Vital Stats

Engine:
2.8L Turbodiesel V6
Power:
200 HP / 350 LB-FT
Transmission:
8-Speed Auto
Drivetrain:
Rear-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
4,350 LBS (est)
Seating:
2+3
MPG:
22 City / 30 HWY (est)
Base Price:
$30,000 (est)
Last August, Nissan shook the truck world when it officially announced plans to source a diesel option from Cummins for its long-overdue Titan replacement, its full-size pickup that's slated to drop this January at the Detroit Auto Show. The 5.0-liter V8 turbodiesel is expected to make somewhere around 300 horsepower and north of 500 pound-feet of torque. This combination of an all-new truck with this new powerplant promises to dramatically change the competitive landscape, splitting the difference between the heavy-duty goliaths from the Detroit Three and the Ram 1500 Ecodiesel. And the intrigue moved a step further when the Frontier Diesel Runner Concept showed up at February's Chicago Auto Show, as it displayed a growing relationship between Nissan and Cummins in a very interesting potential future product.

That concept would melt its clear acrylic hood if the engine ran too long, but this month, we got a chance to test drive a production mule, an otherwise normal Frontier with a Cummins 2.8-liter diesel four-pot under the hood and a ZF eight-speed automatic changing gears. The powertrain figures to be a direct competitor to the 2.8-liter Duramax promised for General Motors' Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins, but will Nissan build it? All signs point to probably. Officially, Nissan is taking no position on the future of this program, but a concept followed by putting journalists into a test mule suggests the company is considering the option very seriously. Here's what we gleaned from a brief drive around the posh suburbs of Nashville:
  • Before we get too deep into this Quick Spin, realize this Frontier is absolutely a mule, not a prototype. More or less cobbled together with duct tape and baling wire, it's not meant to be representative of a finished product, or even a started product. The transmission and shifter is straight out of a Chrysler 300 and the shifter surround is cut out of a panel of plastic. The "Low Sulfur Diesel Only" sticker is, well, just stuck on. We're looking at a "What if?" mockup.
  • The engine is essentially a tweaked version of a Chinese-built, gray-iron 2.8-liter four cylinder. With 16 valves, the obligatory turbocharger and common-rail injection, this Cummins engine is already used for on- and off-highway applications. In things like generators, small earth-moving machines and large turf-management equipment (giant lawnmowers) it carries the "QSF" label, and for cabover trucks in Asia and other on-road applications, it's dubbed ISF. Some tunes offer as few as 49 hp, but it'll run until the sun explodes.
  • This truck gets an intercooler up front wedged behind the grille, and combined with the base software, it develops 200 horses and a stout 350 lb-ft of torque, but this is not yet the smooth, quiet modern diesel we've come to expect. She's a rough character, albeit with a caveat: There has been zero software tuning done for the Frontier mule. Smoothness in a diesel comes from precisely controlling combustion, and while the engine is capable of eight fuel-injection events per cycle, there are only two with this software. Clatter, clatter, clatter, clatter.
  • It may be loud at idle and under acceleration, but this dog offers bite to match its bark. Tons of torque and eager throttle response at times overwhelms the ZF gearbox (which also hasn't really been tuned) and a "ka-chunk!" shift squawks the rear tires. Midway through full-throttle acceleration, the turbo's wastegate locks closed and the engine really takes off, revving ahead quicker than the bottom of the range.
  • At cruising speed, though, this is a surprisingly smooth and easygoing engine, almost quiet even. That shouldn't really be a surprise since tugging the weight of a truck and passengers is akin to a quarter horse pulling a little red wagon.
  • Although nobody ever confirmed the product plan before Nissan's PR team put the clamps on its engineering staff, we were able to gather a few juicy tidbits about the program. One unnamed official let slip that engineers are targeting 2019 diesel emissions and particulate requirements for the rig, which may indicate potential production timing. Another interesting item is Cummins would consider shifting to a compacted graphite iron block with an aluminum head to cut down on weight and improve performance. Finally, Cummins prefers to build where it sells, so US domestic production for the engine would be seriously considered if a Frontier Diesel gets a green light.
Keep an eye on this space. A modernized Cummins ISF in the next-gen Frontier would offer buyers good power and fuel economy without needing a step stool to reach the seats. It all comes down to price.



