Observer writer

Friday, May 01, 2020

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WITH the pickup market now firmly split into commercial and lifestyle buyers, Nissan has thrown its hat into the latter with the 2020 Frontier X-Gear.

The X-Gear specification caters to the adventurous, active environment that lifestyle owners tend to find themselves in by packing in plenty of high-end features.

That first begins with X-Gear colours. There's the Metallic Black, and Twilight Grey, both with small orange accents spread around the body lines. The third colour, Storm White, gets contrasting black accents. Whichever colour the buyer goes for, they'll get a rather handsome-looking pickup riding on the X-Gear-only 18-inch black wheel package. Go a bit deeper into the Nissan factory optional accessories and one can toughen up the exterior even further.

The style doesn't just stay on the outside. The X-Gear gets everything thrown at its interior to make it a very nice place to pass the time behind the wheel, and it works. The cabin is bespoke to the X-Gear with a black and orange, two-tone theme throughout. When matched with the Metallic Black exterior, the X-Gear gets that fully blacked-out look that's popular. The combo is like something Darth Vader's Death Squad Stormtroopers would drive on the weekends. Soft, black leather covers all the seating. Orange inserts and stitching add a sense of quality as does the glossy black trim pieces. There's no sense of the commercial roots of the Frontier here, especially with the car-like, leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Storage is plentiful for the family or work. Twelve-volt ports are backed up by a modern USB port that nicely lights up at night so one doesn't have to struggle to find it. The car-like feel continues with the eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Having two extra speakers over the regular Frontier, for a total of six, all audio is crisp and clear, including voice calls that can be triggered via steering wheel-mounted buttons and voice commands. This works well with the cabin refinement that keeps the noise levels low. After easily finding a comfortable seating position, everything is easily within reach, from the automatic headlights to the dual zone climate controls. Power down the windows and you can sample the turbocharged sounds of the 2.5-litre four-cylinder motor during acceleration and braking.

On the road, the X-Gear is a comfortable cruiser. Power delivery of the 188bhp and 331lb-ft of torque is rather different from many of the Frontier's rivals. Diesels are known for their instant torque, great for towing, but a bit of a problem when driving around unladen. That lack of weight over the rear wheels can lead to wheelspin when a driver puts their foot down. On a wet road, dirty corner, or stuck off-road, this tends to lessen driver confidence or dig the pickup further into trouble. The Frontier ramps up its power figures gradually for finer throttle control. There's another way the Nissan differentiates itself from other class rivals. It has a rear coil spring suspension, not the industry standard leaf springs.

Those worried about work and off-road prowess don't have to. The X-Gear can tow up to 3.5 tonnes and can handle over 1,000 lbs four-wheel-drive high mode. The Nissan can be switched into four-wheel low and has a further locking rear differential to allow the pickup to crawl itself like a mountain goat out of any tough situation. Hill Descent Control makes coming down whatever the vehicle has climbed up a breeze.

MODEL: 2020 Nissan Frontier X-Gear
ENGINE: 2.5-litre turbodiesel four cylinder —
DRIVETRAIN: Seven-speed automatic/four-wheel drive
SUMMARY: A new frontier for the Frontier.

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