The current generation Nissan Frontier has been around since 2005, which is an eternity in automotive design years. Despite its age, the Frontier sells well, offering shoppers an affordable and utilitarian midsize truck. Even with a full redesign on the horizon for 2021, the 2020 Nissan Frontier gets a major upgrade for its last year in the form of an all-new powertrain.

2020 Frontier new engine

Under the hood of the 2020 Frontier sits an all-new 3.8-liter V6 engine mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. Thanks to this new powertrain, Nissan promises more power, smoother shifting, and faster acceleration. However, the significant bump in horsepower (310 vs. 261) comes with a significant price bump which strips the Frontier of its title as the cheapest truck in America. This week, we joined the Nissan team for an e-meeting to learn more about the updates and get a first look at the new pricing. Here's what you should know about the changes coming to the 2020 Frontier and the value it offers compared to its competition. 

New and Improved Powertrain

2020 Nissan Frontier V6 Engine
The new 310-horsepower 3.8-liter V6 comes standard on all 2020 Frontier models.

While there are a handful of minor updates on the 2020 Frontier including a push-button start, leather shift knob, manual tilt steering, power door locks, and power windows, the new powertrain takes center stage. The previously available 2.5-liter 4-cylinder and 4.0-liter V6 engine options are gone, and the new 3.8-liter V6 comes standard on all 2020 Frontier trims to offer a best-in-class horsepower of 310. 

Not only does the new engine give drivers 49 extra horses over the outgoing model's V6, but it also offers better fuel efficiency. 4x4 Frontier models get 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 19 mpg combined, while 4x2 models get 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway, and 20 mpg combined (an increase of 2 mpg from 2019 for each drive configuration).

Replacing the 2019 Frontier's 5-speed automatic and 5-speed manual transmission options is a new 9-speed transmission that is designed to improve acceleration feel. Thanks to an expanded lockup area, a new high-response electro-hydraulic system, long input shaft, and a 99 percent larger gear range, the new transmission offers quick shift response and a quieter driving experience. 

Trims and Pricing

2020 Nissan Frontier PRO 4X front
The PRO-4X trim adds off-road shock absorbers, skid plates, and off-road wheels with all-terrain tires.

Arriving in dealerships this July, the 2020 Frontier comes in King Cab, Crew Cab Short Wheelbase, and Crew Cab Long Wheelbase bodies with a choice of 4x2 and 4x4 drive configurations. Three trims are offered, including S, SV, and the fully-loaded PRO-4X.  The starting price for the base model increases from $19,290 for the King Cab S 4-Cylinder to $26,790 for the same model with the new V6 engine. The off-road-focused PRO-4X model comes with the highest MSRP of $37,490.

  • MSRP for the 2020 Nissan Frontier King Cab: 

Frontier S King Cab 4x2

$26,790 USD

Frontier SV King Cab 4x2

$27,670 USD

Frontier S King Cab 4x4

$29,680 USD

Frontier SV King Cab 4x4

$30,560 USD

  • MSRP for the 2020 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab: 

Frontier S Crew Cab 4x2

$27,900 USD

Frontier SV Crew Cab 4x2 SWB

$28,800 USD

Frontier SV Crew Cab 4x2 LWB

$31,410 USD

Frontier S Crew Cab 4x4

$31,290 USD

Frontier SV Crew Cab 4x4 SWB

$31,990 USD

Frontier SV Crew Cab 4x4 LWB

$32,410 USD

Frontier PRO-4X Crew Cab 4x4

$37,490 USD

2020 Nissan Frontier vs. The Competition

2020 Nissan Frontier Side
How does the 2020 Frontier stack up in the mid-size truck segment?

The updated engine and transmission will undoubtedly transform the 2020 Frontier's driving experience, but with a higher price, is it still a good value among the competitive mid-size truck segment? To address this question, we'll compare it to 3 popular mid-size trucks: the Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, and Chevy Colorado.

2020 Nissan Frontier vs. 2020 Toyota Tacoma

2020 Toyota Tacoma

For the sake of comparison, we'll look at the mid-grade Toyota Tacoma SR5 trim compared to the Nissan Frontier's SV trim. The Tacoma SR5 has an MSRP of $35,190 MSRP, while the Frontier SV is priced at $33,980. The Tacoma's 3.5L V6 is good for 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque while the Frontier's V6 produces 310 horsepower and 281 lb-ft of torque. The Tacoma's tow rating barely beats the Frontier's at 6,400 lbs vs. 6,380 lbs, but the Frontier wins in the payload category with a 1,360-lb rating compared to the Tacoma's 1,155 lb. 

2020 Nissan Frontier vs. 2020 Ford Ranger 

2020 Ford Ranger

Ford's new mid-size Ranger competes in the same size segment as the Nissan Frontier. It is priced higher than the Frontier SV when looking at the comparable XLT trim which has an MSRP of $34,635 compared to the Frontier SV's $33,980. The Ranger's 2.3L 4-cylinder engine offers a lower horsepower of 270, and a higher 310 lb-ft of torque. The Ranger wins in both towing and payload capacity with the XLT rated at 6,450 lbs towing and 1,560 lbs payload vs the Frontier's 6,380-lb towing and 1,360-lb payload ratings.

2020 Nissan Frontier vs. 2020 Chevy Colorado

2020 Chevy Colorado

The Chevy Colorado in its base trim takes the title of the most affordable truck away from the Frontier with the price increase for 2020. If we compare the base 2020 Nissan Frontier and the 2020 Chevy Colorado, the Colorado comes with a lower MSRP of $22,495 vs. the Frontier's base price of $26,790. However, under the hood of the base Colorado is a 4-cylinder engine, while the Frontier's base trim offers the new V6. For a closer comparison, the 2020 Colorado in LT trim costs $34,400 compared to the Frontier SV's $33,980 MSRP. The Colorado LT's 3.6L V6 produces a comparable 308 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque but it beats the Frontier in towing and payload with 7,000 lbs for towing and 1,578 lbs for payload vs. the Frontier SV's 6,380-lb towing and 1,360-lb payload capacity.

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