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Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner Powered by Cummins: Midsize Project Truck

What If? Why Not! A 2.8-liter Cummins turbo diesel with nearly 200 horsepower and more than 350 lb-ft of torque under the hood

The Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner Powered by Cummins is a concept project truck created by Nissan, based on a Frontier Desert Runner 4x2 midsize pickup and highlighted by a Cummins diesel powerplant, hence the Diesel Runner title. Introduced during February’s 2014 Chicago Auto Show, this technical study aims to gauge the market’s reaction to a diesel Nissan midsize truck and help strategize the direction of the next-generation Frontier.

The Cummins engine powering the Diesel Runner is a 2.8L four-cylinder turbodiesel adapted for the midsize Nissan and designed with future emissions standards in mind. Power figures estimate nearly 200 hp and more than 350 lb-ft of torque, with a 35 percent increase in fuel economy over a two-wheel-drive V-6 2014 Nissan Frontier.

The transmission mated to the 2.8L Cummins is a ZF 8HP70 eight-speed automatic. If this sounds familiar, it’s because this transmission, used by Chrysler under its trademarked name of TorqueFlite, comes standard in the Ram EcoDiesel 1500. Payload and towing capacity are expected to be on par with the V-6 Frontier. While the Cummins engine and ZF 8HP70 transmission are not a plug-and-play combination for the Frontier, many of the key components for this project originate from a production 2014 Desert Runner Frontier, including the body, chassis, wiring harness, and radiator.

Nissan Design America in San Diego, California, in conjunction with the Nissan Global Design Center in Atsugi, Japan, designed the Cummins-powered Diesel Runner. A bold paintjob and Cummins logos distinguish the exterior of the truck without creating an overly ostentatious look. The Arrest Me Red high gloss paint adorning the front receives its inspiration from the eye-catching red of Cummins engines. The modern Matte Silver covering the body expresses the body-on-frame steel chassis foundation of the Frontier, and the carbon-fiber film-coated accents on the chin spoiler, mesh grille, roof rack, tonneau cover, and tailgate spoiler point to exceptional performance and efficiency. Recessed Cummins Turbo Diesel badges on both front fenders add style while continuing the Cummins theme. So as to not overdo a good thing, the tailgate and rear are left clean, with the exception of the Nissan logo centered above the tailgate handle.

The see-through hood is not an illusion or fancy photography, as the red-themed engine bay remains visible via a partially transparent acrylic hood insert. The red engine cover, strikingly visible through the revealing Cummins-logo’d hood and lit up from underneath, proudly shows off the Cummins badge before merging into black carbon sides.

The Diesel Runner rolls on Frontier PRO-4X 16-inch six-lug wheels and BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A tires, customized for the concept via Arrest Me Red paint and satin black for the rear wheels, and silver paint and satin black for the front wheels. Contrasting brake caliper colors -- red for the front and silver for the rear -- add subtle detail to this rolling experiment.

The interior is a clean extension of the red and silver exterior. The carbon-fiber theme is worked into the gray accent-stitched leather seats, door panels, and instrument panel, while red hues and red-tinted gauges tie in the red theme. Atop the C-cluster resides a trio of diesel-specific gauges encapsulated in a red three-gauge pod, the middle gauge indicating boost. The theme is continued through the shifter knob and steering wheel, down to the embroidered floor mats.

While the application of this 2.8L Cummins in a Frontier is new, the collaboration between Cummins and Nissan dates back to 2010 and includes a major third party, the United States Department of Energy (DOE). The Cummins and DOE-backed project was called ATLAS, which stands for Advanced Technology Light Automotive Systems. In the course of this project, the Nissan Titan was used as a platform for clean diesel four-cylinder engines. (Recall that a ’10 Titan was the test mule for the 2.8L, back in April 2011.) Valuable research and testing conducted during this time contributed to the concept Diesel Runner Frontier of 2014. Another vehicle, presumably a Frontier, is currently undergoing demanding real-world testing.

“I look at it as a one-two punch. To be able to have that kind of affiliation and partnership with a brand like Cummins and put it together with a great brand like Nissan, and then put it in our two trucks -- I think that sends a message to the truck world and to truckers across the U.S. that we are serious about our trucks,” says Fred Diaz, senior vice president, Sales & Marketing, Parts & Service, U.S.A., Nissan North America, Inc. (NNA). “We are going to create that awareness and create the buzz that makes truckers come in and take a look at us.”

The midsize truck segment, into which the Nissan Frontier falls, seemed to be on its way to extinction as a handful of manufacturers simply discontinued a midsize offering. With sizes, fuel economy, and price points that fell just short of its ½-ton counterpart, the midsize seemed to have less and less to offer. Even though the segment had dwindled down to the Nissan Frontier and the Toyota Tacoma for model year 2014, Nissan has always considered the Frontier an important part of its product portfolio. Sales for the Frontier were up 13.4 percent for 2013 as the Frontier gained some market share.

“Frontier continues to be a huge success story for us, with more than 60,000 units sold in 2013,” Diaz continues. “Nissan has always valued the midsize 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.”

Looking ahead to 2015, this somewhat lazy lull in midsize pickup presence and creativity has been attacked by a surprising resurgence of options -- including diesel. With GM reviving its midsize twins for 2015 and teasing a 2.8L diesel offering for 2016, it is perfectly plausible to believe that Pierre Loing, vice president, Product Planning, NNA, wasn’t just blowing smoke when he said, “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.”

Although the diesel Frontier is seen here as a mere project concept, it is a serious powertrain consideration for Nissan, which is undoubtedly eyeing the Frontier’s potential diesel midsize competition. The questions remain as to whether or not Nissan can make it happen, and how soon. And perhaps the most important query at the end of the day is the market feasibility -- whether there will be enough consumer demand.

