“My wife will kill me!” I thought as I looked at the GPS display more clearly.

My flight home, after nine days on the road deer hunting, was scheduled to depart at 6:20 and my estimated time of arrival at the Denver airport was 6:40! If I missed the flight after being away so long, I’d be matrimonially dead. To make up more than two hours on a 500-mile trip would require the likes of a 370Z, a hint about what is to come.

SD Rifle Deer 2014 177For 2014, I was lucky enough to draw three whitetail deer tags in various regions of South Dakota, the perfect test for a new 4×4 vehicle.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, an early Arctic blast would add a foot of snow and blizzard conditions to the test drive, which would prove to be a reality check for the abilities of the truck.

My first clue about the weather came as I pumped gas in southern Nebraska, where working the pump with bare hands was nearly impossible. I have never gotten so cold so quickly.

I arrived in Fort Thompson just before midnight and awoke the next morning in time for the first hunt. I busied myself by sweeping four inches of fresh snow from the rig.

My guide had a reputation of using his Ford 150 like an ATV and I was a bit intimidated about following him. This wasn’t some artificial test track. If I buried or rolled the Frontier, there was no one to call for help.

Since his vehicle was a single-seat model, I ferried hunters to and from stands and covered a multitude of rough terrain, sometimes going places I never dreamed of driving, yet I wasn’t going to back off what a Ford could do. In every case, the Frontier handled with ease and showed incredible traction in snow, even on steep hills. I’d Often forget that the vehicle was in two-wheel drive; it handled that well.

Thanks to great 4x4 traction, we were able to save a mile of dragging to get this mule deer back to camp.
Thanks to great 4×4 traction, we were able to save a mile of dragging to get this mule deer back to camp.

Although the Frontier Pro-4X is a midsize truck, it handled three people very comfortably with room for packs and rifles in the back seat. At times, I had three passengers and we put our pack in the bed and traveled without feeling cramped.

Returning to the truck after a hunt, the heated front seats were just short of sauna pleasure, as the warmth goes from the bottom to the top.

The eight-way adjustable driver seats accommodated my short frame and gave lombard support to an aching back after walking miles in the snow.

I found the controls simple to operate and well displayed. The back-up camera allowed me precision in loading deer, and the dual climate control provided individual temperatures to front passengers. The GPS is very simple to operate, especially with the “back” button. Often I get into a screen on a GPS device and can’t get out. This well marked control makes for a quick back-up to reconfigure.

I only used the 4WD “low” setting once, and it kicked in and out with the touch of a dial. Virtually all of the controls were well engineered and clearly visible.

The Frontier handled like a sports car on the highway with plenty of zip.
The Frontier handled like a sports car on the highway with plenty of zip.

Outside, the oil pan, fuel tank, and transfer case come standard with skid plates to protect these critical elements. In addition, the cab-mounted cargo bed lamp was a huge help when backing up or closing gates.  It’s a great safety feature, allowing you to see behind the vehicle without the main headlamps on.

At one point, we had four deer in the bed and the truck showed no signs of  suspension compression.

In summary, the Frontier Pro-4X performed superbly in all elements of the hunt. It went everywhere I asked it to and several places I didn’t want to go, yet it pulled through with a virtual smile. If you’re looking for a rugged off-road vehicle that averages 17 mpg, this one deserves a closer look.

Now, back to my race to the airport. Whereas the GPS estimate had me arriving 20 minutes after departure, I actually arrived more than an hour early for the flight. That’s a real testament to the handling of the Frontier on the open road. The Western states have posted speed limits of 75 (sometimes 80) mph, and the Frontier cut corners and sped down the straightaways like one of the classic Nissan Z sports cars. I bagged three bucks, made the flight, and am still married. All in all, a great trip.

For more details about the Frontier Pro-4X, go to nissanusa.com