By on February 5, 2020

nissan

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.

nissan

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.

nissan

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]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

44 Comments on “2020 Nissan Frontier: What’s Old Is Partly New...”


  • avatar
    DenverMike

    …”Spring for the Pro-4X, and its 4WD-only…”

    Uh, what part of “4X” don’t you understand?

    Having an ancient, proven, experienced drivetrain was a good reason for buying a decrepit new vehicle. It was a selling point on my ’05 F-150. Ancient 4.6 V8 and 4-speed auto, both dating back to the early ’90s.

    But when a torque figure is a bunch less than the HP, it’s not a good sign, especially in a truck. It sounds like a high revver.

  • avatar
    Right_Click_Refresh

    I mean, great job Nissan??????

    And why the BS pub stunt with the old engine? Hey at least our OLD engine(IN THE SAME FRIGGIN TRUCK) was reliable, keep that in mind…?

    • 0 avatar
      Jon

      It has very little to do with pub stunts. It has everything to do with testing. The engineers get the opportunity to collect extensive field data on a new product that is on an existing and proven platform. By using an exiting platform as a test bed for the drivetrain, many of the variables of the test that are associated the with platform have been removed since the platform’s issues are well known. When looking for the issues with the drivetrain, engineers can essentially rule out issues with the chassis and body as a cause. Toyota has been doing this for decades. They introduce new products on their Lexus brand and several years later, use those products on their mass produced platforms.

  • avatar
    narcoossee

    Hasn’t BMW historically introduced new drivetrains the year before a new/update of the model?

  • avatar
    gtem

    Interesting to see how much this bumps real world mpg. I love the current VQ40 equipped Frontier for how un-apologetically torquey and strong it is, from down low up to high RPMs, fuel economy be damned. Much more enjoyable than the 3.5L Tacoma I had as a rental, which struggled to return more than 18-19mpg in all highway driving anyways, and downshifted on the slightest of rises.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Ironic that the most satisfying midsize powertrain, fuel economy be damned, is in the otherwise least satisfying midsize that sells entirely on price and mostly to business buyers who actually care about fuel economy.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Honestly I really liked my RWD SV crew cab that I got in Vegas for a few days. Just a solid rough and tumble unapologetic truck. For someone coming from a 1990s 4Runner, the ride was actually smooth, although I’m sure it’s not on the level of more modern rivals. As long as they could undercut on price, hey I think they’re not a bad option. Most egregious issue in my mind was the horrible turning radius, and the front seats I hear are uncomfortable for many on long drives.

        My rental Tacoma TRD Off Road certainly had a nicer interior, quieter ride, better ride/handling, but honestly the powertrain was so much worse I would pick the outdated Frontier any time. My limited experience of test driving a diesel Colorado makes me think that truck may be the better option yet (assuming reliability is tolerable).

        • 0 avatar
          Dan

          Agree with you and mopar that there’s charm in an honest truck but would you really buy one to commute in, even at the four or five under a Colorado that they retail for?

          Playing to its strengths as a second vehicle for chores and camping, who pays new car money for something that sits six days a week?

          I liked the Colorado that I sat in at the car show much, much more than the Tacoma and I’ve read some good things about the diesel but the price tag there is even sillier than a Tacoma. Seeing the diesel tuning industry killed off in 2018 doesn’t help either.

          • 0 avatar

            The Colorado/Canyon seem much nicer. I really want to take one on an extended drive and see how it does. For me driving 20k miles a year I could live with the ride of the Frontier but the seats would be an issue, higher trims may be better not sure thou. If I had to buy new the frontier would probably win me over on value, as a used car a Canyon would seem to make the most sense.

