The 2014 Chicago Auto Show is proving to be a surprisingly big show for alternative fuels. The Chevrolet Silverado HD pickups are getting a compressed natural gas option and the refreshed BMW X3 is receiving a diesel engine, as is the German automaker's 7 Series. You can add one more oil burner to the mix, at least in concept form: Nissan has released its Frontier Diesel Runner Powered by Cummins with a 2.8-liter, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF.

While Nissan calls the Cummins-powered Frontier a concept, it's really just a Frontier DesertRunner 4x2 with a diesel engine replacing the standard 4.0-liter V6, and it's meant to gauge consumer interest for a diesel option in the next-generation Frontier. Nissan has clearly noticed that Chevrolet will be offering a diesel in its new Colorado and wants to see how buyers will react to a mid-size alt-fuel pickup from a Japanese brand.

Exterior modifications to the concept are minor. To show off the engine, there is a transparent hood insert and the pickup has been painted in a two-tone finish of high-gloss red and matte silver edged in carbon fiber trim. The interior gets the same combo of red, silver and carbon fiber to match the outside.

Nissan promises that the Cummins diesel produces nearly 200 horsepower and more than 350 pound-feet of torque, and fuel economy could improve by as much as 35 percent over the V6, which would equate to around about 22 miles per gallon city and 30 mpg highway. Payload and towing capacity would be roughly identical to the existing V6, says Nissan.

If it gets built, the Frontier with a Cummins diesel is still several years away. Nissan says that the engine and transmission combo will not fit in the current pickup without modification, and frankly, the current model is getting on in years. The company's current focus is launching the next-generation, full-size Titan pickup in 2015 with a 5.0-liter Cummins diesel V8 as an option. Scroll down to get all of the details in the press release.
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• Project truck created to gauge consumer interest in a next-generation Frontier with a Cummins diesel engine
• Concept builds upon Nissan's long heritage in innovative pickup trucks
• Powered by a 2.8-liter Cummins turbo diesel with nearly 200 horsepower, more than 350 lb-ft of torque
• Estimated fuel economy increases 35 percent over current Frontier V6

CHICAGO (Feb. 6, 2014) – Nissan is renewing its commitment to the mid-size pickup segment, long a part of its sales success in the United States, with the creation of the Frontier Diesel Runner Powered by CumminsTM. This project truck, based on a Frontier Desert Runner 4x2 model, serves to both gauge the market reaction to a Nissan mid-size pickup with a diesel engine and plot a potential future direction for the Frontier.

The Frontier Diesel Runner Powered by Cummins arrives a mere six months after the announcement of a partnership with Cummins Inc. to provide a 5.0-liter turbo diesel V8 in the next-generation Titan full-size pickup, which will arrive in calendar-year 2015.

"Frontier continues to be a huge success story for us, with more than 60,000 units sold in 2013," said Fred Diaz, senior vice president, Sales & Marketing, Parts & Service, U.S.A, Nissan North America, Inc. (NNA). "Nissan has always valued the mid-size 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."

At the heart of the Frontier Diesel Runner Powered by Cummins is a 2.8-liter 4-cylinder diesel engine designed to meet or exceed future emissions standards. As adapted for use in this truck, the engine produces nearly 200 horsepower and more than 350 lb-ft. of torque, while increasing fuel economy 35 percent over a V6-powered two-wheel drive 2014 Frontier.

Backed by a ZF 8HP70 8-speed automatic transmission, the two-wheel drive diesel Frontier maintains, and even increases, the usability of a Frontier truck. Along with the mileage increase, payload and towing capacity are expected to be in range of that offered by the V6-powered Frontier.

While not a "plug-and-play" engine and transmission installation, many of the Frontier Diesel Runner project's key components, from the body to wiring harnesses to the radiator and more are from a production 2014 Desert Runner.

Collaboration between Nissan and Cummins stems back to a U.S. Department of Energy project called "ATLAS" (Advanced Technology Light Automotive Systems) which began in 2010. Over the course of "ATLAS," Cummins installed 4-cylinder engines into two Nissan Titan trucks as an ongoing platform for research on the next-generation of 4-cylinder automotive clean diesel engines. Research compiled during the "ATLAS" program helped to shape the Cummins engine used in the current project.

"We've been building pickup trucks in the U.S. for more than 30 years and selling them here for even longer than that, even offering 4-cylinder diesel in our U.S. pickup truck in the 1980s," said Pierre Loing, vice president, Product Planning, NNA. "With this Frontier Diesel Runner project truck, we can reflect on our extensive heritage while also looking to the future and the changing demands of mid-size pickup buyers."

The Frontier Diesel Runner Powered by Cummins was designed by Nissan Design America in San Diego, CA in conjunction with Nissan Global Design Center in Atsugi, Japan. Exterior modifications include a custom paint treatment that mixes three elements: a bright high-gloss "Arrest Me Red" color inspired by Cummins' engine red; a raw "Matte Silver" color created to express the steel body-on-frame Frontier chassis foundation; and carbon fiber and carbon fiber film accents to signify the truck's outstanding performance and efficiency.

Along with carbon film-coated features such as the chin spoiler, mesh grille, roof rack, aerodynamic full-bed tonneau cover and tailgate spoiler, the hood of the vehicle draws special attention. A partially transparent acrylic hood insert serves as a window to the engine bay, where all powertrain-related elements continue the red theme. The special carbon fiber engine cover, seen through the hood insert, features an oversize Cummins logo, with a red center, black carbon sides and hidden illumination. "Cummins Turbo Diesel badges" are also recessed into both front fenders.

