As an owner of a small pickup truck, consider my interest piqued: The Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner concept was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show. Not one minute too soon, might I add.
I last truck-shoppped in 2007. At the time, I really wanted a Nissan Frontier. The Fronty was the successor to the 1994 Nissan Hardbody I had been driving throughout my high school and college days to that point in my life, therefore I felt some loyalty to the truck. As a bonus the Frontier’s design was a lot more recent than the Ford Ranger I eventually wound up buying. Two things stopped me from buying the Frontier, though: Fuel economy was actually worse than the totaled 145,000-mile Hardbody I was coming out of, and prices were higher than the Ranger.
If it ever makes it to production, the diesel in the Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner concept should fix one half of those issues, perhaps at the expense — literally — of the other half.
According to the press release from Nissan, the Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner concept offers estimated fuel economy increases over the V6 gasoline-engined Frontier of 35%. That would put it at roughly 30 MPG highway, if Nissan’s being honest — and I hope they are, because that was the target highway MPG I had in mind when truck shopping way back then. The four-cylinder stick-shift Ford Ranger was as close as I could get, at a pre-2008 EPA rating of 29 MPG highway. With a judicious right foot, I actually beat 30 MPG with the Ranger quite a bit. Doing so in a Frontier, even a four-cylinder, would be nigh on impossible, or so I’m told.
Most impressive of all is the fact that Nissan says the Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner concept’s 2.8-liter four-cylinder diesel engine makes just shy of 200 horsepower and more than 350 ft-lbs of torque. Thanks go to the folks at Cummins, who recently teamed with Nissan to introduce the diesel-powered Nissan Titan full-size truck. The Titan gets a much larger, 5.0-liter V8 diesel engine that might raise the ire of Ram truck fans everywhere. Between the diesel Titan and Frontier, it would appear that when Ram gives Cummins the cold shoulder re: Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, Cummins strikes back. It’s also a sweet bit of irony — I won’t go so far as to call it revenge — that Ram and Nissan were collaborating on what would have been the next generation of Nissan pickups before Ram and all of Chrysler went Tango-Uniform and were bailed out by the government, resulting in Nissan having just about the oldest pickup truck designs and powertrains on the market today. For Nissan, it’s the icing on the “we stole your truck boss” cake.
It’s worth mentioning that the Nissan Frontier A.K.A. Nissan Navara has been available for quite some time with a Nissan homebrew diesel engine, just never in the United States. In Australia, for example, the Navara gets two diesel engine options, at 2.5 and 3.0 litres. However, the Cummins name carries a lot more weight in America than Nissan when stamped on a diesel engine’s valve cover, so I think extending the partnership to production would ultimately be good for Nissan.