Latest News

Cummins-Powered Nissan Frontier Coming Soon? Probably

At the 2014 Chicago Auto show, Nissan threw a surprise curve ball in the form of a Cummins-powered turbo-diesel Nissan Frontier “Desert Runner” concept. Will they build it? Probably.

Cummins-Powered Nissan Frontier Coming Soon? Probably

Nissan unveiled its new Desert Runner Frontier concept at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show. While that isn’t so exciting, the big news is that it has a Cummins-powered turbo-Diesel engine in it. Yep, another mid-size diesel concept.

The Cummins-powered Nissan Frontier concept seems less like a “concept” and more like a “preview” of what is coming. With Nissan already on board with using a Cummins engine in their next-gen Titan, offering it in the smaller pickup makes a lot of sense from a fuel economy standpoint. Yes, the return on investment argument is probably greater against a mid-size diesel truck since the additional benefits of towing are less in that class, yet for those who want diesel power and are willing to hold onto their truck for years, it is a no-brainer. 

Under the hood of the Desert Runner Frontier is a Cummins turbo-diesel 2.8-liter inline four-cylinder. For those following along with Nissan truck news, the engine should ring a bell. It is the same engine used in two different Nissan Titans for the U.S. Department of Energy’s ongoing study testing the viability of a small clean diesel in a light-duty pickup.

The DOE project used the smaller engine in the larger Titan and obtained 26 mpg highway. By using it in the roughly 1,000 lbs lighter Frontier, the estimates are that fuel economy will be around 10-15% greater. This should have it hitting close to the 30 mpg highway mark (probably 22 or so city).

The turbo-diesel 2.8L should be able to put out 385 lbs-ft of torque with 200 horsepower. Much like other diesel products it is not built for speed, rather it is built for more low-end torque and better fuel economy.

In another effort to improve fuel economy, Nissan has mounted a ZF 8-speed transmission in this concept truck. The 8-speed transmission is the same one in the Ram 1500 pickup and is widely acclaimed. It does, though, seem a bit much for a mid-size truck to have that many gears. Time will tell if Nissan actually comes to market with it.

The truck industry sure seems split these days on whether diesel is the future or not. Currently, the tally FOR diesel is GM, Ram and Nissan. The tally AGAINST is Ford and Toyota. It is unclear what Honda is planning on doing.

With the GM mid-size twins expected to have a diesel option in 2015/16 and the possible introduction of a Nissan diesel, Toyota will be the only mid-size truck maker without the option (depending on your view of Honda’s Ridgeline). Will Toyota follow suit? That is really up to consumers. If the Diesel engine becomes a hot seller in that segment, Toyota could quickly follow suit using one of its diesel engines offered worldwide. However, if customers pan on that option, don’t expect Toyota to offer anything. 

What do you think? Will Nissan bring a Cummins-powered turbo diesel to market in the Frontier? Will Toyota respond?