By on February 23, 2018

Nissan Navara

The other day, we learned of Ford’s new Ranger Raptor, a machine unveiled in Thailand with only the slightest of indications it may be sold in America. To not do so would be asinine in this author’s opinion, given the F-150 Raptor’s halo and the fact that folks can stroll into a Chevy or Toyota dealer and easily pick up a Colorado ZR2 or Tacoma TRD Pro.

Adding fuel to the midsized fire are comments garnered by Motoring in Australia, alluding to Nissan’s interest in developing a Raptor fighter of its own. T’would be based on the Navara, of course, a truck not available here.

Is it time for Nissan USA to take the plunge and bring the Navara here? Or is it better off continuing to pump out examples of the proven but older-than-Methuselah midsize Frontier?

Taken at face value, replacing the Frontier — a truck that’s nearly old enough to get its own driver’s license — is an easy decision. Midsize truck offerings from GM, Toyota, and (soon) Ford are packed with more technology and feature more efficient engines.

Walking it a step back, though, and the picture for Nissan isn’t as clear. Sales of the Frontier aren’t exactly in the dumps. In fact, the Frontier handily outsells its big brother Titan while reliably moving more units than the GMC Canyon and Honda Ridgeline combined. In January 2018, Nissan sold a new Frontier roughly every seven-and-a-half minutes. That’s not F-150 territory (it’s about one-tenth the pace, actually) but nor is it anything to sneeze at.

Consider this: the tooling for the current Frontier is long paid for by now. Research and development on the truck, while not at a standstill (witness the new-for-2018 equipment levels on the base trim) surely doesn’t hoover dollars from Nissan’s bank account like other models in its portfolio. Yet, the machines continue to sell at a respectable pace. The company must be making scads of money off every single one, even the cheap seats.

2018 Nissan Frontier

In fact, it’s probably those cheap seats that are contributing to those healthy sales numbers. Priced at just $18,999 for an extended cab 4×2 equipped with air conditioning, Nissan can rightly lay claim to the cheapest new truck in America. That’s worth something. It’s worth $18,999, in fact. Why plow money, time, and effort into a new truck when the old one is selling well and making bank?

One can make a safe wager, then, that the company will hang on to the Frontier as it currently exists until market demand or CAFE regulations forces it to make a move. Its current stable of engines available in the Frontier, a 152 horsepower 2.5-liter inline-four and a 261 hp 4.0-liter V6, probably don’t help with Nissan’s fleet-wide fuel economy.

Nevertheless, the noises reportedly being made by Renault-Nissan global light commercial vehicle boss Ashwani Gupta to Motoring are encouraging for fans of midsized off-roaders. “If you would had asked me this question yesterday [about a Raptor rival] I would have said this is not in our priority list,” Gupta said. “But if you are asking this question today then I am saying this is an opportunity we would like to study.”

Clearly, the company is taking note of what other companies are doing in the segment and at least considering some plans of its own. The remarks were reportedly spurred on by a meeting with Nissan Australia execs who made their case for a butch Navara. Keep in mind, the company now also has the bandwidth to draw upon the experience of Renaultsport and Mitsubishi’s Ralliart divisions to craft sporty or special versions of Nissan machines.

The prospect of a Raptor rival from Nissan is appealing, as is the Navara itself, but North American customers shouldn’t base their buying decisions on these overseas plans. Yet.

[Images: Nissan]

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36 Comments on “Overseas, Nissan Mulls Ranger Raptor Rival – Is It Time to Explore a New Frontier?...”

  • avatar

    Nissan USA is certainly in a unique position. The Frontier is currently the only “less than full-size” truck that sells for significantly less than its full-size brother.

    The biggest problem with the Canyon/Colorado and Tacoma is that they aren’t really cheaper than the full-size truck sitting next to them on the dealer lot.

  • avatar

    The Frontier is to America what the Tsuru was to Mexico.

    I think they’ll bring the Navara here soon – next couple years, and badge it Frontier. And one day I’m going to get a pic of the one they’re testing driving around here.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      If Nissan don’t make a move soon and a new pricier replacement Frontiers arrives I can see a slump for the Nissan midsizer in the US.

      Nissan has been to slow with the Frontier replacement.

  • avatar

    The frontier is like the brown station wagon of trucks. It’s what everyone says they want on forums like this (small, basic, can get it in manual, fairly tough 4×4 equipment available, fairly reasonably priced) yet you hardly ever see a new one on the road.

  • avatar

    The Navara is ugly. But Nissan has a thing for ugly these days. Maybe they can make a new frontier that’s smaller and less gaudy than the Titan.

  • avatar

    I borrowed my sister-in-law’s Frontier and was surprised how truck like it felt, I’ve driven the Colorado and it felt like a car. I wonder if the full size Nissan has a similar feel.

  • avatar

    Since its out selling its bigger brother Nissan should embrace this market and get a newer truck over here ASAP. Midsizers are selling again so its time for them to act. With two Nissans (one with an Infiniti badge) sitting in my driveway and an old Dakota that keeps chugging along I am a potential customer. I came close to buying a Frontier back when they offered it with supercharger but went with the V8 Dodge instead

  • avatar

    Uh, so WHERE exactly are these Frontiers selling??? They sure aren’t selling here in n.e. Ohio, I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw one of these dinosaurs on the road.

