The midsize category heats up with Nissan’s next Frontier

Nissan USA has been busy over the last couple years developing the new Titan XD and “standard duty” Titan pickup trucks. However, once the Titan rolls into dealerships for the 2017 model year, Nissan’s attention will turn to the Frontier.

Currently in it second generation, the Frontier has been around since 2004 with nearly imperceptible changes beyond a minor facelift for the 2011 model year. A spartan interior and bare-bones powertrain make the current truck feel old, yet somehow charming in its classic style. Nevertheless, time marches on and the next Frontier is headed our way.

Ironically enough, Nissan already has its next version of the Frontier. It’s called the NP300 Navara and has been on sale since the 2015 model year. Of course, the Navara isn’t’ offered in the U.S., but countries around the world enjoy its larger size, modern aesthetics, and car-like interior. The U.S.-spec Frontier is the last hold-out for the second-generation body.

All signs and sense point to Nissan offering a U.S.-spec version of the NP300 Navara, with tweaks to comply with safety and emissions. That means the global Navara might get new powertrain options before coming stateside. What those are, it’s hard to say, but expect them to be more powerful and efficient over the Frontier’s current 2.5-liter four-cylinder and 4.0-liter V-6.

In anticipation of the next-generation Frontier, we’ve created a rendering based on the current NP300 Navara pickup. Until Nissan finally breaks cover with the next Frontier, this gives us a glimpse at what we can expect.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2018 Nissan Frontier.

Exterior

2018 Nissan Frontier
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Like the global version of the Chevrolet Colorado foreshadowed the U.S.-spec Colorado, the global Navara is likely giving clues as to the next Frontier’s appearances. However, we fully expect Nissan to rework the Navara’s looks for two reasons: to appeal to U.S. buyers and as a consequence of compliance to the NHTSA’s crash ratings. Nevertheless, the Frontier should be instantly recognizable.

The Frontier will come in two cab configurations, the smaller King Cab and the larger Double Cab.

The Frontier will come in two cab configurations, the smaller King Cab and the larger Double Cab. The King Cab, like the one in our rendering, will have rear-opening suicide doors behind the main doors. The larger Double Cab will have four traditional doors with easier access to the cab. While Nissan should offer a single cab configuration, we don’t expect to see it. However, if Nissan did, it would be the only automaker to offer a single cab midsize truck. Fleet buyers would surely pay attention. Are you listening, Nissan?

Up front, the chrome grille gets new horizontal inserts, while more chrome is added to the lower fascia around the license plate. Reworked fog light mounts finished in dark chrome adds some depth to the design. Easily accessible tow hooks and a short air dam give the Frontier instant off-road cred.

Large fender flairs encompass the wheel wells, further emphasizing the Frontier’s ruggedness. A scalloped bodyline along the doors complements the accent creases coming off the headlights and on the cargo bed. Large side mirrors with turn signal indicators increase the safety factor. Coming as an option, side steps allow for easy access into the tall cab. Expect Nissan to offer several styles of steps.

Around back, the Frontier will feature Nissan’s assisted tailgate and backup camera. It’s possible the same scalloped tailgate design will transfer to the U.S. Frontier, as well as the taillight styling. We do expect Nissan to give the Frontier a traditional step bumper with a trailer hitch receiver and integrated wiring connections coming optionally.

Nissan’s innovative cargo bed technology will certainly make the generational jump. Expect the in-bed cargo rails, both on the floor and sidewalls of the bed. More tie-downs will be positions throughout the bed, as well. LED lights will be offered, as will be bed extenders, toolboxes, and bed dividers.

Interior

Unlike the outside, the interior’s design is where Nissan will likely make changes. The Navara’s cabin is very car-like, looking like it was stolen from a Sentra. For the Frontier to retain its rugged personality, Nissan will likely design a more brutish dashboard. Looking at the Titan XD for inspiration, the Frontier should have larger knobs, slightly larger buttons, and a four-spoke steering wheel. Then again, the Navara’s interior could make a seamless transition into the Frontier.

Looking at the Titan XD for inspiration, the Frontier should have larger knobs, slightly larger buttons, and a four-spoke steering wheel.

The Frontier will likely come standard with front bucket seats, spit by a center console. Rear seats in the King Cab will be small jump seats that fold from the rear bulkhead. Double Cab rear seating will be much more comfortable thanks to more legroom and a standard three-person bench seat. Expect there to be cargo storage under the bench. Nissan would be wise to offer a flat load floor back here, as well.