    • 0 avatar

      I had a SV crew cab 2wd for a rental in Chicago a couple weeks ago. At first I was turned off (a bit disappointed because I always kind of liked this gen frontier). The ride and NVH are worse then my 20 year old Durango. Seat comfort is pretty awful as well. That said visibility is fantastic, it’s pretty roomy and the drivetrain was great other then thirst and some NVH issues. Overall I think it was a net positive experience, and I would consider one as a trail/camping rig or weekend work truck but I don’t think I would want to drive one everyday.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I don’t like the 3.5l in the newer Tacoma either. Definitely not as fun as the 4.0 in my 2013 Tacoma.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I think it’s a bad move, giving up the 4 cylinder. They’re walking away from all the buyers, fleet and otherwise, that just want a cheap, stripped-out truck.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      yes, because catering to cheapskates is good business sense.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Jim would you be singing a different tune about F150 fleet sales, thousands of who by basic XL trim white regular cab truck with the base NA 3.3 V6?

        I think Eggsalad is right, I see a ton of utility companies that would buy the extended cab, RWD 2.5L 4cyl trucks.

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          Why aren’t they buying them now then?

          Probably because just as you say, a 3.3L F150 is way more capable for not that much more money.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            I don’t dispute that point, I was taking issue with Jim’s “why cater to cheap fleet buyers” question. Everyone else does this, and is happy to get the sales. For auto parts stores, exterminators, AT&T and whoever else, maybe they don’t need that full capability in all their trucks, they just wanted something simple that could still handle bulky cargo and had a fair bit of durability (compared to a FWD sedan). No idea, just a guess. And to them, even a $3000(?) gap between a basic Frontier and a fleet spec F150 is enough to consider the former. I also see a lot of access cab white base model Tacomas as exterminator trucks. I wonder if they’re banking on the resale value as the key to low TCO for their fleet (possibly reliability too?)

          • 0 avatar
            jack4x

            Right, and my point was that Nissan presumably did the math and those sales right now must either be non-existent, or not profitable enough to justify keeping the 4 cylinder around.

            It is a bit odd that they would showcase the million mile 2.5L at the same time they announce its discontinuation with no replacement though.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Are any fleets buying midsize trucks anymore? I guess I see some fleets with Colorados, but I can’t think of any locally that have any of the others.

          The ones that don’t need the size of a full-size pickup all seem to be buying Euro-vans, especially the Transit, which is absolutely everywhere.

          • 0 avatar

            The most common midsize I see here in the north east in fleets are the colorado and tacoma. The tacomas in ext cab with 4wd seems popular for utility – logging- etc that may need to go offroad. I see quite a few frontiers being worked but not in large fleets more like companies that have 1-2 trucks (the calibration company we work with has a couple). At one point the cable company had a big fleet of frontiers but now the seem to be mostly vans or super duties.

          • 0 avatar
            dukeisduke

            @dal20402

            Absolutely. Pest control companies for one buy lots of Tacoma and Frontier extended cabs, and also auto parts store chains like O’Reilly and AutoZone.

        • 0 avatar

          gtem, the point JimZ makes: is it profitable for Nissan to sell trucks to this kind of customers if Nissan sells them at loss. Considering that Nissan tries to get out of fleet sales it chose to sell trucks for profit or do not sell them at all.

      • 0 avatar
        Jon

        Not everyone has enough money to not be cheap.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    …”That pony figure…catapults the Frontier ahead of the Ranger, Colorado…”

    Nice, except torque is real important in this segment, as with gearing which there’s no mention of. If they get it wrong, it’ll hamper towing/hauling and still get poor MPG.

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    What an odd move, making the 2020 model forever stuck in a weird neverneverland between generations. Sorta like a 2010 Mustang GT, but worse.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Better IMO, the 2010 Mustang GT gave you the new body with the old powertrain when a year later buyers got a massive upgrade in the form of the new Coyote 5.0L. This gives you the same old Frontier that they have been for years (more of the same) with a fresh powertrain.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Its kind of like my wife’s 2014 Q60 which is really just the old G37. They changed the name but nothing else, then two years later changed the entire platform. Whose stupid idea was that?

