A 17-year gap between vehicle generations usually means that the nameplate was retired and is being revived, but the Nissan Frontier is the exception to that rule. Since the previous generation debuted in 2005, Nissan has continued to produce its mid-size pickup truck with only light modifications until it added a new V-6 for 2020. For 2022, however, we finally get a redesigned Frontier.

Redesigning any vehicle after that long is going to net huge upgrades, and the new Frontier is predictably a gigantic leap forward versus the outgoing model in almost every way. The more pertinent question is: How does the Frontier shape up against the rest of the competition, which have gotten more consistent generational updates?

I spent a day driving around the mountains of Sundance, Utah, in a 2022 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X, the most expensive and most off-road-worthy model. The drive route covered highways, city streets, and about an hour on a semi-slick trail that took a bunch of rain the evening before. This variety of environments painted a clear picture of the Frontier’s capabilities, and while other vehicles in this class do individual things better, none of them are as well rounded.

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

New truck, sort-of new V-6

This was not our first interaction with the Frontier’s lone engine, a 310-hp, 3.8-liter V-6 that makes 281 lb-ft of torque. It arrived in the 2020 Frontier, which didn’t receive the full redesign that had been scheduled.

This engine, along with the 9-speed automatic transmission that arrived with it, represent a substantial upgrade over the old V-6 in every way. Through the lower gears, the Frontier gets up to speed with little drama and shifts happen quickly up to about 35-40 mph.

After that, I was pleased to find plenty of power for passing maneuvers as well, though the transmission does take a beat to find the right gear. It’s not quite as limber as the Ford Ranger does with its turbo-4, but getting into the throttle doesn’t make the rear end bounce like it does in the Ford.  It’s also a large upgrade over the Toyota Tacoma’s V-6, which runs out of breath and has an indecisive transmission. Among the non-diesel category of engines in this class, it’s among the best.

Towing capacity maxes out at 6,720 pounds and every Frontier comes with standard trailer sway control, though a tow hitch is optional. This puts the Frontier mid-class, as the Ranger maxes out at 7,500 pounds and the Chevrolet Colorado at 7,700 pounds, but the Tacoma only pulls 6,400 pounds and the Ridgeline 5,000 pounds.

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

Extreme suspension makeover

The biggest sticking point of the old Frontier, in addition to a lack of safety technology, was its driving dynamics. The Frontier was abysmal on the highway, it’s steering was too loose and it was a hassle trying to get it to track straight. And the rear suspension made it feel as though the bed was disconnected and dragging behind the cabin as it bounced through turns.

The ladder-frame platform under the new Frontier isn’t a clean-sheet restart, which gave me pause considering how old it is. But Nissan engineers assured that me that the existing platform had plenty of strength and the extensive modifications performed to the other parts of the suspension and mounts would be sufficient to change the truck’s character. After just a few minutes on the highway, I had to tip my cap—they were completely right. The Frontier’s ride quality and handling are now a strength.

Included in the redesign are new hydraulic cab mounts that provide more isolation to the cabin and reduce road vibrations. The jounce bumpers are now made of urethane to enhance the damping forces above the shocks and the front stabilizer is beefier. A rear stabilizer bar has also been added to keep the Frontier’s rear end more stable as well. On top of all that, the hydraulic steering has been retuned to provide better on-center feel and has a 16% quicker ratio that tightens up responsiveness noticeably.

The sum of these changes is a truck that doesn’t drive like one. It has the best on-road dynamics this side of the Honda Ridgeline, but that’s a unibody truck. The body-on-frame Frontier glides down the highway with a pliant and comfortable ride that remains stable up to highway speeds where the old Frontier would drift side-to-side listlessly, like a balloon in the wind.

A byproduct of this stability is a tranquil cabin. It’s shockingly quiet inside at all speeds. Even in the Pro-4X model with its standard all-terrain tires, I didn’t really hear any tire thrum or wind noise. The SV with street tires was even more eerily quiet, which is wholly unexpected in  a pickup truck, especially the Frontier. The Pro-4X’s softer Bilstein off-road shocks loosen up the ride on the road (in a good way), and there’s a touch more vibration in the SV.

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

Unstuck in the mud

In addition to the off-road shocks, the Pro-4X also adds four underbody skid plates, an electronic locking rear differential, 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Hankook Dynapro AT2 all-terrain tires, and lava red-painted front tow hooks.

