After an unusually long wait, the Nissan Frontier finally got a complete makeover for the 2022 model year and now, the Japanese automaker is giving potential buyers a look at what they could do with the midsize pickup with the introduction of three Frontier concepts at the Chicago Auto Show.
Dubbed Project 72X, Project Hardbody and Project Adventure, all three models were developed by San Diego-based Nissan Design America, or NDA. Two pay homage to classic Nissan pickups while the third takes on the increasingly popular “overlanding” trend.
“Truck culture is now very broad — hard core off-roaders, overlanders, surfers and kayakers, environmentalists, fishing and hunting outdoor enthusiasts and more,” said Hiren Patel, project lead designer at NDA. “The common ground is that they all use their trucks as canvases for personalization. We’re offering three styles to show how they could modify their own new Frontier.”
Unlike some pie-in-the-sky concepts that have little bearing in reality, the three Frontier concepts are meant to show what owners actually could do with their trucks, according to the automaker.
The prototypes “combine readily available Nissan and aftermarket parts and accessories with custom-designed pieces and graphics,” the automaker emphasized in a news release offering details on the three concepts. Here’s a closer look:
This concept goes forward into the past, offering a “modern take” on one of the Japanese automaker’s first and most popular pickups, the Datsun 720 which debuted in 1979, becoming the first vehicle ever assembled by Nissan in the U.S. when its factory in Smyrna, Tennessee opened in 1983.
Dubbed the “Lil Hustler,” the 720 was a bare-bones truck and, like others of that era, offered affordable transportation for Baby Boomers who wanted more than a compact econo-sedan. It was particularly popular with outdoor enthusiasts.
This new incarnation aims to keep costs down even while offering go-anywhere capabilities with its Frontier Pro-4X tires, adjustable front upper suspension arms and a 2.5-inch lift kit.
It’s finished in gray exterior tones and graphics and rides on white-painted steel wheels, for what Nissan describes as “cool attitude.”
Another Frontier concept reaching for a “heritage” feel, the prototype is an homage to the Nissan D21 “Hardbody” that was the first truck completed by Nissan Design America.
“It is still unmistakable on the road as a pure, modern design, even today,” said Patel. The “Hardbody” name came from its double-wall bed and aggressive stance and was a champion in on- and off-road in competitions and on the beaches of Southern California.
Project Hardbody starts out as a 2022 Frontier Crew Cab SV 4×4 but gets a 3-inch lift with adjustable upper control arms, overfenders from the Pro-4X, block-style wheels borrowed from the original Hardbody and other ready-to-go-anywhere features like 33-inch tires, a bed-mounted spare tire carrier and 10-inch rectangular LED lights.
This concept takes aim at the rising number of overlanders who are looking for a truck they can take pretty much anywhere they might find new adventures.
It’s clearly not a truck you’d easily miss, with a custom body wrap featuring an atlas of the U.S. that Nissan says “makes the statement, ‘This is a big country, why don’t you take your Frontier somewhere?’”
This concept is based on the 2022 Frontier Crew Cab Pro-4X and features a 5-inch lift kit, 34-inch mud terrain tires, a Yakima bed rack system and LoadWarrior roof basket, as well as a “sky tent” and a Bluetooth audio system built into the bed by Kicker. It also gets a carbon fiber snorkel to increase water fording capabilities.
Looking to the future
There’s no question Nissan hopes to take advantage of the increasing interest in pickup trucks large and small. But it also has to rebuild the image of the Frontier which fell off the radar of many potential buyers in recent years.
It was the greybeard of the midsize pickup segment, having gone close to two decades without a significant update.
The 2022 makeover is larger and more powerful, with all versions powered by a 3.8-liter V-6 punching out 310 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque through a 9-speed automatic. The truck can haul a hefty low, with a maximum tow rating of 6,720 pounds. And it adds a number of new creature comfort and safety technologies.
“Nissan has more than 40-years of truck leadership in the United States, with more than four million Frontiers sold to date,” said Michael Colleran, senior vice president, Nissan U.S. and Marketing and Sales. “With the arrival of the all-new Frontier, the next chapter is now being written.”