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Let’s remember that GM announced in 2012 that the W-body Impala was getting the new 3.6 DI VVT with 6-speed auto (likewise as the sole engine choice) and then announced that the last year of production would be be 2012.

        Instead they kept the old Impala in production after the new Impala had been introduced from 2014-2016. You could argue that adding the new engine to the old body gave them a chance to beta test the new engine and trans.

        Perhaps Nissan is doing the same thing.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      I actually special ordered a 2010 GT. a few months after taking delivery I felt pretty dumb.

      edit: in more ways than one, too. All of the buff books’ reviews of the 2010 GT praised its performance and 4.8-4.9 second 0-60 time. Mine, on the other hand, was underwhelming. Turns out all of the press cars had the 3.73 rear gear, while mine had the 3.31.

      *womp*womp*

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    All the articles are “hit and run”. What happened to author interaction? A 2-way conversation maybe. Does anyone really work here?

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    So no more manual trans, I presume?

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Really? No 4 cylinder at all?

    You bring a million mile Frontier to the reveal to tout reliability and then you install a direct injection V6 into the new truck? Who’s fooled by that?

  • avatar
    micko4472

    I have a 2009 Xterra with the 4 liter/5speed combo, and it’s great. It’s
    got 122k on the clock and there’s never been any sign of a problem with
    engine or tranny. I ain’t sellin’ this truck!

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Just read an article on a guy in Chicago who has passed 1 million miles on his 2007 4 cylinder, RWD, manual transmission Frontier, with minimal repairs/replacements.

    Posted by this site’s parent company TorStar.

    https://driving.ca/nissan/auto-news/news/this-2007-nissan-frontier-has-covered-1-million-miles-but-looks-new

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Nissan: Look at this guy who has a million miles on one of our 4 cylinder stick shift trucks, you can trust our trucks to last for the long haul.
      Customers: so we too can buy an ultra reliable Nissan 4 cylinder 5 speed?

      Nissan: Well actually no – we have this new unproven engine we’re going to throw into truck duty for the first time ever.

      Customers: but we can still trust that our manual trans has the capability of lasting 800k miles right?

      Nissan: well actually no, we’re getting rid of that too, you can have this 9 speed trans, were still working out the bugs, apparently it’s different than the CVT we put in everything else.

  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    No way on earth should anyone want to be the guinea pig for a new unproven engine in one of these.

  • avatar
    Longshift

    I was looking at getting one of these. I haven’t test-driven one yet. For anyone who has driven one, are the seats with the manual adjustable lumbar in the Desert Runner better? Also, are the head restraints intrusive? They seem to angle forward pretty far.

    Would the Desert Runner with the off-road suspension ride better than the SV?

    My last truck was a 2011 Ranger, which had the worst seats of any vehicle I have ever sat in extensively. The seats in it were hard enough to dribble a basketball on and poorly shaped so that my back would arch when I sat in them. My Ranger was an extended cab with a 42.7 ft. turning circle, and I got used to navigating with it. The extended cab Frontier has a 43.4 ft. turning circle, so I can’t imagine it would be much worse.

    The visibility in the Ranger was great. The Frontier looks to be the only mid-size truck on the market with low beltlines, good visibility, and a bed low enough off the ground to be easily loaded. They will probably lose all that with the redesign. The redesign is also supposed to drop the extended cab, so I wouldn’t buy one.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @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.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      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.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    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.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • CombiNation: Yep, you are correct. The Outback Sport trim for the Impreza continued through the 2014 model year. The...
  • Art Vandelay: If all of the clutch material resides in your fluid versus the clutch packs you will be getting new...
  • crtfour: Yes, hearing that my 2002 Jaguar XKR is “just a Ford”, and there are car guys that are convinced...
  • Art Vandelay: So @FreedMike, before GM took over and “ruined” Saab, one could purchase either a 12 year...
  • 2manycars: “Ford has a solution that, while not great for the environment, will at least bring peace of mind to...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber