2020 Nissan Frontier: What's Old Is Partly New

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

The 2020 Nissan Frontier unveiled ahead of the Chicago Auto Show Wednesday night looks an awful lot like a 2019 model, to say nothing of the fourteen years of Frontiers that came before, but there’s something new lurking under the hood.

In an unusual move, Nissan has decided to debut the powertrain of the Frontier’s long-awaited midsize successor in the newest current-generation model. The last current-gen model, to put it another way.

With the new engine upgrade comes a considerable boost in horsepower and four additional forward gears.

The all-new engine, cobbled together with 93 percent new or redesigned parts (Nissan claims), will roll out of the same Decherd, Tennessee plant as the Titan’s 5.6-liter V8. Displacing 3.8 liters, the direct-injection V6 generates 310 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque.

That pony figure, up from 261 hp in the 4.0L, catapults the Frontier ahead of the Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon, and Toyota Tacoma, though its torque, which stays the same as the previous V6 mill, is handily trounced by the turbo-four Ford.

Gone from the 2020 Frontier is the long-running 2.5-liter base engine, its manual transmission, and the five-speed automatic that found a home in both four-banger and V6 models. In its place, a nine-speed automatic promises a broader ratio spread and, Nissan hopes, a worthwhile uptick in fuel economy.

With this move, manual transmission availability exits the Nissan truck line, with just Jeep and Toyota left holding the torch.

Elsewhere in the 2020 Frontier, there’s a bit of changeup in how you can order your truck. Nissan wants fewer build configurations with all of its models, and the Frontier is no exception. Those looking for a King Cab can expect rear-wheel drive on base S and SV trims, with optional four-wheel drive on those trims and standard on higher, while Crew Cab models sees the choice extend to SV trims in both bed lengths. Spring for the Pro-4X, and its 4WD-only.

The newish pickup goes on sale this spring, before which pricing will be announced. Hopefully, we’ll soon learn about the next-generation truck slated to arrive for 2021, and whether a bargain-basement four-cylinder stripper will be included in the lineup.

In revealing the 2020 Frontier, Nissan brought along a Chicagoland deliveryman who took his ’07 Frontier (4-cyl manual) to 1 million miles on the original engine. The clutch lasted till just past 800,000 miles, the automaker claims. Indeed, if there was ever a theme under which to introduce the 2020 Frontier, longevity fits the bill.

[Images: Nissan]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Feb 06, 2020

    @Hummer--Agree throw an untested V-6 and a Jatco automatic even if it is 9 speed and I am not interested. The only Nissan I would have considered buying with the proven 4 cylinder with a 5 speed manual. Now I know for sure I will never own a Nissan. Jatco are crapo. Nissan should die and be forgotten.

    • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Feb 06, 2020

      Keep in mind that a CVT can be used in these light-duty pickups, and that may eventually come to pass. I'm not a candidate for a small truck, but there is a market for them, which is why Ford and GM brought back their midsizers to battle with Tacoma.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Feb 07, 2020

    A Jatco CVT in a Frontier would be a complete non starter for me. Nissan CVTs are the all time worst transmissions. Nissan's quality is one of the worst of any automaker and that includes GM and FCA.

  • 28-Cars-Later I guess Santa showed up with bales of cash for Mitsu this past Christmas.
  • Lou_BC I was looking at an extended warranty for my truck. The F&I guy was trying to sell me on the idea by telling me how his wife's Cadillac had 2 infotainment failures costing $4,600 dollars each and how it was very common in all of their products. These idiots can't build a reliable vehicle and they want me to trust them with the vehicle "taking over" for me.
  • Sobhuza Trooper Like fusion power, the I.D. Buzz is only 30 years away.
  • Lou_BC "respondents between 18 and 80 years old" Basically anyone deemed an adult who might be allowed to drive.
  • Lou_BC They will do fine if they come up with some cool sedans ;)