2021 Auto News Automotive updates Nissan USA USA automobiles

Nissan Frontier pickup totally redesigned for first time in 17 years

It was the dinosaur of the auto industry, but the dinosaur has finally gone extinct.

Nissan has finally killed the old design of its Nissan Frontier pickup. The automaker on Thursday revealed a redesigned version, marking the first total overhaul for the midsize pickup in 17 years. 

Since the Frontier got its last makeover in 2004, two major automakers have declared bankruptcy, an upstart called Tesla has surged as a carmaking force, semi-autonomous vehicles have emerged and the nation has lived through four full presidential terms.

For an industry that typically redesigns vehicles every half a decade or so, that’s a period of Jurassic proportions. It was longer than any other vehicle in the auto industry had gone since a redesign.

“The Frontier carries with it a legacy of a lot of satisfied customers,” said Jared Haslam, vice president of product planning for Nissan North America. “We’ve spoken to them, we’ve listened to them and we’re bringing out with this new Frontier, a capable truck.”

The redesigned Frontier is entering the world at a time when Americans’ love for pickups has reached an all-time high, representing about 1 in 4 vehicles sold. But the competition for the midsize segment is fierce. It includes the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Ford Ranger, Jeep Gladiator and Honda Ridgeline.

Frontier sales have been flagging in the face of stiffer competition. U.S. sales fell 9.1% in 2019 and 49.1% in 2020.

Nissan did not reveal pricing, but the previous version was expected to start at about $27,000 for the 2021 model year, according to car-research site Edmunds.

The 2022 Frontier boasts a 3.8-liter, 6-cylinder engine paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission. It gets 310 horsepower and has towing capacity of 6,720 pounds.

Nissan said the vehicle’s all-new steering and suspension reduce road vibration by 80%, making for a smoother ride.

“The new Frontier can’t arrive too soon, as truck demand remains robust in the U.S. and Nissan was losing share in this segment,” said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iSeeCars.com, in an email. “Between its long list of standard features and available high-tech equipment, the new Frontier should be a strong seller. Loyal Frontier fans finally have something to celebrate.”

To be sure, Nissan has gradually upgraded the Frontier over the years, adding incremental technological upgrades to the interior and powertrain. 

But this is the first time it’s gotten a new look from top to bottom. One of the biggest differences Frontier fans will notice is that it’s nearly 5 inches longer than its predecessor – part of a trend of vehicles getting bigger across the board.

It also has new technology, like a system that detects when the pickup’s trailer is swaying and applies the brakes. It also has an optional wireless phone charging system.

The new Frontier comes standard with an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but a 9-inch screen is available as an upgrade. Screens have been getting bigger in vehicles in recent years.

“We feel we feel very confident in our ability to raise the transaction prices on the vehicle,” Haslam said.

The Frontier’s ability to continue selling for a decade and a half without a redesign is a reflection of how popular pickups are in America.