab. The King Cab version featured compact, rear-hinged back doors. The crew-cab truck had a larger backseat and full-size, front-hinged back doors. The NIMSO trim level could be had with either cab style. Unlike most other pickups, there was no regular-cab version of the Frontier. The King Cab truck measured 205.5 inches in length, 72.8 inches in width and 69.7 inches in height, with a 125.9-inch wheelbase. Its cargo bed was 6.1 feet long. The crew-cab Frontier could be had with either a 5.0-foot short bed or 6.1-foot long bed. The short-bed version was the same length and width as the King Cab truck and had the same 125.9-inch wheelbase. With a height of 70.1 inches, though, it was slightly taller. The long-bed crew-cab model was 219.4 inches long, with the same width and height as its shorter counterpart. Its wheelbase was 139.9 inches. The King Cab model provided the driver and front passenger with 39.7 inches of headroom, 58.3 of shoulder room, 55.8 inches of hip room and 42.4 inches of legroom. Backseat passengers got 38.3 inches of headroom, 54.9 inches of shoulder room, 55.0 inches of hip room and 25.4 inches of legroom. The crew-cab Frontier's front seat offered 40.0 inches of headroom, 58.3 inches of shoulder room, 55.6 of hip room and 42.4 inches of legroom. The backseat provided 38.7 inches of headroom, 58.3 inches of shoulder room, 58.0 inches of hip room and 33.6 inches of legroom.
The 2008 Frontier was available with two engines: a 2.5-liter inline-four and a 4.0-liter V-6. The NISMO version came exclusively with the V-6. The smaller engine produced 152 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 171 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm. It was available with a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 engine put out 261 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 281 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm. It came hooked up to either a six-speed stick-shift or five-speed automatic. Compared to its competitors, the Frontier's V-6 was a stand-out performer. For instance, it provided 19 horsepower more than the Chevrolet Colorado's V-6 and a full 25 more than the Toyota Tacoma's six-cylinder offering. V-6-powered Frontiers, including the NISMO, could be had with rear- or four-wheel drive. Inline-four-powered trucks came only with rear-wheel drive.
The NISMO Package
The Frontier Nismo was inspired by off-road racing trucks, such as those made famous by events like the Baja 1000 and the Dakar Rally. While it wasn't any faster than other V-6 Frontiers, its beefed-up chassis and suspension made it much more capable on rough terrain. The NISMO package included Bilstein performance shocks specially tuned by the NISMO team, skid plates and P265/75R16 BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A off-road tires mounted on special 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. Four-wheel-drive models got limited-slip differentials front and rear, while rear-wheel-drive trucks got a limited-slip as well. All NISMO models included an electronic locking rear differential. These additions dramatically increased the truck's ability to maintain traction on unstable surfaces like gravel, sand and snow. Further enhancing its off-road capabilities, the Frontier NISMO could be had with an optional Traction Package. This added stability control, hill-start assist and hill-descent systems. Like all Frontier models, the NISMO came standard with four-wheel ABS.
Fuel Economy & Pricing
The Frontier's fuel economy ratings were right in line with other compact pickups of the era. This meant it was more frugal than a full-size truck, but not by as much as you might hope. The manual-equipped, inline-four model was EPA-rated at 19 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. With the automatic, those numbers dropped to 17-22. The two-wheel-drive, V-6 Frontier was rated at 15-20 with the automatic and 16-20 with the manual transmission. The four-wheel-drive version received a 14-19 rating with the automatic and a 15-19 rating with the manual. When new, the Frontier had a starting price of $16,530. The NISMO model had a base price of $23,780. As of 2014, Kelley Blue Book reports that all 2008 Frontiers are worth between approximately $9,150 and $16,435, depending on options and configuration. The NISMO model, specifically, is valued between $13,900 and $15,520.
Michael G. Sanchez has been a professional writer for over 10 years. A lifelong car enthusiast and former senior mechanic, he has written on a wide range of automotive topics. He holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from Castleton State College. Sanchez started writing about cars as a part-time copywriter for a local dealership while still in high school.