A redesigned Nissan Frontier is coming: Here’s what to expect

Zac Palmer
·3 min read

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The next-generation Nissan Frontier is poised to arrive in 2021, and through interviews with multiple sources we’ve been able to piece together a picture of what’s in store.

Yes, Nissan has neglected its midsize pickup, and today, the company markets the Frontier as a value proposition. It’s cheaper than the Ford Ranger, Toyota Tacoma and Chevy Colorado. Those trucks have a whole lot more to offer in nearly every way, but they can also come in at prices encroaching on fullsize pickups. Nissan wants and should strive for more, says Stephanie Brinley, principal automotive analyst at IHS Markit.

“It needs to adapt to some of the creature comforts and some of the technology, not because the other guys have them, but because consumers are indicating that they want them,” Brinley says.

Our dealer sources (with knowledge of the product via Nissan) tell us the design is completely new, retaining next to nothing of the current Frontier. We’re told to expect an interpretation of the Warrior design seen on the new Titan. It’ll be squared-off, much more masculine and Titan-esque — the folks who described the truck to us say they’ve seen it at various closed-door Nissan events. This macho design language matches what other manufacturers (and Nissan) have aimed for with new pickups.

We’ve previously heard that Nissan will use an updated version of the current Frontier’s platform for the new truck. However, other sources have said that it’s riding on a shortened and modified Titan chassis. We can’t definitively say which one it will be at this point, but the Titan is the new kid on the block. A new powertrain is also along for the ride. Nissan still sells the Frontier with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and 4.0-liter V6 options. The four-cylinder can even be had with a five-speed manual transmission. A five-speed automatic is optional. None of this will make it into the 2021 Frontier. Instead, we’re told to expect a new 3.8-liter naturally aspirated V6 and nine-speed automatic transmission. The 3.8-liter displacement is the same as the GT-R’s displacement, but the two won’t be anything alike if Nissan ultimately uses the purported engine in the Frontier. We’d wager a guess that the nine-speed heading toward the Frontier is a version of the transmission that was recently adopted by the Titan. One source gave us a 300-horsepower estimate. Expect superior fuel economy and more towing/hauling capability thanks to the updated chassis and powertrain. We’re told that the new V6 is even more efficient than the outgoing four-cylinder truck.

This move upscale is also rumored to be the end of the line for the King Cab, as our sources tell us the Crew Cab might be the only truck available. There are also rumors of a possible off-road high-performance Frontier from a couple sources. If the Frontier is on the Titan’s platform, Nissan could theoretically shoehorn the 5.6-liter V8 under the hood for some extra go. It’s only speculation for now, but we’d love to see such a creation outside the SEMA fantasy land.

“It’s a natural fit for the Frontier to have an off-road performance package,” Brinley told us.

From a timing perspective, the fully redesigned next-gen Frontier is said to be a 2021 model with a launch happening sometime within a year. A source tells us that we’ll have to wait until February 2021 to see the truck actually hit dealer lots, leaving a lot of auto shows open for reveals between now and then. This timing was reportedly just revised backwards for unspecified reasons. Nissan will be gearing up for production of the new truck soon at the plant in Canton, MS.

Nissan public relations declined to comment for this report, but a spokesperson said Nissan plans to launch 12 new products in the next 20 months. This will be one of the most important.