Nissan's aging product portfolio is challenging the brand's reputation and has kneecapped sales over the past year, according to some of its dealers. And no nameplate represents that situation better than Nissan's midsize pickup, the Frontier.
The truck has not received a major update since 2005.
But now, amid a broader product rethink, Nissan is planning a reboot for the Frontier, which — despite its age — remains the brand's second-bestselling light truck.
Its next generation is expected to arrive in stores the first half of 2021, engineered with a beefier powertrain, sportier profile and SUV-like conveniences.
Although the model is still a year away, Nissan will launch its powertrain in the 2020 Frontier, which arrives in stores this spring. Gone is the option for the truck's trusty 4-cylinder. There will be a single 3.8-liter direct-injection V-6, a new engine that Nissan says is more powerful but just as fuel efficient as the 4-cylinder.
The new 310-hp V-6 engine delivers an additional 49 hp and is about 10 percent more efficient than the V-6 it's replacing. The 3.8-liter engine is mated to a new nine-speed automatic transmission that delivers improved acceleration and smoother driving experience, according to the company.
Dropping the truck's inline-four engine in an era of fuel-economy mindfulness was a strategic decision.
Naturally aspirated inline-four engines account for just 10 percent of Frontier sales, Tiago Castro, Nissan Division's director of light commercial vehicles, told Automotive News during the Chicago Auto Show this month.
"The traditional 4-cylinder is a small piece of the pie," Castro said. "We felt having a V-6 with good fuel economy would be better than trying to create two engines and create additional complexity."
The new engine will increase performance while also simplifying the product lineup, said Tim Dement, general manager at Andy Mohr Avon Nissan in suburban Indianapolis.
However, by dropping the 4-cylinder engine, Nissan could price out some customers, Dement said.