  • avatar

    Very popular here in Florida where I live. I see minimum 4-5 every day. The dealers are well stocked and the prices are very good. Very hard to find crew cabs manual because dealers don’t order them but otherwise, they are everywhere. Dare I say, I see more Frontiers than Tacomas where I live. If I didn’t have to drive 90 miles round trip to work every day, I would definitely buy one. Trying to find a used 2004-2006 extra cab in clean condition, or a decent condition is very hard.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I wonder if Nissan saw what Mercedes Benz has done with the Navara. The MB has a wider track by a significant margin and improved rear suspension.

    The new Navara interior would have to be one of the better interiors going around, so an improvement to the suspension would be nice, especially after some of the negative feedback by auto journo’s.

    I’m not a fan of the 2.3 diesel, it should be able to deliver more, much more.

    But, as we can see the Aussie market is pushing for these types of vehicles. If and when they do come the manufacturers need to realise there are no more V8 Commodore and Falcon utes, so a decent engine, like Ford’s 3.5 EcoThirst, Nissan’s turbo V6, etc are needed, even in base model 2WD versions.

    As for the D40, my view has been it’s always been the worst performer of the major midsizers.

  • avatar

    Has Nissan America finally going to import the 2015 Navara aka the Frontier model to the U.S.shores?

  • avatar
    Zane Wylder

    I went to Aruba in October, saw a current gen international Frontier; Modern, Diesel and Manual

    Even if they don’t make a Raptor/TRD Pro fighter, a frontier that’s new and modern would be great

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Here’s an interesting article about the Ford Ranger Raptor I came across today.

    I hope Ford in Detroit are listening to the public. I do know nothing occurs without Dearborn’s approval by Ford Australia. Mazda operate differently.

    You can see why US major manufacturers will struggle, too much micro management and not being attentive to anything outside of the US.

    All Nissan need to do to win over hearts is put 400hp in the Navara “Raptor”. That shouldn’t be hard Nissan you have engines.

  • avatar

    I see nothing wrong with a Clinton Era, Frontier still available “new”. It’s a truck for fux sake. And the price is right.

    If I could get my 2004 (not Heritage) F-150 “new” (4.6 V8, 4-speed auto), as a re-popped classic from Ford, and at 2004 prices *Today*, I’d jump all over it!

    Those that cry the current Frontier is too old, they wouldn’t buy a “modern” high-tech Navara anyway, especially since it would start at $25K.

    • 0 avatar

      There isn’t a Clinton-era Frontier available new. It debuted as a 2005 model, Clinton was long gone with the silverware and all the “W” keys from the Whitehouse keyboards by then.

      • 0 avatar

        I figured on spittin’ distance or someone would correct me. But price is the bottom line in this segment, way ahead of looks, updates, change for the sake of change and luxury/gadgetry, more so than any other segment short of commercial equipment. Especially when it comes to fleets, landscapers, etc, which wouldn’t be a bad idea to cater too in this segment. Fullsize pickup buyers are whole different animals, mid trim to high end especially.

  • avatar

    This may not be on point entirely, but I had a Frontier as a rental earlier this year and it definitely wins the award for most agrarian vehicle I’ve driven in this decade and largest turning circle. I pulled into a restaurant parking lot and it took me three tries to back into a parking spot. In any other vehicle that I’ve driven I would have made it in one shot. I had to pull ahead to reposition once and then I needed a second shot at repositioning because there was no way I could turn the thing that tight.

  • avatar

    The idea of a new Frontier with updated body at least interests me. I’ll have to check them out when they arrive.

  • avatar

    The idea of a Raptor rival from Nissan is hilarious. They would have to do a ground up relearning of what durability means.

    • 0 avatar

      The Alpha frame on the current Frontier is WAY overbuilt for a midsizer, Nissan’s drivetrains and hardware on their trucks generally has a good reputation. Are you just talking out of your *ss by any chance?

      • 0 avatar

        I’m on my second one. The frame is the only solid part of it.

        • 0 avatar

          Touche. Ironically enough the frame of all things is what seems to give out on the bro-jumped Raptors.

          What’s gone wrong with yours? I ask because I actually keep eyeballing 6spd crew-cab Pro-4Xs.

          • 0 avatar

            Timing chain and radiator problems, which Nissan has fixed by now. They have not improved any other common issue in the entire lifetime of the truck. I have electrical issues that cause frequent no-starts, and have replaced a lot of plastic parts that make the mind boggle as to how they could have engineered something so cheaply. Most recently, the tailgate latch and lock which are held together by thoughts and prayers.

            That said, the engine is a real joy to hit the go pedal, but expect mid teens in mpg’s. I wish I had found one with a stick, I have never seen one for sale in these parts.

  • avatar

    You really don’t want the Navara.

    It is renowned for snapping in half – the chassis rots from the inside out.

    Earlier models would blow a conrod on the diesel engine.

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