Don't carve the manual's tombstone yet.
At long last, Nissan has announced an update for its aging Frontier pickup truck at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show. The 2020 Nissan Frontier may not look any different on the outside but under the skin, it features a brand-new engine and transmission that will both feature in the next-generation model. For 2020, Nissan has introduced a new 3.8-liter V6 producing 310 horsepower, making the Frontier far more competitive with newer trucks like the Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger, GMC Canyon, Jeep Gladiator, and the best-selling Toyota Tacoma.
Along with the new engine, Nissan has announced a new nine-speed automatic, which is the same one found in the recently-updated Titan pickup truck. The nine-speed unit replaces the current five-speed automatic and manual transmissions, meaning the 2020 Frontier will be automatic-only.
With the GM twins dropping their manual transmissions, the Gladiator and Tacoma are now the only mid-size trucks to still be offered with a row-it-yourself option. Since this new engine and transmission will be used in the next-generation Frontier, you might assume that the manual option is gone for good. Well, don't carve out its tombstone just yet.
We had a chance to speak with Nissan Senior Product and Technology Manager, Josh Clifton, about the possibility of a manual transmission for the next-gen Frontier. "I can't comment on future product but I can say there will not be a manual on the 2020 Frontier," Clifton confirmed. But when asked about adding a manual for the next-gen 2021 model, Clifton said he "couldn't confirm it" but also "could not deny it."
Given that the 2020 model will only have an automatic, we feel like Nissan could have gone ahead to confirm that this will be the only drivetrain available for the next-gen Frontier. Instead, Clifton left the option open for the manual transmission to make a return, but we have our doubts.
Either way, we expect this new 3.8-liter V6 to pull duty across the Nissan lineup, replacing the current 3.5-liter unit found in a variety of models. Most of those cars currently use a CVT, so it will be interesting to see if Nissan starts to use a more conventional automatic in more vehicles.