The rain that fell on the trail we took the night before did spare us the dust, but it also made the trail slick and cakey at different points. The Pro-4X (as with all Frontiers) has a part-time four-wheel drive system, and I spent the time on trail split between 4Lo and 4Hi. In 4Lo, the V-6 in the Pro-4X delivers its power evenly. The 2.71-to-one transfer case allows the truck to climb hills and maintain momentum with ease, and enables a 54.42:1 crawl ratio that helps it trudge through tricky, slow-speed situations. The all-terrains did such a good enough job of grabbing the slick surface that I only felt the truck start to slip once and an extra dab of throttle got it quickly straightened out and marching once more.

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

My test vehicle was also equipped with the optional around view monitor system, which automatically activates an “Off-Road” camera mode that shows a forward camera view when in 4Lo. This proved very helpful as the Frontier’s new hood sits up quite high to give it the burly truck the styling that so many pickups feature today.

The Frontier also enjoys a 32.3-degree approach angle, which Nissan calls best-in-class if you’re not counting the Jeep Gladiator and its minimal 40.8 degrees of approach angle. The Pro-4X can’t keep up with the Gladiator off-road and is a step behind the likes of the Tacoma TRD Pro and Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, with their more advanced suspension and crawling setups. But for any kind of fire road or forest trail, the Pro-4X is well equipped and plenty capable.

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

Up-to-date interior

Everything about the old truck felt like it came from a time capsule. The styling inside and out felt dated about eight years ago. But the 2022 Frontier wears new, trendier clothes with a rugged sensibility (especially on the Pro-4X) that makes it look more muscular on the outside and much more refined within.

Screens have proliferated appropriately. A 7.0-inch digital instrument panel display and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay both come standard, and Pro models (the Pro-X and Pro-4X) get a 9.0-inch screen. A wireless charging pad is also available, and it’s perfectly placed in front of the center armrest for easy access. The Frontier’s interior storage is well thought out and plentiful, with large door pockets front and rear on crew cab models, a deep center console, and a small tray above the screen.

Nissan’s “Zero Gravity” front seats are standard across all grades and provide good comfort for longer drives, but the back seat in either cab leaves something to be desired. In the King Cab, the back seats are little more than fold-down jump seats and not designed to fit adults for an extended period. The Crew Cab offers a real bench seat with decent leg room, but the floor of the cab is very high. That elevates passengers’ thighs well off the seat cushion, and will inspire grumpiness on longer trips.

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

Size and pricing stay (somewhat) constant

Nissan eagerly points out that the new Frontier has the same length wheelbase (126.0 inches for 5-foot bed crew cab models) as the outgoing truck, but we’d be remiss to point out that it is still 4.5 inches longer overall, so some growth has occurred. The goal was to keep the Frontier firmly in mid-size territory, even as that segment is adding smaller vehicles like the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz.

Surprisingly, the price has also stayed consistent for most trim levels, even with the added technology and new features. It won’t be the same bargain that the last generation of the truck was, at least while it still offered a 4-cylinder engine. But since the Frontier went V-6 only for 2020, there has only been a small jump in price with the redesigned model.

The Frontier is offered in S, SV, Pro-X, and Pro-4X grades. The smaller king cab is only available on the S and short wheelbase SV, with long wheelbase SV, Pro-X, and Pro-4X coming in crew cab only.

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

2022 Nissan Frontier

The base price for the 2021 Frontier was $28,365 and the new base price for 2022 is $29,015 (after destination charges), a jump of only $650. The jump is more significant for SV models. A 2022 SV crew cab starts at $33,315, a gain of $2,940. But for the line-topping Pro-4X the price has actually dropped $650 to $38,415 before options and that gives it some very solid value.

Nissan also offers a 4x2 Pro-X model that it considers its “desert runner,” versus the 4x4 Pro-4X. That starts at $35,415 and comes with all of the same interior upgrades found in the Pro-4X, just without the electronic locking rear differential and 4x4 capability.

Be careful, the Frontier can still get expensive with options. The Pro-4X I tested stickered at $44,340 after adding on a trio of options packages, and the SV I drove briefly cost more than $42,000r as well (in LWB crew cab 4x4 form). Unfortunately, most of the safety features have to be added, even on the Pro-4X; the technology package ($990) for example comes with lane-departure warnings, blind-spot monitors, rear parking sensors, rear automatic braking, and adaptive cruise control.

The redesigned Frontier impresses with its ride quality, technology, and powertrain. Is it good enough to forgive Nissan for the teenager-sized gap between generations? Probably not, but it’s also probably not healthy for me to continue to hold a grudge either. The new Frontier made me happy, and that’s what I’ll try to remember.

The 2022 Frontier goes on sale in early September.

Nissan provided flights, a mini-cabin, several meals, and a pair of Frontiers for Motor Authority to bring you this firsthand report.