Report: New Powertrain Means Big Price Leap for Next-generation Nissan Frontier

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
report new powertrain means big price leap for next generation nissan frontier

It was one of the more interesting debuts of this year’s pandemic-constrained spring auto show season: The 2020 Nissan Frontier, which heralds the fully revamped 2021 Frontier by donning that yet unseen midsize pickup’s new powertrain. Old truck, new engine and transmission.

Details of the first all-new Frontier in the better part of two decades remain scarce, but a report out Thursday suggests a big price increase is in the works.

First off, Nissan hasn’t yet offered up pricing info on the stopgap 2020 model, which debuts Nissan’s direct-injection 3.8-liter V6 (310 horsepower, 281 lb-ft of torque) and pairs it with a nine-speed automatic. With a four-cylinder off the table for ’20, a significant climb from the base 2019 2.5-liter King Cab S manual-transmission model ($20,385 after destination) is expected, and indeed warranted.

Citing estimates found on a fleet ordering document, CarsDirect reports that the entry price of a 2021 model could be $26,280 before destination, making for a seven-grand-plus climb from the invoice price of an existing ’19 base.

It doesn’t look like the four-cylinder will stage a return in the coming new-generation truck, as the order doc lists the base Frontier being, as before, a King Cab S. Until the present model year, that model carried a five-speed manual and 2.5L. This, despite word over the past year that the next Frontier might retain a manual transmission (signifying the presence of an entry-level engine).

The Frontier S was always a price leader, positioned so far below competing midsize trucks that the consumer had to take notice. Good luck ever seeing one in the wild, though. Nissan’s midsize volume came from mid-range trims and crew cab bodies.

Given the automaker’s grim financial situation, coupled with an industry-wide streamlining trend that’s already seen build configurations chopped left and right, a single-powertrain Frontier wouldn’t be surprising. However, a base price topping $27,000 after destination would be.

Nissan is known as a value brand, and such a price would place the model above the current cheapest Chevrolet Colorado ($22,395) and Ford Ranger ($25,605) to the tune of several thousand dollars. It would also more or less match the $27,145 after-destination price of a base, four-cylinder Toyota Tacoma SR Access Cab. Of course, you’d be getting a V6 for this price, but the climb still seems steep.

Nissan didn’t have anything to say about the next-gen Frontier when contacted; pricing remains unconfirmed. All we really know about the ’21 model is that it will boast newly aerodynamic sheet metal and should top the 2020 model’s already improved V6 fuel economy.

[Image: Nissan]

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4 of 28 comments
  • Jeff S Jeff S on Apr 25, 2020

    I doubt there will be a shortage of the 2021 Frontiers on dealer lots when they become available. I can understand not having a totally base model but this is way too much for this truck especially being a Nissan.

    • DenverMike DenverMike on Apr 25, 2020

      If midsize pickup makers don't step up (or down) and offer a regular cab stripper, crank windows too, and for well under $20K, 7' bed perhaps, it's just a matter of time before an Indian or Chinese automaker does, for the US/NA. Then they'll have to scramble to put together regular cab strippers of their own.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Apr 26, 2020

    Agree, there needs to be a more basic midsize truck. There is a huge hole in the market and the Chinese and Indians will eventually fill it. I for one would buy a true base midsize or compact pickup with a regular cab with roll down windows. If it comes in just white, a grey or tan interior, even if it has a plastic floor and lots of hard plastic. Have a base stereo with USB ports, manual, just steelie with plain hubcaps (no chrome), little or no chrome. Make it a fleet special with a base I4 (no turbos) and no 4 x 4. Make it as simple and easy to repair as possible. I would use that as my weekend truck for hauling. I would even settle for no ac and vinyl seats. I would be happy with an interior I could either hose out or use a shop vac. Definitely a 7 foot bed.

    • DenverMike DenverMike on Apr 26, 2020

      It's stupid simple. Just do what the big trucks do. Equip, price, and rebate them the same as the big trucks. It all scales. Despite tremendous fullize pickup sales, most of the US population don't currently own anything fullsize, have never, and never will. If midsize pickups didn't suck, there's no reason they couldn't match, or outsell fullsize, 1/2 ton pickups. If they could be had in regular cabs (with 2wd), they're not much bigger than base '80s mini-trucks. 4X4 extra cab mini-trucks are the most likely to survive or get restored today, but they were rare on the street back then, compared to the sea of base/stripper pickups.

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