Nissan focuses on powertrains, adds EV

Editor’s note: This story is part of the annual Automotive News “Future Product Pipeline” series.

Nissan is in the midst of a product overhaul as the brand attempts a larger business reboot in the U.S., its second-largest market.

The product offensive, which will reduce the average age of Nissan vehicles from more than 5 years currently to nearly 3, will result in updates to about 70 percent of the portfolio by mid-2021.

“We are in the process of massive renewal of our U.S. product lineup,” Nissan Motor Co. COO Ashwani Gupta told Automotive News this year.

Nissan has already redesigned or updated most of its sedans. The brand will now retool the critical crossover lineup, starting with its top seller — the Rogue.

Next year also will mark Nissan’s entrance into the emerging electric crossover market, as the automaker will introduce the 300-mile battery-powered Ariya.

But Nissan’s product renaissance, planned years ago, was thrown a curveball by the coronavirus pandemic. Shelter-in-place orders and a pandemic-triggered economic recession upended vehicle development schedules and customer demand.

The headwinds could complicate Nissan’s U.S. business pivot. But the company is adamant that new products will “bring momentum in our U.S. market,” Gupta said.

Versa: Nissan’s entry-level subcompact received a redesign for the 2020 model year. It is now powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 122 hp, up from 109 hp. A freshening is expected in the second half of 2022. But the nameplate may not continue in the U.S. beyond its current life cycle as demand for small sedans wanes.

Sentra: The compact sedan was redesigned in January. The 2020 Sentra is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 149 hp, up 20 percent from the previous generation’s 1.8-liter engine. Riding on a new platform, the model introduces a new independent rear suspension, which Nissan said improves ride and handling and fuel economy. A refresh is expected in early 2023.

Altima: Redesigned last year, the midsize sedan now sports all-wheel drive and Nissan’s newly developed variable-compression turbo four-cylinder engine, a powertrain that provides quick acceleration and improved fuel economy. A freshening is expected in 2022. The next generation of the volume sedan could arrive with an electrified variant in 2025.

Maxima: The flagship sedan, which was freshened last year, should be replaced with an electric vehicle inspired by the IMs “elevated sports sedan” concept. That EV is slated for the second half of 2022.

370Z: Nissan has teased a next generation of its iconic sports car, which has not been redesigned since 2009. The redesigned version, which could carry a different badge, should arrive in the first half of 2022. It is expected to be powered by a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6, similar to the engine used in the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400. The design likely will feature retro styling elements that hark back to previous-generation Z’s.

GT-R: Nissan is working on a redesign to its halo sports car, which could appear in 2023. Nissan is considering a performance-oriented hybrid that would utilize a kinetic energy recovery system similar to the kind it uses in its Le Mans race cars.

Leaf: Nissan launched a longer-range version of the Leaf early last year, powered by a 62-kilowatt-hour battery pack that delivers 226 miles on a full charge. The Leaf should get a redesign in the first half of 2023. The next-gen model could be built on a new EV platform shared by Nissan’s alliance partners, Renault and Mitsubishi.

Kicks: Nissan’s entry-level subcompact crossover, which went on sale in the U.S. in 2018, shares a platform with the Versa. The Kicks is powered by a 1.6-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that knocks out just 125 hp.

A refresh is planned for the first half of 2021 that includes updated front and rear fascias. Nissan unveiled the Kicks e-Power in Japan in June, but the automaker hasn’t said whether that gasoline-electric engine system will be offered as an option in the U.S. However, engineers and product planners have said the company intends to eventually introduce a more high-powered version of e-Power stateside.

Rogue: Nissan’s bestseller will be redesigned for 2021, expected to arrive this year. The coming Rogue is based on the Xmotion design concept vehicle shown in 2018; it will have a similar footprint but offer more cabin space. It features a 2.5-liter inline four- cylinder engine that delivers 181 hp, an increase of 11 hp. The compact crossover will receive an updated suspension and steering system to improve driving performance and reduce cabin noise. A freshening is expected in 2023.

For the Rogue Sport variant, Nissan this year updated the interior and added standard safety technology and driver-assist technology. But going forward, the Sport, which came to market in 2017 from a different global platform with a different engine, could be dropped. The model is getting lost between the Rogue and the Kicks, according to dealers.

Murano: The midsize crossover got a face-lift for the 2019 model year to stay relevant in its crowded segment. But the Murano, powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine, is aging. A redesign should arrive in 2022. The next-gen Murano will ride on a revised version of Nissan’s D platform and could be powered by a turbo four-cylinder engine.

Pathfinder: The midsize crossover is up for a redesign in the first half of 2021. The next Pathfinder will ride on the revised D platform and carry over the current 3.5-liter V-6 engine, but it will dump Nissan’s finicky continuously variable transmission in favor of a nine-speed automatic transmission. The crossover will see a major exterior and interior redesign. “Nothing is recognizable from the current version,” said a source familiar with product plans. “There’s not one bit of that car that would remind you of the current Pathfinder.”

Armada: The large SUV is in line for a freshening early next year. The Armada is built on Nissan’s global Patrol platform. The refresh includes a new front and rear fascia that matches the recently updated Patrol, which is not sold in the U.S. The interior will include a larger center display, while the powertrain should carry over. Expect a redesign in 2024.

Ariya: The new electric crossover, Nissan’s second EV, will arrive in late 2021 as one of eight new battery-powered models that are planned globally.

The Rogue-sized EV will offer up to 300 miles of driving range and be built on a new architecture. The exterior design is highlighted by prominent front fenders, rear fender flares, superslim LED headlights and a steeply raked C-pillar. The crossover ditches the conventional grille for what Nissan describes as a “shield”; in driving mode, it is illuminated to reveal Nissan’s V-motion design signature.

The crossover will debut new technologies, including a twin electric motor, an awd system and the next generation of Nissan’s hands-off automated driving system.

Frontier: The next Frontier midsize pickup is expected to arrive in stores in the second half of 2021, receiving its first major redesign since 2004. The Frontier will feature a 3.8-liter direct-injection V-6 engine that delivers 310 hp and a new nine-speed automatic transmission. The redesign has been described as “futuristic,” engineered with a sportier profile and SUV-like interior conveniences.

Titan: The full-size pickup jettisoned its diesel variant and received a freshening this year. The 2020 Titan received crossover-quality safety features and technology along with a utility-grade powertrain. Under the hood, the model has a tweaked 5.6-liter V-8 engine that delivers 400 hp. Nissan gave the Titan XD more frills and horsepower and a new transmission as the company attempts to spur more demand for its largest pickup.

The long-term future of the nameplate, however, is unclear due to its inability to compete against the segment’s U.S.-badged leaders. In the first half of this year, the Titan captured just a 1.2 percent share of the full-size segment.

NV commercial vans: Nissan plans to discontinue production of its NV cargo and passenger vans in the U.S., sources told Automotive News.

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