Toyota Tacoma Vs. Nissan Frontier: Off-Road Midsize Pickup Showdown

Yuvien Royer - Writer; Automobile Expertise |

The Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier have become midsize car pillars for years, enduring even as adolescents when domestic competitors completely declined. These mid-sized pickups have remained with what has worked in the past, avoided modern technology, and up until recently, were the earliest new cars that a consumer could purchase. Driving either of them was a bare-bones, retro experience replete with toggle switches, drum brakes, and infomercial graphics on par with an Atari.

The Frontier underwent its first significant update in 2005, with new sheet metal, improved driving technologies, and a sleek and contemporary interior. The Pro-4X, the Frontier's off-road variant, is back with a revised rear stabilizer bar, electronic locking rear differential, and monotube Bilstein shocks.


Individuals use these trucks and competitors like the Ford Ranger and GMC Canyon for the job and play; however, one of the most exciting and preferable variations are the off-road trims like the Pro-4X and TRD Pro. How do these variations of these new-old pickups pile up against each other?


At Mudfest, the annual track and off-road event hosted by the Northwest Automotive Press Association, we had the chance to compare the Frontier Pro-4X with the Tacoma TRD Pro. We also spent a week driving each vehicle to get a feel for how they handle various situations. We discovered that these seemingly similar trucks are very diverse beneath the skin.

Toyota Tacoma Vs. Nissan Frontier: In the Dust

On the surface of things, both vehicles are very qualified. have four high and four low (though no "auto" always-on 4x4 like you'll find in the Chevy Colorado), digital securing back differentials, underbody skid plating, and also hostile terrain tires. Only Tacoma still uses a handbook, but many buyers choose automatics.


Both deal with front-facing trail cameras with multiple views (though the Frontier's display is larger and has much better resolution), a need for negotiating barriers that would certainly or else require a guard. Both vehicles easily took on the harder obstacles on the program, getting rid of steep climbs and deep magnates without drama.


The vehicles are uniformly matched in ground clearance (9.4 inches), though Tacoma's higher approach and departure angles offer extra dexterity over high barriers. The Tacoma's newly built upper control arms allow for greater suspension articulation. And its squishier internal-bypass Fox shock plan does a much better job of raveling terrain roughness than the Frontier's even more road-friendly Bilsteins, which can feel uneasy and overtaxed at the rate on gravel as well as a washboard.


Ultimately, the Tacoma's low-speed "crawl control"-- while not as progressed as trail-control systems on competitors like the Ranger-- makes browsing complex challenges easier versus the Frontier's standard hill-descent help.


Since neither of these vehicles is a Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, tackling truly punishing crawls would likely call for a greater crawl ratio and upgraded off-road tools like locking front differential and swaybar disconnects. However, both perform admirably as general-purpose offroaders, with the Toyota taking the lead because of its even more terrain-optimized suspension and extensive offroad kit.


Toyota Tacoma Vs. Nissan Frontier: On the Pavement

Although neither of these trucks is a track athlete, their abilities at the limit give an incredible picture of distinctions.

The nose-heavy Tacoma is uneven while driving on a course, diving, and body-rolling through the kip. Its more robust off-road suspension could give it an advantage on the trail, but it's a burden in daily driving and on the track, where it can feel shaky and unreliable. The Tacoma's brakes, which still have the market segment's only back drums, are delicate and challenging to modulate on the road and the racetrack.


By comparison, the Frontier feels much more made up on the track than you would certainly anticipate from a full-frame vehicle, with its brand-new back guide bar (and beefed-up front sway bar) conspiring with the all-around Bilsteins to preserve a cool feel. It doesn't feel as hefty as the Toyota's and also helps make the Frontier much easier to place via turns than some of the twitchier electric-assist guiding systems.

The Frontier Pro-4X's offroad expertise in day-to-day driving doesn't hinder its typically agreeable roadway manners. The Tacoma TRD Pro, by contrast, is jeopardized by its off-road adjusting.

