Nissan’s utility pickup gets new engines ahead of next-generation model

The 2020 Nissan Frontier made its debut at the Chicago Auto Show, and, well, it still looks the same. The front design is the same, and so is the rear. The body is the same, too. There’s not much going on in the wheels section, either. Instead, Nissan is offering the 2020 Frontier with a new engine that delivers more power than its previous iteration. A handful of new changes are also included, but, for the most part, the 2020 Frontier is the same pickup as it was before. The big change is set to arrive in 2021 when the all-new Frontier makes its debut.

What You Need to Know About the 2020 Nissan Frontier

Nissan's Hoping That a New Engine Will Hold the Frontier Over Until the Next-Gen Model Arrives in 2021 Exterior
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When it comes to full-blown changes and new additions, the 2020 Frontier has neither. Visually, you’re getting the same truck, right down to the body styles of the crew cab and the extended-cab body. The crew will still be offered with either a short or a long bed. No changes there, too. There are changes, however, to the number of trim levels available. The Frontier SL is now gone, leaving only the S, SV, and Pro-4X trim levels to soldier on until the arrival of the “New Frontier” in 2021. As far as real changes are concerned, you can take comfort knowing that the 2020 Frontier now comes with push-start button across the entire range of models. Tilt steering wheel, power locks, and power windows are also standard across the board. These are inconsequential improvements, but it’s important to stress this point: the current-generation Frontier has been around since 2005. There’s a reason why it still looks like a dinosaur compared to other trucks in its class.

Nissan's Hoping That a New Engine Will Hold the Frontier Over Until the Next-Gen Model Arrives in 2021 Exterior
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Fortunately, we are getting something fresh in the form of a new 3.8-liter direct-injection V-6 engine that produces 310 horsepower. That’s an improvement of 49 horsepower over the old 2.5-liter inline-four engine. According to Nissan, that’s largely attributed to the V-6 engine receiving 93 percent new parts. Torque figures, on the other hand, stay steady at 281 pound-feet of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission now comes standard, replacing the five-speed automatic, which, along with the five-speed manual, is getting the proverbial axe. Rear-wheel drive comes standard while four-wheel drive is available as an option. No changes there, too.

Nissan's Hoping That a New Engine Will Hold the Frontier Over Until the Next-Gen Model Arrives in 2021 Exterior
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All told, the 2020 Nissan Frontier is a transition model for Nissan. It’s previewing a number of equipment — the new V-6, most notably — that we will most likely see when the next-generation Frontier arrives in 2021. But other than that and a few small changes, this is still the same dreary pickup that’s been around since 2005 without any significant overhauls to speak of.

Nissan's Hoping That a New Engine Will Hold the Frontier Over Until the Next-Gen Model Arrives in 2021 Drivetrain
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2020 Nissan Frontier specifications
Engine 3.8-liter V6 engine
Horsepower 310 HP
Torque 281 LB-FT
Transmission 9-speed automatic transmission
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
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