This article about the Nissan Frontier was originally syndicated in May 2020. We’re reposting it here ahead of the release of the new (but delayed) next-generation model.
The current Nissan Frontier is an old pickup truck, but with a new powertrain and that’s the big news.
Now in its sixteenth year, the current-generation model is ending its extended run with a bang thanks to a new engine and transmission. It’s a preview of what’s to come when the new model debuts in 2021 (as a 2022 model, with the 2021 model year adding a 17th year). In effect, it successfully breathes new life into something old.
Nissan offers the 2021 Frontier in King Cab and Crew Cab configurations. The prices range from $27,190 to $37,890, plus a $1,095 destination charge. Our fully loaded 2020 PRO-4X Crew Cab approached $40,000. But that’s still several thousand dollars below what most competitors charge, although with less available equipment. The rear-wheel-drive Frontier comes with available four-wheel drive and seats as many as five.
Light changes have accompanied the current Frontier since its late 2004 debut. It has a modern face that matches Nissan’s current look, otherwise, its profile and bed choices are the same. That’s not a bad thing, but the look is dated.
Inside, the cabin seems like a throwback, but we applaud Nissan for making push-button start standard this year. The front seats are comfortable and the sightlines are good. We like the fold-up split-bench seat as it offers additional storage space inside.
Safety & Technology
You will have to wait for a new model to get driver-assist technologies, such as lane-departure warning, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. A rearview camera and a suite of airbags are included. Then again, they’re federally mandated.
On the tech front, a 7-inch touch-screen display, one USB port, Siri Eyes Free, and Bluetooth connectivity come standard. The list of options includes an upgraded audio system and navigation. Missing among the options is a 110/120-volt power outlet and a wireless charging pad. Wait until next year?
Nissan Frontier Performance
We have mentioned little about the Frontier’s other features, mostly because the new engine and transmission are the stars. Last year, Nissan offered a 2.5-liter four-cylinder as the base engine and a 4.0-liter V6 optionally. Like the truck itself, those engines had been around for many years and were paired with either a manual transmission or a 5-speed automatic.
The 3.8-liter V6 powering every 2020 Frontier is new to Nissan as is the 9-speed automatic transmission. Nissan claims it shares few parts with an existing engine. Although, if there are similarities to the stellar 3.7-liter V6 powering various Nissan and Infiniti models, then we approve.
With an output of 310 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque, this engine is surpassed by none in the midsize truck segment. From robust step-off acceleration to passing power, it is a beefy engine that makes no pretense in being anything but the stout motivator it is.
The 9-speed automatic transmission is an ideal match too, as it fires off cogs seamlessly and on point. The trade-off is in its efficiency as you will be hard-pressed to earn 20 mpg. We think that shortcoming will be okay with current Frontier fans and shoppers. These individuals appreciate the ruggedness of a powerful engine that does not rely on boosting for added performance.
The pandemic meant our favorite off-road trails were closed. That said, we found a few spots to test the Frontier’s rigor and liked what we experienced. It handles its approach, breakover, and departure angles with ease, but it’s just as capable on hard surfaces. With a maximum towing capacity of 6,720 pounds, the Frontier will handle your boat or camper just fine.
Nissan Frontier Considerations
We are fans of the new engine and powertrain, which is by far this model’s best feature. The current Frontier’s size offers strong appeal too, especially for anyone not wanting the girth and weight of a full-size truck, such as the Nissan Titan. We think most fans will wait for the 2022 model, which will be all new and include all the features you would expect in a modern midsize pickup truck.
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