Toyota Tacoma Vs. Nissan Frontier: Cabin Setting

Both trucks couldn't be more different on the inside, with the Frontier's updated cabin welcoming modernity while the Tacoma feels old. The Frontier's tall, upright driving setting, reduced beltline, huge window, and sunroof openings help offer it an airy cabin and fantastic outward presence. The Tacoma feels cloistered by contrast-- with thick A-pillars, a low roofline, and a huge schnoz of a hood to evaluate.


While Nissan takes the Frontier into the 21st century with piano-black accents, a well-updated scale collection with great facility details displayed. And strategically-placed soft-touch surfaces and buttons, the Tacoma extends the old-truck motif with its grainy infotainment display, expanses of matte plastic trim, and the old anime font style of its scale collection.


The smaller one makes better use of its indoor space than the Tacoma, causing a roomier feeling, especially in the 2nd row. While the seats are small and upright, it feels much less cramped, and there's even more area to place your feet than in the Tacoma. The Frontier's backseat is likewise much better outfitted for travelers, with a fold-down center armrest, USB and USB-C billing ports, and a 110-volt electrical outlet, none of which is available from Toyota.

The Tacoma continues the old-truck motif with its grainy infotainment display, expanses of matte plastic trim, and also the old anime font style of its scale collection. At the same time, the Nissan Frontier enters the 21st century with piano-black accents, a well-updated scale collection with big facility details display, and strategically-placed soft-touch surfaces and buttons.

Toyota Tacoma Vs. Nissan Frontier: Energy

Just how good are each of these two offroaders at doing vehicle stuff? For beginners, both the Pro-4X and TRD Pro can only be configured in crew-cab with a 5-foot bed, so they lose out on the additional volume of the 6-foot bed readily available on both trucks' lesser trims. On haul, the Frontier Pro-4X obtains a slight edge, with a 1,230-pound max to the TRD Pro's 1,135. The Frontier's bed additionally has a lower floor, which assists and makes packing much easier.


Additionally, there are variances in how the beds are furnished, with Nissan including the most valuable equipment and Toyota combining standard and a la carte items. The Pro-4X's Convenience Package ($1,900) includes a three-rail sliding cleat system with large cast-aluminum cleats, a bed liner that is sprayed on, double 120V outlets, LED bedrail lighting, a Course IV receiver hitch with a seven-pin electrical wiring harness. A Bed Access Plan with a kick-out action and a rail-mounted grab grip to aid in getting into bed is also available for $550.


The TRD Pro's Course IV receiver is common. It also comes standard with two bedrail tracks that appear flimsier than the Nissan's and calls for plastic cleats ($ 30 each) and tie-hooks ($ 45) to be bought independently as devices.

Regarding towing, the Tacoma TRD Pro outperforms the Frontier Pro-4X with an additional 6,400 pounds of maximum towing capacity (6,270). The Frontier's excellent tow/haul mode, which holds equipment during acceleration and gives some engine braking downhill, helps it seem more controlled, pulling close to its limit. The TRD Pro is far more suitable for feeling underpowered and dominated by a medium-sized camper due to its jiggly shocks and simplified "ECT Power" mode that controls shift points.

Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Vs. Nissan Frontier Pro-4X: Worth

The base price of the Frontier Pro-4X is $36,345, while the Tacoma TRD Pro starts at $47,800 with the destination. At the same time, the Toyota comes standard with many features that must be added through a package to the Nissan, such as towing equipment, pricey audio, the surround-view display with route views, and a complete suite of active-safety technology that includes adaptive cruise.


When comparing apples to apples, the Tacoma TRD Pro blasts above $51,000 with the gearbox and a few bed gadgets, while the Frontier Pro-4X comes out to a little under $43,000 with Toyota-equivalent tech, comfort, and safety and security measures included.


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