Nissan Testing Diesel-Powered Frontier

Nissan is showing a diesel-powered Frontier concept vehicle in Chicago.

Named Frontier Diesel Runner, Nissan explained this project truck, based on a Frontier Desert Runner 4×2 model, serves to both gauge the market reaction to a Nissan mid-size pickup with a diesel engine and plot a potential future direction for the Frontier.

At the heart of the Frontier Diesel Runner is a Cummins-developed 2.8-liter 4-cylinder diesel engine producing nearly 200 horsepower and more than 350 pound-feet of torque, while increasing fuel economy 35 percent over a V6-powered 2014 Frontier 4×2, said Nissan.

The Frontier Diesel Runner concept arrives six months after the announcement of a partnership with Cummins Inc. to provide a 5.0-liter turbo diesel V8 in the next-generation Titan full-size pickup, which will arrive in calendar-year 2015.

Special exterior modifications include a custom “Arrest Me Red” and Matte Silver paint treatment, aerodynamic full-bed tonneau cover and tailgate spoiler, and a transparent acrylic hood insert that provides as a window to the engine bay, where all powertrain-related elements continue the red theme.

The Frontier Diesel Runner’s interior mirrors the silver and red exterior design, with red accents throughout and carbon-trimmed seats and panels. The front and rear seats feature carbon-print leather appointments with grey accent stitching and black-on-black “Tracks” embroidery. The carbon film-wrapped instrument panel is highlighted by red-tined gauges and a special black-faced diesel-specific three-gauge pod on top of the C-cluster.

Backed by a ZF 8HP70 8-speed automatic transmission, Nissan said the two-wheel drive diesel Frontier maintains, and even increases, the usability of a Frontier truck. Along with the mileage increase, payload and towing capacity are expected to be in range of that offered by the V6-powered Frontier. While not a “plug-and-play” engine and transmission installation, many of the Frontier Diesel Runner project’s key components, from the body to wiring harnesses to the radiator and more are from a production 2014 Desert Runner.

Per Nissan, collaboration between Nissan and Cummins stems back to a U.S. Department of Energy project called “ATLAS”(Advanced Technology Light Automotive Systems) which began in 2010. Over the course of “ATLAS,” Cummins installed 4-cylinder engines into two Nissan Titan trucks as an ongoing platform for research on the next-generation of 4-cylinder automotive clean diesel engines. Nissan stated research compiled during the “ATLAS” program helped to shape the Cummins engine used in the current project.

“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.”

Nissan and Cummins have also built a separate development vehicle that is currently undergoing rigorous real-world testing.

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