Nissan Is Right on the Money With the Frontier’s New Automatic Transmission

The 2020 Nissan Frontier has needed updating for some time. Even so, it’s still a popular selection for those who want a dependable work truck. Unlike its full-sized cousin, the Nissan Titan, the Frontier hasn’t seen many updates since it first came on the 2005 models scene. The Frontier will be all-new in 2021 but a new powertrain is offered in the 2020 models as a parting gift. 

What’s the new powertrain? What’s unique about it?

Frontier’s new automatic transmission

Recently the team at took a look at the new powertrain addition to the 2020 Nissan Frontier. For the last truck of the current generation, Nissan added a 3.8-liter V6 engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Nissan added four more gears to the chassis over a decade old and 49 more horses for a total of 310 horsepower. The new combination gets 281 lb-ft of torque and takes the place of the previous engines and transmissions.

The new transmission came from the nine-speed transmission given to the 2020 Nissan Titan. The team at liked the new one for several reasons. They were happy about its quick and accurate hydraulic actuator, low viscosity automatic transmission fluid, and electric oil pump. They explain that the new transmission offers improved performance.

With the expansion of the converter lockup zone, they say that heat and wear within the transmission are reduced, improving efficiency. The vehicle accelerates faster, and it costs less to maintain. It also has a low crawl ratio that helps the engine retain its top power output when hauling and towing. The ratio is 54.4:1, and the only thing that can beat it in the mid-size class is the Jeep Gladiator. It makes going up and down steep inclines with heavy loads a lot easier.

How it’s different

When compared to the transmissions across the rest of the mid-size truck segment, the team at also found the Nissan Frontier’s nine-speed automatic transmission to be a solid contender. It shifts smoothly and with great driver feedback. There’s always power when it’s needed, which is a real plus. 

Ford Ranger is equipped with a 10-speed automatic transmission that’s effective. But the team pointed out that with so many gears and such smooth shifting, it is hard to distinguish from a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). It makes the Ford Ranger efficient, but there’s not a lot of driver feedback. 

The Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon are equipped with an eight-speed transmission that’s better than previous transmissions but similar to the six-speed transmission used by the Toyota Tacoma. They try to stay in higher gears the majority of the time to use less gas.

The verdict


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The team at says that Nissan has a new transmission winner. They consider it a top-end product that shifts well with good driver feedback. The gear changes are obvious, they say, without any disruption. Nissan credits the hydraulic actuator with being the key to the new transmission’s effectiveness.

They found the new nine-speed transmission tended to be in the correct gear at the appropriate time. The downshifts aren’t delayed for long.

The team liked how the electric oil pump performs with greater efficiency. It offers adjustable pump output based on transmission needs as opposed to engine rpm. The setup reduces parasitic losses and delivers the correct amount of oil the transmission needs at any time.

They believe that Nissan has a top powertrain contender on their hands with the new V6 engine and nine-speed transmission combination in the 2020 Nissan Frontier