2020 Nissan Frontier V6
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The 2020 Frontier debuts a new 3.8-L V6 and an all-new 9-speed automatic transmission. (Nissan)

Nissan's 2020 Frontier gets new powertrain

New V6 and 9-speed automatic transmission set the stage for the next generation of Nissan’s midsize pickup.

More transmission gears and greater engine horsepower should enliven the 2020 Nissan Frontier midsize pickup truck. “We’re launching a new transmission and new engine in the current Frontier, and this powertrain will be the heart of the next-generation Frontier coming in 2021,” said Tiago Castro, Nissan North America’s director of commercial business unit for pickup trucks, SUVs and vans. Castro spoke with SAE International during the 2020 Chicago Auto Show. 

Replacing the current standard 152-hp 2.5-L 4-cylinder and an optional 261-hp 4.0-L V6, the 3.8-L V6’s first application is the 2020 Frontier. “We’re getting 49 more horsepower with the new V6, which is best-in-class standard horsepower,” Castro said. The new 3.8-L engine’s torque, rated at 281 lb-ft (381 Nm), matches the outgoing 4.0-L V.6. 

The 3.8-L engine is comprised of 93% new or redesigned parts, including pistons, direct-injection system, cylinder heads with integrated exhaust manifolds, a variable-displacement oil pump, variable valve-timing and a variable intake tumble-control valve. An 11.0:1 compression ratio tops the prior V6 engine’s 9.7:1.. “This new engine will be used primarily in North America, so it was truly developed with the North American customer in mind,” Castro said.

The revised V6 is paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission, replacing the prior 5-ratio manual and automatic transmissions. Although final EPA fuel-economy ratings are pending, Nissan officials expect the new V6/9-speed automatic powertrain will provide a 2-mpg bump in the combined city/highway cycle, a 9% increase over the prior powertrain. The 3.8-L engine will be assembled at the automaker’s 1.1-million ft2 plant in Decherd, Tennessee.

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