Nissan's red hot Diesel Runner project Frontier at Chicago Auto Show
The concept truck combines a Nissan Frontier Desert Runner 4x2 pickup truck with a new 2.8-liter Cummins turbo diesel engine in what Nissan is saying is a project concept to gauge customer interest in a diesel-powered mid-size pickup. So far, reaction from the press and public has been largely positive. The market may be ready for a diesel option in a small truck.
The truck is being called the Frontier Diesel Runner Powered by Cummins and comes just six months after Nissan announced that Cummins would be providing a big 5.0-liter diesel engine for the full-sized Titan pickup's next-generation offering. That truck, the design for which is expected to debut later this year, will become available, Nissan says, in 2015.
The Nissan Frontier is a popular midsize pickup, competing with the Toyota Tacoma as the only two offerings in that space for consumers. Many have talked about offering a diesel in the segment, but it's rarely taken beyond that, though a few have tried in the past. Toyota has made no indication that they'll be embracing diesel of any kind anytime soon, so that leaves Nissan. “Nissan has always valued the mid-size pickup segment, and with this technical study project, we are looking to explore what is possible for the next-generation Frontier. We are always looking for ways to engage our customers, innovate and take the segment in an evolutionary direction," said Fred Diaz, senior VP, Sales & Marketing, Parts & Service, U.S.A. Nissan North America.
The Frontier Diesel Runner Powered by Cummins has a 2.8-liter, four-cylinder diesel engine designed to meet or exceed emissions standards while delivering about 200 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is about 35 percent higher than the Frontier V6 two-wheel drive in the 2014 line.
The economy comes from a combination of the diesel engine's inherent fuel efficiency over gasoline coupled with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Payload and towing will be similar to the Frontier V6 as well, though other capabilities are increased due to the higher power of the diesel over its gasoline counterpart - things like better traction, faster 0-60 speeds, and so forth.
The impetus for this diesel-powered Frontier concept actually began in 2010 when Nissan and Cummins joined the U.S. government's ATLAS project to test next-generation four-cylinder diesel engines in light automotive (ATLAS stands for Advanced Technology Light Automotive Systems). This shaped the engine now being showcased at the Chicago Auto Show.
“We’ve been building pickup trucks in the U.S. for more than 30 years and selling them here for even longer than that, even offering 4-cylinder diesel in our U.S. pickup truck in the 1980s,” said Pierre Loing, vice president, Product Planning, Nissan North America. “With this Frontier Diesel Runner project truck, we can reflect on our extensive heritage while also looking to the future and the changing demands of mid-size pickup buyers.”
The truck on display is decked in a great-looking three-tone scheme of red on silver with black accents. The "Arrest Me Red" is a Cumming signature color while the Matte Silver is to accent the steel body-on-frame basis for the Frontier chassis and the black are carbon fiber film accents to emphasize performance. A partially-transparent acrylic hood showcases the Cummins engine beneath, also decked out in the Cummins signature red paint.
Other elements of the truck are taken from the Frontier Pro-4X, including the 16-inch wheels (custom painted for this truck).
While the show vehicle on display in Chicago is meant to give the public an idea of the concept and gauge their response, a second prototype is being used as a development vehicle for real-world testing and lab-based abuse.
“We hope consumers in Chicago and across the U.S. will let us know what they think of the prospects of a diesel engine in this segment,” Loing stated.