Tech wise, upper trim levels will receive Nissan’s 360-degree Around-View Monitor camera system with its bird’s-eye view for easy maneuvering. All trim levels will come standard with a backup camera. Blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, automatic braking, and other high-end safety equipment will surely be offered.

Drivetrain

2018 Nissan Frontier
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It’s hard to say what Nissan has up its sleeve for the next-generation Frontier. Going on the Navara’s engine lineup, the current 2.5-liter four-cylinder could return, revamped with more horsepower and torque, along with better fuel efficiency. It’s highly doubtful Nissan would offer the 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel Stateside, That’s not a bad thing, however, as Nissan could leverage its partnership with Cummins to produce a U.S.-specific diesel engine for the Frontier. In fact, Nissan did just that in 2014 with a concept Frontier utilizing a 2.8-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel. Talk about a feather in Nissan’s hat…

Transmission offerings will likely include the seven-speed automatic found in the Navara, along with the six-speed manual.

Beyond four-cylinders, Nissan will likely offer a V-6 option. There’s no news as of yet, but we’re guessing the current 4.0-liter V-6 will get a thorough re-working to up its power and efficiency levels. Adding fuel to that fire is Nissan’s strategy with reworking the exiting 5.6-liter V-8 for the second-generation Titan XD. The engine isn’t an all-new design, but is heavily revised with technology from this decade.

Transmission offerings will likely include the seven-speed automatic found in the Navara, along with the six-speed manual. It would be fantastic for Nissan to offer the manual transmission for each of the engine options, though it’s likely base model four-cylinders will be the only ones with three pedals.

An electronic, two-speed transfer case will operate the optional 4WD system, sending power to the front wheels only when the driver wants it. An electronic locking rear differential will likely come standard on PRO-4X models.

Prices

Nissan will likely retain the current trim levels of the Frontier, meaning King Cab trucks will come in S and SV trims, while the Double Cab will come in S, SV, and SL trims. Nissan will also split the trim levels with engine options, meaning both the SV and SL trims will be further split by the four-cylinder and V-6 option.

Prices are guaranteed to rise over the current generation Frontier, but by how much is unknown. The 2015 Frontier starts at $18,290 for a King Cab in the base S trim. Opting for the range-topping SV trim with the Double Cab pushes the starting price to $25,680, before options.

The next-generation Frontier will likely start around $19,500 for the base trim and $28,000 for the SV in Double Cab form.

Competition

Chevrolet Colorado

2015 Chevrolet Colorado High Resolution Exterior
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The Chevy Colorado has been a formidable contender in the midsize category since it returned to dealerships for the 2015 model year. Larger dimensions, a more comfortable interior, and two new engine options make the Colorado a good alternative to full-size truck. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder acts as the entry-level engine, while a 3.6-liter V-6 is the right choice for most folks. New for 2016 is a 2.8-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel that offers excellent fuel economy with towing up to 7,500 pounds.

Prices for the Colorado start at $20,100 and can exceed $38,000 for a diesel-powered example with all the options.

Read our full review on the Chevrolet Colorado here.

Toyota Tacoma

2016 Toyota Tacoma High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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As much as the Colorado is a top player, the Tacoma continues to rule the midsize segment. Redesigned for 2016, the Tacoma offers a fresh design, a more comfortable interior, and two engine options. The base four-cylinder is a carry-over unit, but is competitive nevertheless. Most folk, however, opt for the new 3.5-liter V-6. The mill now features tons of tech, including both Otto and Atkinson combustion cycles, variable valve timing, and both port and direct fuel injection. The result is both power and efficiency. Like the competition, the Yota comes in both double and crew cab configurations, 2WD and 4WD, and your choice of trim levels.

Prices for the Tacoma start at $23,300 and venture well into the mid $30,000 range.

Read our full review on the Toyota Tacoma here.

Conclusion

2018 Nissan Frontier Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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The next Nissan Frontier can’t come soon enough. The current truck has been on the market for more than a decade, though it’s still selling relatively well. Much of that likely has to do with its pricing, being the least expensive midsize offering. Still, Nissan must update the Frontier in order to be a three-truck automaker. Once the Titan and Frontier are out, customers’ choices will range between a four-cylinder King Cab Frontier and a decked out Titan XD Platinum Reserve with the 5.0-liter Cummins turbodiesel V-8.

Once Nissan breaks news on the Frontier, you can bet TopSpeed will cover it, so stay tuned for future details.

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    • Likely more expensive the current Frontier
    • Not at dealers till Q4 2017
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