The new Nissan Frontier is finally here. Even though it rides on the old model’s underpinnings, it benefits from a thorough makeover that was so long overdue we’re just happy Nissan finally got around to it. Among all the Fronty’s newness, a surprise stood out: A new Pro-X trim level, a two-wheel-drive, off-road-focused model spun off the continued Pro-4X 4×4 iteration. Such two-wheel-drive, butched-up models used to be more of a “thing” in the ’90s, but they’re making a comeback, most notably with Ford’s introduction of the Ranger FX2 package. Seeing how it is a natural foe for Nissan’s Frontier Pro-X, let’s see how the two stack up.
Frontier Pro-X vs. Ranger FX2: The Basics
Both are mid-size trucks that send power to the rear wheels only and have a hint of off-roadability about them. They’re what are known as “Prerunners,” so-called for their spiritual inspiration, trucks with desert-friendly raised suspensions and rear-drive for speedy scouting during off-road races.
They’re perfectly useable everyday and aren’t going to totally let you down when the going gets muddy, dirty, or sandy, even without four-wheel drive. The Pro-X is a full-blown trim level within the Frontier lineup, it seems, while the FX2 treatment exists as an extra-cost package on two-wheel-drive Rangers.
Frontier Pro-X vs. Ranger FX2: What’s Included
The Nissan Frontier Pro-X is best thought of as a Pro-4X minus four-wheel drive. For example, it sits higher than non-Pro models and uses the same beefed-up Bilstein dampers that are found on the four-wheel-drive Pro-4X model but with special tuning for this two-wheel-drive application. There is no locking rear differential, but the Pro-X does include a Dana rear axle and a front skid plate, LED headlights, and Lava Red accents inside and out.
Ford’s FX2 package is quite the deal, at $595, and like the Pro-X treatment, it mimics the FX4 bundle for four-wheel-drive Rangers. It includes an electronic locking rear differential and more underbody protection than the Nissan (in addition to a front skid plate, there are other underbody shields further back). Ford doesn’t outsource its shock supply and makes do with its own set of springs and dampers, which set the Ranger up high like the similar equipment on Ranger FX4 models. Buyers can choose from 17- and 18-inch off-road tire options, an off-road display in the gauge cluster, exposed front tow hooks, and “FX2” stickers.
Frontier Pro-X vs. Ranger FX2: Engine and Transmission
Whether you choose the Frontier Pro-X or the Ranger FX2, one choice you won’t have is what’s under the hood. Both trucks are offered with only a single engine and transmission option. The Ford is powered by a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost engine that makes 270 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque; it comes hitched to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The Nissan’s 3.8-liter V-6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission were new for 2020 and installed in the old Frontier as a sort of real-time durability test until the new 2022 model arrived. It is a stout powertrain, with the V-6 churning out 310 hp and 281 lb-ft of torque.
Even so, the Ford can ultimately tow more than the Nissan with a max towing capacity of 7,500 pounds compared to the Frontier’s 6,720-pound maximum.
Nissan isn’t talking pricing yet, but given how past Prerunner-style pickups (and Ford’s Ranger FX2 bits) have been available on less-expensive variants, the Frontier Pro-X may not necessarily be nearly as expensive as the range-topping Frontier Pro-4X. (Last year’s Pro-4X, for example, started at $38,885.) You can buy a Ford Ranger FX2 for as little as $28,840—remember, it’s a $595 option and available on the base Ranger XL, as well as the mid-grade XLT or Lariat models.