Will we build it? Well, we want to see what the public says and what they tell us they think about this truck.

— Fred Diaz, senior vice president, Sales & Marketing, Parts & Service, U.S.A., Nissan North America, Inc.

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337 comments
Teebone
Teebone

I was an American vehicle only guy until recently. Most of the Japanese Marques are made here in the U.S. and they are better made than our Big 3 auto manufacturer's products. The only thing they made that was in a class of it's own was the diesel pickups. Now we have Nissan seeking to step up to the plate and over Light duty pickup and potentially midsize pickup diesels and use american engines. Awesome to say the least. To add great diesels to the Frontier and hopefully the Xterra in 2 and 4 wheel drive would be awesome! I would be trading in the wife's 06 Xterra for a diesel version for sure and my daughter would be getting herself a Frontier 4x4 as soon as they hit the lot. As for me I would still have to look the big 3 to provide the 20,000 plus pound towing I need. 

Jason Michael
Jason Michael

I hope that Nissan is allowed to sell the Titan with the Cummins Diesel here in the USA. I'd be so pissed if they're not.

Karl Barnesjr
Karl Barnesjr

I think he meant Aisin (which is from Japan I believe) transmissions will be on Ram trucks, at least on the 3500 H.D. with the High Output Cummins only, at least for now.

James Hackman
James Hackman

Ammon Smart, Allison is over rated. By the way, nice engine option. The best transmission (on paper) is the Ford 5R110 and newer. Diesel Power compared the big three's HD Auto transmission, quite frankly I think Ford has the best Transmission

Jose Lopez
Jose Lopez

De lo que seperdio Chrysler.ni modo

Scott Wiggins
Scott Wiggins

Merle dp said ford never owned them. Cummins has always owned cummins stfu.

Ammon Smart
Ammon Smart

Yeah man, it's crazy! I was talking to some guys at work last night, and apparently from what they were saying, Dodge is teaming up with Allison and will make a Cummins and Allison Dodge Ram truck.

Darrell Childress
Darrell Childress

I have a Cummins 3.3l in one of my tractors, granted its not one of the big US models; but its a great 65hp engine.

Joe Forti
Joe Forti

Would buy it if it ever came with a 4x4 option


Kyle Garris
Kyle Garris

I will never touch a piece of dhit Japanese truck even if it has a cummins in it I'd rather drive a P.O.S chevy

Travis Schawo
Travis Schawo

That is the only Nissan i would like to drive.

Brandon Weatherly
Brandon Weatherly

I'm all for everyone having their own opinion but damn... This IS a cool concept (especially if they ever offer a 4x4 model) I not quite sure why people are so pissy over this

Miguel Martinez
Miguel Martinez

Kaleb Burnett in the us they haven't had a diesel option in a 1500 since the 80s and I don't think they ever had one in the mid size truck at least the big three

Erik Johnson
Erik Johnson

Glad to see some people know Cummins is worldwide. They sell to anyone, and even let paccar rebrand them as PX's in their medium duty trucks. As far as engine size, they have engines smaller than what's in the frontier and go all the way up to a 120 litre 20 cylinder that will be released before long.

Steve Freeman
Steve Freeman

Thts awesome' i had a 04 Frontier once' it was a good truck !so this will make it better.

Ron Allison
Ron Allison

Well they are putting a 5.0l v8 Cummins in the titan as well 350hp and 650 torque

Jason Fisher
Jason Fisher

More teasing, no solid proof it will ever be produced. How many companies have said they would build a 1/2 diesel? Only Dodge seems to be doing it, five years too late.

Merle Niehaus
Merle Niehaus

joe and jon are both wrong , ford did buy cummins, since then cummins has acquired controling stock in ford , toyota,gm,chysler(which they sold to fiat), international truck, and cat , this was all published in diesel power mag abou 2 yrs ago, cummins owns 90% of all the diesel technolgy in the world.

Kaleb Burnett
Kaleb Burnett

oh the stupidity of more then half of the comments here makes me laugh

Kaleb Burnett
Kaleb Burnett

gm has a colorado diesel slated for 2016 as for 1500 i wish they would put the 6.6 in one but they will probably end up with a smaller litre duramax soon

Kaleb Burnett
Kaleb Burnett

cummins have been in medium duty fords for a decade or two is that disgusting too?

Kaleb Burnett
Kaleb Burnett

where the hell do you pay that much per litre?! in alberta its like $1.50 MAX and thats a lot

Kaleb Burnett
Kaleb Burnett

ford still does out the cummins in there f650s f 750s etc backed by an allisan transmission, at least they still did no longer then a few years ago

Matthew Chrisman
Matthew Chrisman

Vincent Arillo. They chose to not use a Cummins in the 1500 because of the possibility of poorer gas mileage.

Robert Grenzow
Robert Grenzow

So the fact that Cummins produces diesel engines world wide should make this application no more distasteful than installing the B series engine in a waterpump assembled in India?

Larry Lee
Larry Lee

Chances are there are more Nissan plants in America then there are Dodge plants in America. My 2013 Chevy is made Michigan.

Andrew Dominguez
Andrew Dominguez

Yeah since Nissan, is getting Cummins. Terrible producer, titans will soon have them too. Eric Schalk

Cory Jones
Cory Jones

Great engine too bad crappy manufacturer to chose

Josh Daniels
Josh Daniels

Now that's the smartest thang Nissan has ever done

Alex Lister
Alex Lister

Alex Harter they are putting Cummins in the titans soon