I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 44 Comments
      domingorobusto
      • 4 Months Ago
      The price is worrying. It'd have to start cheaper to be a true success. I'd be ridiculously interested if i could get a fairly stripped 2WD version with a manual for around $26k. The Frontier is one of the few trucks left on the market that isn't too damn big. Pair it with a turbo diesel and they'd have a huge winner on their hands, but only if they can keep costs down. And I don't see why they couldn't with this engine. yes, diesels are inherently more expensive, but this engine is SO common that economies of scale should drive the price down to the point that it sould be just about as expensive to build as the petrol engine.
        expert
        • 4 Months Ago
        @domingorobusto
        great post! I agree with all points you made - especially about pricing. I would buy this 30mpg vehicle right now at $26K.
      Alex Ellsworth
      • 4 Months Ago
      If this engine is not the "smooth, quiet, modern diesel we've come to expect," then what on Earth is the point of a US-engineered Cummins diesel when there are so many world-class diesel engines out there from global automakers? Renault-Nissan already has its own diesel engine lineup. Why would using a diesel found in generators and small earth-moving machines be preferable?
        Ben Wojdyla
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Alex Ellsworth
        Maybe you missed it, but there's a tremendous amount of room to tune it for smooth and quiet operation in this configuration, let alone if the engine structure is mechanically modified to fit Nissan's specifications.
      ferps
      • 4 Months Ago
      The estimated base pice is $30k? You'd have to put on a lot of miles to makeup the difference in fuel cost.
        Larry Litmanen
        • 4 Months Ago
        @ferps
        V6 with premium audio cost almost 27 K. I am sure diesel will come with premium audio standard, just like GM does it with Cruze. To reduce complication with inventory diesel cars in USA tend to have features come standard. So we are talking 3-4 K difference here.
        Stephen
        • 4 Months Ago
        @ferps
        Good rule of thumb is to compare a diesel engine to a gas engine with 2 more cylinders because they will be more equal in terms of pulling power (torque). So it sounds like this 4 cylinder will be close in price to a V6 gasser. That usually puts it ahead when you compare the expected economy of the two vehicles.
        jtav2002
        • 4 Months Ago
        @ferps
        Midsize trucks already top $30k not sure why you would think it would cost less than that since diesel in any vehicle carries a premium. Besides, it's not like people who were otherwise considering a stripped down base model truck would suddenly step up to a nicer equipped with a diesel. You have no way in knowing what kind of payoff the truck would have without knowing what the premium will be over an equally equipped 4.0 version. Besides, highway mileage, at least compared to the current powerplant should be rather dramatic. You're talking 20mpg roughly hwy now, seeing as a Ram Ecodiesel can get real world 28mpg hwy I would imagine any midsize diesel should be capable of at least 30mpg now problem. 10mpg is a huge gain, especially considering it will have the same towing and payload capacities. It's not like opting for a 4ycl for fuel economy reasons and losing capability over a V6.
      Patrick Burnham
      • 4 Months Ago
      "Vital Stats" typo. you have the engine listed as a V-6 when the article states it is an I-4.
      mitytitywhitey
      • 4 Months Ago
      Let me keep the 6MT from my 4.0 SE Frontier, but gimme that diesel.
        Larry Litmanen
        • 4 Months Ago
        @mitytitywhitey
        Yes because that car will sell to more than 10 people. Go to business school or something.
          mitytitywhitey
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Larry Litmanen
          @carguy - GM will offer a manual in their base model small pickup. The Next Frontier will also be a global platform. It's really not that ridiculous of a request. Besides, its just expressing opinion.
          mitytitywhitey
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Larry Litmanen
          They have kept the 6MT alive this long. ... Go to hell or something.
          carguy1701
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Larry Litmanen
          mitytitywhitey: He's right, though. I wouldn't be surprised if the 6MT dies when the Frontier is redesigned (whenever that happens).
      danfred311
      • 4 Months Ago
      not green. it's an idiot's vehicle. the antithesis to green
        paqza
        • 4 Months Ago
        @danfred311
        We work in renewable energy/sustainable agriculture and need work trucks. Proper trucks that can go farther than the roads go. Proper trucks with usable beds. You stick to your Hybrid Civic while we get stuff done.
        carguy1701
        • 4 Months Ago
        @danfred311
        Go away Dan, no one cares what you think.
      Alfonso T. Alvarez
      • 4 Months Ago
      " ... This combination of an all-new truck with this new powerplant promises to dramatically change the competitive landscape, ... " Not a chance - Nissan has never 'got' the pickup market in the US as witnessed by their abysmal sales year in and year out. They may see a slight increase in their volume, but there are certainly not going to be a lot of people who will switch from the truck they're driving to a Nissan .... just the facts
        Larry Litmanen
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Alfonso T. Alvarez
        I don't think Nissan is targeting a hard core truck buyer. I think they are more like Honda's truck, casual trucker who wants to stand out. Someone who probably uses a truck only on weekends for fun, like fishing or something.
          paqza
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Larry Litmanen
          The Frontier is a much better truck than the Ridgeline, which in reality is a minivan with a bed. We use multiple Nissan D22s and D40s in our fleet and they're great.
      IBx27
      • 4 Months Ago
      If they use a 4BT Cummins, this country will eat it up. Also, it's not a V6 like the article's info section states.
        Rob
        • 4 Months Ago
        @IBx27
        The 4BT is a venerable powerplant, but it is behind the times technology- and materials-wise, not to mention incredibly heavy (not that the ISF is a featherweight, but we're talking an engine that is knocking on three times the weight of the VQ it's replacing). The ISF really is a stellar engine for such an application, its one of the lighter 4 cyl diesels out there with plenty of power for a midsize truck, not to mention already proven just about everywhere else but here.
      Basil Exposition
      • 4 Months Ago
      With the GM twins on the way packin' diesel, Nissan had better follow suit if it wants to maintain market share.
      Lab Rat
      • 4 Months Ago
      a basic 6-Cylinder 4x4 King Cab is ~26k. Diesel is usually a about a 4k premium. 30k is in line with the market, at very least.
        Lab Rat
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Lab Rat
        The 4x2 gasoline is $23,500. I'd expect the diesel in this config to be closer to $28,500 than $30k
      Nick
      • 4 Months Ago
      assuming that this can be produced for a competitive price, this will be a no-brainer, if not essential for the future !
      Yoggie
      • 4 Months Ago
      I really want this. However, my Jeep is 5k lbs, the trailer is 2k lbs, add another 1k gear and about 2k of safety margin, and I need a truck with a 10k towing rating minimum. I only tow a few times a years so I hate having to drive around a massive HD truck the rest of the year; but sadly this comes up just a little bit too short for me.
    • Load More Comments