2013 Nissan Frontier Preview

Jeff Youngs | May 10, 2013
  • 4- or 5-passenger seating
  • Choice of rear-wheel drive (RWD) or 4-wheel drive (4WD)
  • 4- and 6-cylinder engines available
  • King and crew cab body styles
  • Five available trim levels
  • Short- and long-bed models
  • 6,500-pound maximum towing capacity


While it may be classified as a small pickup truck by the EPA, the Nissan Frontier offers true midsize capability with a 6,500-pound towing capacity, payload rating of more than 1,500 pounds, and rugged body-on-frame construction.

For 2013, the Frontier is offered in S, SV, PRO-4X, and SL trim levels, as well as a new Desert Runner model. Other changes include the addition of technology features, such as a rearview camera, and improved fuel economy.

Exterior Features

In king cab form, the 2013 Nissan Frontier S model features 15-inch steel wheels, rear doors that open 90 degrees, and a 73.3-inch cargo bed. Crew cab versions tweak that list to include 16-inch steel wheels and a standard 59.5-inch bed. For SV trim levels, Nissan adds 16-inch alloy wheels, power-adjustable outside mirrors, sliding rear window, and in the case of 4WD versions, 10.1 inches of ground clearance.

Next up in the 2013 Frontier lineup is the Desert Runner, a RWD truck with the look and stance of a 4WD model. Key elements include off-road shocks, upgraded rear axle, unique 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped in all-terrain tires, fog lights, and body-color bumpers. The Frontier PRO-4X is a similar 4WD truck that adds its own 16-inch alloy wheels featuring a machined finish, spray-in bedliner, mud guards, skid plates, adjustable tie downs, automatic headlights, and an electronic locking rear differential.

Available only in the crew cab body style, the 2013 Nissan Frontier SL stands apart with its 18-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, chrome bumpers, running boards, and a roof rack with 125-pound capacity.

Interior Features

Differences between trim levels are more obvious inside the 2013 Nissan Frontier's cabin, where king cab models offer accommodations for 4 occupants with fold-up rear jump seats, and crew cab trucks provide room for 5 occupants, courtesy of a fold-up 60/40 split bench seat. The base Frontier S king cab is sparsely equipped with cloth upholstery and few other comforts; however, the S crew cab provides a 6-speaker audio system, cruise control, and a folding front passenger seat.

More standard features are offered with the Frontier SV, including air conditioning, power windows and door locks, keyless entry, tilt steering wheel with audio controls, and Bluetooth connectivity. King cab models are equipped with a 4-speaker sound system, while all SV models are equipped with satellite radio service and an auxiliary input jack. The Frontier Desert Runner adds a height-adjustable driver's seat, white-faced gauges, and an exterior temperature gauge on crew cab models.

Nissan distinguishes the interior of the Frontier PRO-4X pickup truck with two-tone cloth upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a rearview camera. In addition, crew cab versions boast an auto-dimming rearview mirror, 10-speaker premium sound system, rear parking sensors, and dual-zone climate control. The top-of-the-line 2013 Nissan Frontier SL continues with the upscale approach by introducing leather upholstery into the mix, as well as a touch-screen navigation system including real-time traffic information, hands-free text messaging, Internet radio capability, and heated power front seats with 8-way adjustment for the driver and 4-way adjustment for the passenger.

Optional Features

Offered only with king cab models, an S Preferred package equips the most basic of Frontiers with air conditioning and the 4-speaker sound system. An SV Value Truck package, available on king and crew cabs, adds such upgrades as the auto-dimming rearview mirror, spray-in bedliner, rearview camera, and a bed extender.

The Frontier crew cab is available with three factory options of its own, including a power tilt/slide moonroof for the SL and a long wheelbase/long bed upgrade for SV and SL models. The third option is a PRO-4X Luxury package, comprised of heated power front seats, heated mirrors, leather upholstery, roof rack, navigation system, and the moonroof.

Under the Hood

RWD king cab versions of the 2013 Nissan Frontier are available with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that delivers 152 horsepower and 171 lb.-ft. of torque. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard, while a 5-speed automatic is optional. Frontier crew cab trucks are equipped with a 4.0-liter V-6 engine that generates 261 horsepower and 281 lb.-ft. of torque. Output is managed by a 6-speed manual transmission or the 5-speed automatic, which, when paired with a part-time 4WD system, includes hill-start assist and hill-descent control.

The 2013 Nissan Frontier offers a maximum payload of 1,524 pounds and a maximum towing capacity of 6,500 pounds.

Fuel Economy

EPA fuel-economy estimates for the 2013 Nissan Frontier are:

  • Frontier RWD with 4-cylinder engine and 5-speed manual transmission: 19/23/21 mpg (city/highway/combined)
  • Frontier RWD with 4-cylinder engine and 5-speed automatic transmission: 17/23/19 mpg
  • Frontier RWD with V-6 engine and 6-speed manual transmission: 16/22/19 mpg
  • Frontier RWD with V-6 engine and 5-speed automatic transmission: 16/22/18 mpg
  • Frontier 4WD with V-6 engine and 6-speed manual transmission: 16/21/18 mpg
  • Frontier 4WD with V-6 engine and 5-speed automatic transmission: 15/21/17 mpg


The 2013 Nissan Frontier's standard safety features include 6 air bags, traction control, front active head restraints, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, and electronic brake-force distribution.

In tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Frontier received a "Good" rating--the Institute's highest--for moderate frontal-offset crash protection. As this preview is written, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not rated the crashworthiness of the 2013 Nissan Frontier.
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