CHICAGO — The next-gen Nissan Frontier is nearly here, but the long-running, current Frontier pickup is going out with a bang. Nissan used the Chicago Auto Show to announce that the 2020 Frontier will be equipped with the powertrain headed into the next-gen truck. That new powertrain consists of a naturally aspirated 3.8-liter V6 and nine-speed automatic transmission.
Nissan also confirmed that the next-gen Frontier is coming next year, so this unique Frankenstein Frontier will only be on sale for the 2020 model year. The new engine makes 310 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy hasn’t been revealed yet, but Nissan says it’s more efficient than the outgoing 4.0-liter V6, which is no surprise.
This engine was developed specifically for U.S. truck customers, per Nissan. The company said in a statement that 93% of the parts are either all-new or redesigned. Nissan highlighted that this new engine now features direct-injection, exhaust manifolds integrated with the cylinder heads, variable timing control and a variable displacement oil pump. The nine-speed automatic transmission that it’s mated to is “similar to” the nine-speed introduced for the 2020 Titan. Other changes for 2020 include the addition of a push-button start and additional standard equipment in the form of a leather shift knob, manual tilt steering, power door locks and power windows.
For 2020, this new V6 will be the only engine option. That means the four-cylinder truck is dead, and the manual transmission alongside it. RIP, manual Frontier. Both rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models will be available.
We asked Nissan why it decided to release the new engine before the new truck. Nissan’s response was: “It’s ready.” Releasing a new powertrain in the old vehicle isn’t completely out of the ordinary in the automotive world. It gives the company a chance to put some real world miles on the engine and transmission before it goes into the new vehicle. That said, we certainly don’t expect this 2020 Frontier to be a guinea pig truck.
This news also confirms what we had previously heard about the next-gen Frontier receiving a 3.8-liter V6 and nine-speed transmission. We’ll have to wait for later this year or early next year to hear about the rest of the new truck.