The midsize off-road truck market is booming, and almost every brand now has at least one entry in this segment. Think Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, Jeep Gladiator and Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro. One major midsize competitor has remained silent on the sidelines: Nissan Frontier. However, with a redesigned Frontier scheduled for 2021, could we see a Warrior package?
Nissan currently builds the Frontier Pro-4X trim that adds mild all-terrain tires, rear locking differential and a few other creature comforts. Although it is a great trim package, it has not seen serious updates since it first debuted, and it no longer competes with the more heavily modified midsize trucks the competition builds.
A possible Frontier Warrior would need to build on the capability of the Pro-4X to include suspension modifications, lift and oversized off-road tires.
The answer to if Nissan could build a Warrior may exist in a midsize truck built internationally. Nissan Australia currently produces a heavily modified, off-road-capable version of their Navara pickup known as the N-Trek Warrior. We decided to analyze what possible features from that rig could make it to a potential Frontier Warrior.
The Navara comes exclusively with a 2.3-liter twin-turbo diesel with either a manual or automatic transmission. While this might be a great powertrain for the international market, I suspect there is no chance of it making it to the United States. This is due in part to more stringent emissions standards as well as consumer demand. Thus, a Frontier Warrior is likely to use the new-for-2020 3.8-liter gas V-6 (310 horsepower, 281 pound-feet of torque) with a 9-speed automatic transmission, which is already in the Frontier.
You might say: But ZR2 and Gladiator have diesel options. Well, Nissan already played the diesel game with the Titan XD and lost. Besides, Nissan’s V-6 competes well with gas versions of those trucks as well as with the Tacoma. Also worth noting: Since Nissan did away with the manual transmission in the Frontier for 2020, that’s not likely to make it stateside either.
The N-Trek Warrior utilizes 32.2-inch all-terrain tires and a modified suspension delivering about 40 millimeters (just under 1.5 inches) of extra ground clearance. Those tires and suspension would make a Frontier Warrior very competitive in the American market. What is unique about that suspension setup is it utilizes rear coil springs with a solid rear axle. That is similar to the setup on the Jeep Gladiator.
The N-Trek Warrior appears to use just one front skid plate, so a Frontier would need additional skid plates to be competitive. Additionally, a Frontier Warrior would benefit from a front locking differential as well as the rear locker already on the N-Trek. The modified off-road bumpers on the N-Trek Warrior would also be welcome as they provide increased approach and departure angles.
The N-Trek Warrior wears unique decals on its doors and also has Navara spelled out in block letters on the tailgate, similar to the stamped tailgates of the ZR2 and TRD Pro. The Navara also has unique fender flares and a factory-installed led light bar on the front bumper. Both of those items would be a welcome addition on a Frontier Warrior. The interior of the N-Trek has unique warrior stitching on the seats and a color scheme that matches the exterior, which is similar to interiors of the ZR2, TRD Pro and Gladiator.
As seen with the N-Trek Warrior, Nissan knows how to build an off-road-focused truck. Even the current Frontier is the basis for many aftermarket off road builds. However, just because Nissan is capable of building an off-road-ready Frontier Warrior does not mean it will.
Designing a truck like a Warrior takes quite a bit of money, and Nissan USA is probably not in a position to shell out cash for a specialty truck competing in a niche market. Nissan’s share of the American truck market has fallen in recent years. Redesigns of its full-size Titan and Titan XD have not led to substantial sales increases, and as a result, Nissan corporate may be skeptical of the success of a Frontier Warrior. Case in point: Nissan actually had a concept Titan Warrior in 2016, but the truck never made it to production.
Part of the success of the N-Trek Warrior in Australia is the large-scale marketing campaign. There is an entire web page dedicated to the N-Trek Warrior trim, and Nissan Australia has produced a high-quality video series known as “Weekend Warriors,” which highlights different capabilities of the truck while exploring Australia. In contrast, Nissan USA does significantly less truck marketing, as it focuses on sedans and SUVs. Not having adequate marketing would hurt a Frontier Warrior’s chances of success.
The real wildcard with the Frontier Warrior, however, may be the soon-to-be-released Nismo off-road parts. Nismo, which is known for Nissan’s on-road performance, will debut several new parts at the 2020 Rebelle Rally. These parts — meant for Frontier, Xterra and Titan — include a performance suspension with reservoir-style shocks that deliver more suspension travel and up to 2 inches of lift. Additionally, Nismo plans to offer off-road wheels, front bumper and LED lights developed with Ridgid Industries.
Frankly, these new off-road parts could be exactly what a Frontier Warrior needs, and the sales success of the Nismo parts could help determine the future of a Warrior.
Despite the challenges, a Frontier Warrior would be an excellent addition to the competitive off-road truck market. Should Nissan build it?