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Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner Powered by Cummins: Midsize Project Truck

A 2.8-liter Cummins turbo diesel with nearly 200 horsepower and more than 350 lb-ft of torque under the hood

What in the world is going on? Once upon a time there was the mini truck, and it was awesome. Then, in the early and mid-80s in the United States, there was the naturally-aspirated and turbocharged diesel mini truck, and that was still awesome. Then, in the mid to late-90s, the mini truck began to get rounder, but it was still awesome. Then, in the mid-2000s, the mini truck ate too much and swelled into a midsize truck. Then, by 2014, the Nissan Frontier and the Toyota Tacoma were the only descendants of the mini truck era. But is that the end of the story? For the “true” mini truck, yes; those days are over.

However, the midsize segment continues, and in fact, a somewhat lazy lull in the action has been recently attacked by a resurgence of diesel rumblings, the latest from Nissan. Could this be? It’s been thirty years since we’ve seen a United States diesel “mini” truck from Nissan, with the 61 hp/102 lb-ft of torque 2.2L SD22 in the Datsun 720 from 1982 through 1983 and the 70 hp/115 lb-ft of torque 2.5L SD25 from 1983 through 1985. After discontinuing its Colorado and Canyon, GM will reintroduce a new generation of these models for the 2015 model year, with plans of a diesel offering in 2016. And now we’re hearing of a Cummins in a Frontier!

It’s called the Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner Powered by Cummins, and it’s a concept project truck created by Nissan to gauge the market’s reaction to a diesel Nissan midsize truck and to help strategize the future direction for the next-generation Frontier. Set to be introduced at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place in Chicago, the concept is based on a Frontier Desert Runner 4x2, with the addition of a diesel powerplant, hence the Diesel Runner title.

The use of a Cummins is not surprising, given the recent partnership with Cummins Inc. that resulted in the 5.0-liter turbo diesel V8 to be used in the next-generation Titan. However, the Cummins in the concept Frontier is a different engine – a 2.8-liter 4-cylinder turbo diesel, actually once tested in the Titan but now adapted for the Frontier 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 V6 2014 Frontier.

Actually, collaboration between Nissan and Cummins stems back to the 2010 U.S. Department of Energy project called “ATLAS” (Advanced Technology Light Automotive Systems), where important research helped shape this project’s Cummins engine. In fact, you may remember this particular 2.8L from August 2011's Direct Injection editorial and this article from the September 2011 issue: New Cummins 2.8L Four-Cylinder Diesel Engine. Could this 2.8L, once slated for the 1/2-ton, find its home in a Frontier beyond this concept?

The transmission mated to the 2.8L is a ZF 8HP70 8-speed automatic. (Think Ram EcoDiesel. Could we also see the ZF 8HP70 behind the 5.0L Titan?) Although the engine and transmission are not “plug-and-play” for the Frontier, many of the key components, including wiring harnesses and the radiator, are from a production 2014 Desert Runner Frontier.

The “Arrest Me Red” exterior paint, the Cummins Turbo Diesel badges recessed into both front fenders, and the partially transparent acrylic hood that shows off an oversized Cummins logo and red-themed engine bay confirmation that the Diesel Runner is not bashful in sharing its Cummins powerplant. Word has it that a separate, perhaps more subdued, development Cummins Frontier is undergoing rigorous real-world testing.

“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.” Per the request of Pierre Loing, vice president, Product Planning, Nissan North America, let’s give Nissan some positive feedback regarding the Cummins-powered Frontier Diesel Runner! Let’s see it beat the diesel Canyon and Colorado to the market.

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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

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