Editor's note: My Pickup will be an occasional PUTC feature in which we invite readers, industry associates, friends and colleagues to write about their own pickups, either currently owned or from their past.
By Larry Edsall
When my son-in-law sold my 175,000-mile, 2000 Nissan Frontier out from under me last winter, I considered several options for its replacement.
After more than a decade, I'd been thinking it was time for a new vehicle, but when I drove from Arizona to Michigan in December 2012 on a two-week book research project, I didn't know my daughter's neighbors were looking for a well-maintained 4x4 and that I'd be driving home in a rental car.
The 2000 Frontier was my first pickup truck, and I've learned that once you've had a pickup, you cannot imagine life without one. I really liked the new Ram with its strong but fuel-efficient V-6 engine/eight-speed transmission powertrain, but at 5-foot-8 I can't reach into the bed of a full-size truck, nor will one fit into my surprisingly short garage.
Besides, I was very happy with my Frontier, and because I write about cars and have press-fleet vehicles to test, I could wait until the 2013 Frontiers were available.
And so I bought another Frontier, this time a two-wheel-drive SV crew cab rather than a four-wheel pickup. Not only did the two-wheel drive save money up front, there's no transfer case to maintain.
The factory-installed $1,900 SV Value Truck Package added rear sonar and rearview camera, dual-zone climate controls, fog lamps, bedliner, Utili-track channels with four adjustable tie-down cleats, a Class IV receiver hitch, sliding bed extender, interior mirror with compass and temperature display, vehicle security system, floor mats and cabin air filter.
I had the dealer install a set of side step rails, which had been standard equipment on the truck I bought 13 years earlier.
Standard equipment now includes 118 more horsepower, an extra gear in the transmission, four-wheel vented disc brakes (no rear drums), side and side-curtain airbags, vehicle dynamic control and active brake limited-slip technology, a tire-pressure monitoring system, satellite radio, USB connection and multiple 12-volt power ports, Bluetooth, built-in storage bins beneath the back seat and a light above the cargo bed.
I did not want a factory GPS system. Why spend all that money when you can buy a good portable unit for $130 that you can move from vehicle to vehicle?
I didn't think I'd like satellite radio, but I do. The added 12-volt outlets are much appreciated, and being able to talk hands-free is both convenient and a safety feature.
The rear seat bottoms flip up to provide easy access the storage bins, which I find handy, especially for stowing things such as those Utili-track tie-down cleats, which are amazingly stout. I didn't think I'd like the bed's Utili-track system, but that was before I actually used it. Once I did, I bought two more cleats for extra tie-down options. And if I might make a suggestion to Nissan: I wish there were tracks across the inside of the tailgate and not only in the floor and along three sides of the bed.
I use the Utili-track system a lot, as well as the sliding bed extender. My old truck had a fixed-position bed extender, but with the new Utili-track system you can use the extender to secure cargo anywhere inside the bed, not just over the tailgate.
Within a couple of weeks of buying the truck, I filled the bed and drove from Arizona to Florida, and from there to Michigan, where I unloaded my stuff and filled the truck with furniture to deliver to another daughter, who lives in New Jersey.
Over the course of this past summer, I've made three trips to New Jersey and also pulled a trailer from Michigan to Florida.
The new truck's extra power and revised gearing make climbing mountains and pulling a trailer much easier than in my old Frontier. They also make the new truck much more fuel efficient. I averaged around 19 mpg in my 2000 Frontier during my cross-country trips. In the 2013 version, I've averaged nearly 23 mpg overall, including a 16 mpg figure while pulling a loaded U-Haul. For comparison's sake, the EPA rates the 2013 Frontier at 17/23/19 mpg city/highway/combined for the two-wheel-drive automatic.
My new Frontier not only is better but it's bigger inside and about a foot longer — long enough that it just barely fits inside my garage. But it does fit — with a couple of inches to spare. And I like the fact that the extra length makes for a much roomier cabin.
What would I change about my truck? Other than wanting a Utili-track rail across the inside of the tailgate, about the only other change I'd make would be to turn my truck from a Frontier SV crew cab into a Frontier Pro-4X crew cab.
Yes, I saved money by opting for two-wheel drive, but that Pro-4X not only brings a four-wheel drivetrain, but an electronic locking rear differential, Bilstein shocks, Rugged Trail tires and skid plates to protect the fuel tank, oil pan and transfer case.
I like my truck, but now that I'm home, I find I miss being able to explore Arizona's Sonoran Desert and those rocky mountain trails like I could in my old four-wheel-drive Frontier.