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Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner: New mid-size truck challenger debuts at Chicago

Nissan to match GM in adding diesel power to mid-size pickups
Nissan to match GM in adding diesel power to mid-size pickups

Nissan took the mid-size truck competition up a serious notch today (Feb. 6) as they took the wraps off their Frontier Diesel Runner concept at the Chicago Auto Show.

Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner bold colors on concept

Nissan had been a bit quiet as the mid-size truck war heated up with the debut of new entries from GM at the Detroit Auto Show last month – almost too quiet.

Today, they boldly served notice they intend to be a serious competitor in the segment going forward and are likely moving ahead with a diesel power plant in a new Frontier mid-size truck.

It was just six months ago that Nissan announced a new partnership with Cummins Inc. to provide a 5.0-liter turbo diesel V8 in the next-generation Titan full-size pickup, which Nissan now says will arrive in calendar-year 2015.

At that time there was speculation that a 4-cylinder diesel was also under consideration for an, as yet, undetermined vehicle.

According to Nissan, the concept Frontier Diesel Runner Powered by Cummins project truck shown is based on a Frontier Desert Runner 4x2 model and is serving as a means to both gauge the market reaction to a diesel engine in a Nissan mid-size pickup, but also garner intel on a next generation direction for the Frontier.

The Frontier Diesel Runner Powered by Cummins, as shown, has a Cummins 2.8-liter 4-cylinder diesel engine adapted for use in the Frontier and produces close to 200 horsepower with more than 350 lb-ft. of torque. The Frontier Diesel Runner will use a ZF 8HP70 8-speed automatic transmission which, Nissan says, will improve fuel economy 35 percent over a V6-powered two-wheel drive 2014 Frontier.

A quick calculation says that Nissan is probably targeting 28-30 mpg for a 2WD model depending on other efficiency they can wring out from the design.

Nissan adds that, along with the mileage increase, payload and towing capacity are expected also to be in range of that offered by the current V6-powered Frontier.

“Frontier continues to be a huge success story for us, with more than 60,000 units sold in 2013,” said Fred Diaz, senior vice president, Sales & Marketing, Parts & Service, U.S.A, Nissan North America, Inc. (NNA)."

“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", he added. "We are always looking for ways to engage our customers, innovate and take the segment in an evolutionary direction.”

Indicating that this is not a done deal yet, Nissan says they are looking for feedback from their customers on the future of a Frontier mid-size truck with a diesel power plant which is why they chose to show it now at Chicago, they say.

They did add that Nissan and Cummins have also built a separate development vehicle that is currently undergoing rigorous real-world testing which is a good indicator that this diesel Frontier is indeed moving forward.

Many of the Frontier Diesel Runner project’s key components, are from a production 2014 Frontier Desert Runner.

Exterior modifications for the Frontier Desert Runner concept include a custom paint treatment that mixes three elements: a bright high-gloss “Arrest Me Red” (inspired by Cummins’ engine red); a raw “Matte Silver” color created to express the steel body-on-frame Frontier chassis foundation; and carbon fiber and carbon fiber film accents to signify the truck’s expected outstanding performance and efficiency.

Carbon film-coated features include the chin spoiler, mesh grille, roof rack, aerodynamic full-bed tonneau cover and tailgate spoiler.

The hood of the vehicle draws attention with a partially transparent acrylic hood insert serving as window into the engine bay with its red themed elements. A special carbon fiber engine cover features an oversize Cummins logo, with a red center, black carbon sides and hidden illumination. “Cummins Turbo Diesel badges” are also recessed into both front fenders.

Bold 16-inch wheels, borrowed from a Frontier PRO-4X, have been treated with a special two-tone paint – Arrest Me Red for the rear wheels and Silver in front, each accented by satin black paint. The brake calipers have also been custom painted in contrasting colors - red front and silver rear.

The Diesel Runner’s interior mirrors the silver and red exterior design, with red accents throughout and carbon-trimmed seats and panels. Front and rear seats feature carbon-print leather appointments with grey accent stitching and black-on-black “Tracks” embroidery.

A carbon film-wrapped instrument panel is highlighted by red-tinted gauges and a special black-faced diesel-specific three-gauge pod on top of the C-cluster. Completing the interior enhancements are embroidered floor mats and theme-colored shifter knob and steering wheel.

We would look for Nissan to go forward with a diesel powered Frontier and expect it will follow shortly after the arrival of the 2015 Titan diesel which would make it probably a 2016 model – matching the arrival of diesel power plants in the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon.

Source: Nissan

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