What Happened to the Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner?

What Happened to the Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner?

2011_nissan_frontier_d22The Nissan Frontier is the brand name for the D22 and D40 generations of Nissan utility vehicles in American markets. It’s also sold as the Nissan Navara in many other markets, including Asia, Europe and Australia. The Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner was a concept version of the Frontier that was exhibited in 2014. It hasn’t been put into production as of 2016, although Nissan has implemented some of its primary features in other models.

Overview

The D22 Nissan Frontier was a compact pickup introduced in 1997 as a replacement for the aging D21 Nissan Hardbody. D22 sales were discontinued in the United States in 2004, although it continues to be sold as the Nissan Navara in other countries. The D40 Frontier is a mid-size pickup that replaced the D22 in the United States for the 2004 model year. This version of the Frontier is still in production as of 2016.

Performance

The Frontier Diesel Runner was introduced at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show. It was based on the 2015 Nissan Frontier Desert Runner, which is a trim level of the Frontier that adds a color display, smartphone integration and a navigation system among other technological innovations.

The Diesel Runner had a 2.5-liter l-4 Cummins turbo diesel instead of Nissan’s standard 4.0-liter V6 gas engine. It also had an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission instead of the 5-speed automatic transmission that’s standard for the Frontier. The Diesel Runner’s engine produced 200 horsepower (hp) and more than 350 pound-feet (lb-ft) of torque. This performance level was probably chosen because it matches that of the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado mid-size pickup.

The standard 2015 Frontier receives about 24 miles per gallon (mpg) on the highway. The new transmission and engine increased the fuel economy by about 25 percent, giving the Diesel Runner an estimated highway mileage of about 30 mpg. Nissan claimed that the production version might get as much as 35 mpg on the highway.

Exterior

The primary change to the exterior of the Diesel Runner was a hood insert made of clear plastic, allowing the engine to be viewed without raising the hood. The exterior was painted matte silver and high-gloss red with carbon fiber trim. The hood also had a large Cummins logo in red.

Interior

The interior of the Diesel Runner had the same color scheme as its exterior, instead of the solid black interior that was standard for the Frontier. It also had three auxiliary gauges on top of the center console, which measured transmission temperature, exhaust temperature and turbocharger boost. These gauges would have almost certainly been absent in the production version of the Diesel Runner.

Analysis

The Diesel Runner has not gone into production as of 2016, and is unlikely to be produced in its current form. Even Nissan admits that its drive train won’t fit into the current D40 body without significant alterations. Furthermore, the D40 platform is already 12 years old and will almost certainly be replaced by the time Nissan is ready to put a turbo diesel in a Frontier. However, Nissan did implement this concept in the 2015 Titan.

Titan

The Nissan Titan is a full-size pick that was introduced in the 2004 model year, along with the D40 Frontier. The second generation of the Titan debuted in the 2016 model year, with an engine replacement being the most significant change. The new engine is a 5.0-liter V8 turbo diesel made by Cummins that produces 310 hp and almost 555 lb-ft of torque. Commercial and passenger versions of the Titan will use slightly different versions of this engine.

Conclusion

The purpose of the Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner was to explore the marketability of a mid-size pickup with a turbo diesel engine in the United States. It has already done so with the full-size Titan and will probably return to developing the Frontier as soon as it finishes with the second-generation Titan. Assuming Nissan chooses to include a turbo diesel engine as a power train option for the Frontier at all, it won’t happen before the 2017 model year.

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