Overseas, Nissan Mulls Ranger Raptor Rival - Is It Time to Explore a New Frontier?

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

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.

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]

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

More by Matthew Guy

Join the conversation
6 of 36 comments
  • Goatshadow Goatshadow on Feb 25, 2018

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

    • See 3 previous
    • Goatshadow Goatshadow on Mar 02, 2018

      @gtem 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.

  • WallMeerkat WallMeerkat on Feb 26, 2018

    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.

  • Jkross22 The contrived, forced, overproduced jokes and antics were fun 15 years ago, but it's been the same thing over and over since. The last few years of Top Gear were heading this direction and the 3 were phoning it in. They should have either done something completely different and tried something new. Instead they played it safe.
  • SCE to AUX "...identified during our rigorous validation process"Not so rigorous, if they ended up on dealer lots. 🙄
  • Ras815 Their naming scheme is almost as idiotic as having a totally separate Polestar brand for EVs that look exactly like...de-badged Volvos. But you can tell it came from the same idiocy.
  • Dukeisduke "The EX naming convention is used for the automaker’s new and upcoming EVs, the EX30 and EX90."Only upcoming when they can figure out the software.
  • SCE to AUX I've always said that consumer/business pressures will reign in government decrees, as they have in the past in places like California. That state has moved the goalposts many times for "ZEV" mandates.But the problem is the depth of politicization of the EPA. Mfrs need continuity and long-term commitment to requirements, not living on a 4-year political cycle of who's in the White House and Congress. Your President - whomever that is - isn't going to be around forever.Ironically, backing off the gas means handing a greater lead to Tesla, Rivian, and Lucid, (and possibly H/K/G). The whiners have begun heavy investments whose ROI will be extended by years, and their EV sales will reduce even further.It's like the coach granting his players less practice time because they're tired, while the other team stays fit - that's how you lose the game.