Its been a long wait but a new generation of Frontier is coming soon...
We're finally starting to see some movement from Nissan on updating its oldest cars. The current Nissan Frontier actually predates the also long-in-the-tooth Nissan Z and the GT-R, having been around without a significant update since 2004. For some perspective on how long ago 2004 was: the iPhone was released three years after that and is now in its twelfth and thirteenth generation, it was the year that the actress who plays Eleven in Stranger Things was born, and production of the first Tesla vehicle was still four years away. In that same timespan for Nissan, it has launched the Rogue, Note, Leaf, Versa, Kicks, and the Nissan Juke has come and gone in America.
The Frontier is known as the Navara or NP300 in other parts of the world. It's a robust design and still sells well, and that's likely part of the reason Nissan hasn't rushed to update the mid-size workhorse. It costs money to redesign and retool, and it has also likely kept the starting price down to a personal wallet and business check friendly $19,090. However, it is outclassed by its rivals in its current form, and the new Frontier should be a significant upgrade. Here's ten things we know the new Frontier will be getting:
Nissan has been touting its Warrior concept design for a while, and it was a heavy influence on the new Titan truck. There's every reason to expect Nissan to apply its design cues to the new Frontier as well. Dealers that have seen the new look behind closed doors have said that it looks radically different from the current model. That's something that will need to happen if the Frontier is going to capture buyer's imaginations and go toe-to-toe with the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, and the Chevrolet Colorado. The more squared off and aggressive looking design reported by dealers should turn plenty of heads, but it will need to deliver in doing truck things as well.
Currently, the Frontier comes outfitted a range of engines, but the ideal one is a 4.0-liter V6 engine that makes a respectable 261 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque. More torque is always better on a truck, and we've learned that the new Frontier is set to debut with an updated version of Nissan's 3.5-liter gas V6 engine. While it's down on displacement, in the Nissan Pathfinder, that 3.5-liter V6 engine makes an impressive 285 hp and 259 lb-ft of torque. Whispers have it that the Frontier's version will emerge at 300 horsepower. As with the current model, there will likely be smaller engines on offer, but the naturally aspirated V6 will be the headliner.
Rumor is strong that the four-cylinder option will be turbocharged and replace the 2.5-liter naturally aspirated option on the current Frontier. That makes 152 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque, so we're expecting a little over 200 lb-ft from the new one, as that's the critical number for a truck. Nissan is also considering introducing a hybrid variant later down the line if customer demand is there. If the automaker can work that system, then it increases torque and towing capacity, and we suspect that would be a big draw to the Frontier.
There are conflicting reports about the chassis on the new Frontier. Some say it will ride on a modified version of the current and rugged ladder-frame chassis. Other reports suggest it will arrive on a shortened version of the new Titan's frame. Either way, Nissan understands the importance of a strong backbone on the truck and, mixed with the new V6 engine, it should have a better towing capacity than the current model to entice people to upgrade. Currently, the 1,460 lbs hauling capacity and ability to tow up to 6,720 lbs is reasonable, but it falls short of Chevrolet Colorado's 7,700-lb towing capacity, and the Ranger's ability to pull 7,500 lbs.
With the new V6 engine, Nissan will need to extract the best numbers from it, and one of those will need to be in fuel economy as well as pulling power. That makes it likely the new Frontier will use the same JATCO nine-speed automatic transmission as the new Titan. The good news there is that it's a significant upgrade over the old seven-speed in the Titan, and is leagues better than the current and outdated five-speed auto in the current Frontier. We don't know if Nissan plans to keep a manual option open on the new one, but we suspect that's highly unlikely.
Back in October last year, Nissan's corporate vice president of Global and Japan product planning, Ivan Espinosa, said, "I think it will be a home run." He also said that the new Frontier will focus on its defining features that made the earlier generations so accessible - fresh technology and driving dynamics. At the same time, Alfonso Albaisa, Global Vice President of Design at Nissan, said the new Frontier would encompass the "spirituality of adventure." The idea of marketing mid-size trucks as workhorses seems to have fallen by the wayside for aspiration and adventure, and that's absolutely something Nissan will have to do when the new Frontier finally drops.
We don't know this for sure, but other markets have seen the third generation Navara. That's why we suspect that coil spring rear suspension, rather than more traditional leaf spring, will be available on certain models. Tuned correctly, and the truck will be more comfortable on the road without a load, but won't lose any capacity for towing when needed. Leaf springs are cheaper to manufacture, so it will likely be a more expensive but worthwhile option for people using the truck as an everyday driver.
Space inside the cabin is often limited in a mid-size truck. Nissan's latest Navara showed the company has concentrated on improving ingress and egress with wider doors but also included a 23-degree slanted rear bench that improves legroom over the previous crew-cab models. With a new or modified chassis and with what Nissan has learned about putting together interiors since the current US generation of Frontier, we're expecting more elbow room as well as a higher-quality interior overall.
Technology will be key in bringing the Nissan Frontier into the 2020s, and we expect to see the Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite of driver aids to be a standard feature. That should include: Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Assist and Rear Automatic Braking. Nissan has promised that it will come as standard equipment on all of its top-selling models by 2021, and that will coincide with the new Frontier arriving on dealer forecourts.
Nissan is holding its cards close to its chest on a reveal date and, while the current Frontier is still selling, the automaker has to be aware that announcing a new one to soon will impact sales. As far as we know right now, the next generation is due to go on sale in February of 2021, so we expect to see it towards the end of summer this year. There are no details on pricing yet, but we do expect it to be incrementally more expensive than the current generation. However, we also expect it to start at a cheaper price than its main rivals. That will be a balancing act for Nissan, but one we see the company pull off regularly.