Nissan has taken a V8 engine from its full-size Titan pickup and stuffed it into the engine bay of the mid-size Frontier to make a powerful yet nimble off-roader that should put the Ford F-150 Raptor R and Ram 1500 TRX on alert. Or, at the very least, it might convince those big trucks to go on a diet — if Nissan were to actually put a new Frontier with a V8 into production, rather than merely showing off a concept at a trade show.
At this year’s SEMA show, Nissan debuted the NISMO Off Road Frontier V8 concept built by Forsberg Racing. The NISMO concept truck replaces the mid-size Frontier’s 3.8-liter V6 engine with a 5.6-liter V8 from the full-size Titan.
That big V8 engine makes 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque in the Titan, which is not even close to the performance of the F-150 Raptor R and Ram 1500 TRX, but is almost one-third more than the output of the regular Nissan Frontier, which wrings out 310 HP and 281 lb-ft of torque from its V6 engine.
Once again, the honored tradition of the engine swap has blessed a vehicle on a comparatively smaller platform with power it was never intended to have. But Nissan and Forsberg didn’t just drop in the V8 and call it a day: the two built the Frontier V8 concept more thoroughly than that, upgrading the intake and exhaust system, along with the truck’s suspension.
The Frontier V8 concept gets a custom NISMO cold air intake and cat-back exhaust, which must make that naturally aspirated V8 sound lovely — guttural and low. And the Frontier V8 features a wider track courtesy of its suspension upgrades, including custom upper control arms, Bilstein coilovers and custom rear leaf springs with Bilstein shocks. The Frontier V8 also has upgraded lower control arms, front spindles, and even borrows wheel hubs and a rear axle from the Nissan Titan. Finally, there’s a wide body kit with carbon fiber all over to fit the upgraded suspension and beefy mud-terrain tires.
Nissan also loaded up the Frontier V8 with a generous amount of NISMO accessories, to turn the truck into a “Baja-style desert runner,” as the carmaker notes. Those include rock rails, a roof rack, winch, spare wheel carriers, and off-road auxiliary LED lighting. The brief “Baja” mention may or may not be not a reference to other race-inspired off-roaders like the Raptor(s), but it’s an indirect reminder of the planetary system where the Frontier V8 orbits.
There’s no doubt that the Frontier V8 concept is still lacking outright power compared to the supercharged V8 monsters from Ford and Ram, but I will always root for mid-size trucks, especially a Frontier with the heart of a Titan.