There's a new photo floating around the internet said to be our first glimpse of the next-generation 2021 Nissan Frontier, the venerable pickup's first generational update in over 15 years. The midsize truck sports a muscular stance—far removed from the modest vehicle we've known all this time—almost more reminiscent of a shrunken Titan Warrior Concept than a real production model. Whether it's actually the real deal or some sort of design exercise based on the next Frontier is now the big question.
First: Yes, that is one terrible picture, poorly cropped and blurry as all get out as leaked by Nissan Nation Podcast. But as you can tell from the pumped-up bodywork, the pictured Nissan is kitted for way more than a Home Depot run, proudly wears boxed fender flares that cover BF Goodrich all-terrain tires. It's clearly prepped for plenty of off-road use and abuse. And then there's the Nismo-badged front grille, possibly alluding to a high-performance version touching on every component from the desert-beating suspension to the new-for-2020 3.8-liter V6.
The Drive reached out to Nissan for more, and the automaker declined to comment.
So, why do we think this might be some sort of heretofore unseen off-road concept for the new Frontier rather than a representative view of the real truck? It's reasonable to expect a significant styling switch-up for the 2021 Frontier, but this much of a leap seems unlikely. There's still demand for more basic, workable trucks in the category, and the Frontier deserves credit for remaining relevant with its current platform for well over a decade.
Nissan's customers prize utility, and even though segment entries like the Jeep Gladiator show there's room for fun-loving trucks, there's no way it's turning the Frontier into a $50,000 off-road toy with no base model. But we also know there have been voices within Nissan advocating for a NISMO-branded off-road version of the truck, so such a concept is likely to exist already somewhere.
During a test event for the 2020 Nissan Titan XD in January, The Drive sat in on a presentation that highlighted the next-gen Frontier. No pictures were shown, but Nissan did reveal the new 300-horsepower V6 and nine-speed automatic transmission in the 2020 Frontier will make their way to the new truck. Both are projected to help the Frontier deliver class-leading work capabilities, though no official figures for towing or payload have been revealed yet.
As it sits, the Nissan Frontier is near the bottom in terms of midsize pickup sales. This is something the automaker hopes to kick to the curb, of course, as it continues to combat dwindling volume with its full-size Titan and Titan XD. In fact, if Nissan plays its cards correctly, the Frontier could be an even bigger hit than its half-ton brethren given the uptick in popularity for midsize trucks.
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