5 4WD Nissan Trucks and SUVs that Deserve Your Attention
With the introduction of Nissan’s newly redesigned Frontier, signs point to the struggling Japanese brand trying to get back on the minds of 4WD enthusiasts. Even the Pathfinder, having been transformed into a mom-mobile in the last couple generations, seems like it wants some action with new soft-roader aesthetics and all-terrain tires. Nissan hasn’t always been playing catch-up though. As long as Toyota, the king of Japanese off-road performance has offered various models, Nissan has sold notable competitors that are worthy of respect.
The first 4WD vehicle to be sold as a Nissan in the US was the 720 pickup. Built in America, these pickups were offered with either 4 cylinder diesel or gas engines in 2 or 4 wheel drive.
The range-topping ST trim received a fuel-injected 2.4L that pushed out a whopping 106hp in its final year, 1986. The 4WD model used a divorced transfer case, which would be abandoned by the more popular replacement Hardbody models.
Although we’ve already called the Hardbody pickup a modern classic in other articles, its platform-sharing brother is worthy of attention as well. Imagined as a competitor to the Bronco II, Blazer, and 4Runner, the Pathfinder was offered initially with two doors only, adding a four door variant in 1989.
Initially using the 720’s 2.4L, the Pathfinder would eventually receive the venerable KA24, of 240SX fame, as the base engine. The 300ZX’s VG30 could be optioned for even more power.
During the eighties and nineties, America was not given the chance to enjoy Nissan’s prized 4WD machine. The Nissan Patrol, or Safari in Japan, has largely been the Nissan equivalent to the Toyota Land Cruiser since their mutual inception in 1951. Following what has largely been the same trajectory, the Patrol has been sold with numerous powertrains, body styles and trims.
For Americans, the most recent Patrol that we are able to import is the tail end of the fourth generation Y60 models. With looks that fit in between Toyota FJ60 and FJ80 models, the top-spec powertrains were 4.2L straight sixes that could be had in diesel or gas variations, mated to either a five speed manual or automatic.
Meanwhile in America, the Pathfinder was upsized and moved to a unibody chassis in 1995, leaving space for a new body-on-frame compact 4WD vehicle to replace the original design. The Xterra was revealed in 1999 with the same KA24 and VG33 V6 from the Pathfinder.
In 2009, the Xterra entered its second generation, with the 4WD model receiving roof-mounted lights and a rear differential locker for improved off-road performance. The model would be killed off in 2015, leaving the 4Runner as the only real competitor to the Jeep Wrangler for the next five years.
While the Armada has existed on America shores since the early 2000’s as a stablemate to the Nissan Titan, it was changed to an American repackaging of the Nissan Patrol in 2016. The only available powerplant is the 5.7L V8.
Although a true low range transfer case is available with 4WD auto, 4WD HI and 4WD LOW settings, America does not receive the Patrol’s locking rear differential and drive modes for different terrains. With the departure of the Land Cruiser in 2022, Nissan could do well to offer a Pro-4X model that steps in where the big Toyota leaves off.
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