The 16-inch wheels, borrowed from a Frontier PRO-4X, have been treated with a special two-tone paint – Arrest Me Red for the rear wheels and Silver in front, each accented by satin black paint. The brake calipers have also been custom painted in contrasting colors - red front and silver rear.

The Frontier Diesel Runner's interior mirrors the silver and red exterior design, with red accents throughout and carbon-trimmed seats and panels. The front and rear seats feature carbon-print leather appointments with grey accent stitching and black-on-black "Tracks" embroidery. The carbon film-wrapped instrument panel is highlighted by red-tinted gauges and a special black-faced diesel-specific three-gauge pod on top of the C-cluster. Completing the interior enhancements are embroidered floor mats and theme-colored shifter knob and steering wheel.

The Frontier Diesel Runner Powered by Cummins will be showcased throughout the consumer days of the 2014 Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place, Chicago. Nissan and Cummins have also built a separate development vehicle that is currently 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," Loing added.

Engine Cummins 2.8-liter turbo diesel
Horsepower Approximately 200
Torque More than 350 lb-ft
Transmission ZF 8HP70 8-speed automatic
Axle ratio (:1) 3.13

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 10 Months Ago
      Nissan all ready makes a diesel Frontier, in Tennessee no less. With a 6 speed manual! For sale everywhere in the world except USA and Canada, as a "Navara"!!! Want to drive one? Go to Mexico or Central America and rent one at the airport. I'd buy one in an instant if I could. The moronic higher ups at Nissan haven't got enough intelligence to blow their noses.
      • 10 Months Ago
      My 2ยข Nissan should go for it, and offer the diesel in all trim levels. The GC diesel option turns into a $20,000+ option by not offering it in the base GC -- PASS. The Ram pickup, same nonsense to a slightly lesser extent. PASS. I predict that GM will go the same route as Jeep and Ram, only offering their diesel in trim levels that cost many thousands of dollars over the base trim. You want base trim? No diesel for you. Nissan could kick butt here, and should take advantage of this sad situation. (Hint: you do not need $10K - $20k+ in trim level upgrades for the diesel engine to operate properly in the vehicle.) Don
        • 10 Months Ago
        Wrong. The Ram 1500 offers the 3.0 eco-diesel v6 with the Tradesman package (they're working mans truck). Go online and you can option one out and see for yourself. The Grand Cherokee is a luxury SUV--what do you expect?
          • 10 Months Ago
          Ohhh ... I had to pick the 8 foot box. Thanks for clearing that up ! w/r/t the GC, I guess I expected the base trim level would have the option to pick the diesel. Don
      • 10 Months Ago
      I have wanted a small pickup for years but never could stomach the poor MPG's, and I have no pressing need for hauling anything more than bags of mulch from Lowe's every springtime. So when Chevy & GMC showed their new Colorado/Canyon and then offered a 2.8L diesel option in 2015-16, it got my interest..... UNTIL NOW. I might have to wait 1 or 2 years more to get the NISSAN-CUMMINS combination, but this is now my new dream truck. I have no need for a full-size Titan with the 5.0L V8 (plus I want better fuel economy, anyway). PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, Nissan.... IF you build it, they will come!
      • 10 Months Ago
      I bought a 2012 Nissan Frontier after trading in my 1992 Toyota Tundra. Wanted to save gas and didn't need the full size anymore. It's not that much better on fuel economy, but what I hate with my Nissan is the wind noise at 55km + and the fact I bang my head on the frame every time I get in the stupid thing. I'm 6'1". I am trading in for the Chevy as soon as they get that 4cyl diesel engine or a new Nissan if they can manage to improve their design....
      • 10 Months Ago
      Why Cummins? and not the YD22 or YD25 they use internationally? Nissan has the talent in-house. I don't understand. Anyone?
        • 10 Months Ago
        Maybe to appeal to American buyers where cummins is a well known and respected brand.
          Robert Ryan
          • 10 Months Ago
          See my reply above cannot run on the lower cetane level US diesel.
      • 10 Months Ago
      They need to refresh that frontier BAD...
      • 10 Months Ago
      I'm not really a fan of Nissan trucks but I'de buy this just to have amid size pickup with a diesel.
      • 10 Months Ago
      The Frontier still exists?
      • 10 Months Ago
      Diesel engine availability will absolutely play when I purchase my vehicles. But they need to offer it without having to purchase the fully-loaded packages like jeep/chrysler do. I'd spend more for the engine, but not for all of the luxury items that you have to get now.
      • 10 Months Ago
      30 miles per gallon is very poor it would not be a good value to get this truck for high 20s when for very low 30s you can get a ram ecodeisil that gets 29mpg highway and much more capabillity.
      Ryan Chang
      • 10 Months Ago
      Sounds good, until the Feds come in and ruin this thing with urea injection and other BS emissions equipment.
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Ryan Chang
        yea the feds just want to ruin things.... you might want to move to China where they don't have the gov. restrictions (enjoy the air).
      • 10 Months Ago
      Fuel economy increase of 35%, but diesel fuel price increase of at least 25%. Add in the higher maintenance cost of the diesel engine and you've saved....nothing.
        Rob J
        • 10 Months Ago
        "but diesel fuel price increase of at least 25%. " More like, up to 25%. Diesel is only 5-10% more than gas where I am.
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Rob J
          Canada? At least 25% more for diesel fuel is common in the U.S.
        Joe Carter
        • 10 Months Ago
        Until you sell or trade it, then you've successfully managed to get more back than if you chose a gasoline model.
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Joe Carter
          I purposely left out resale to show that just on fuel and maintenance alone you'll save little over a gasoline engine. Yes you'll get more at resale time, but you also paid much more for the diesel engine in the first place. In the end, you won't save cash with the diesel engine option. FYI - I've owned a diesel truck for the past 9 years.
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