Give Me A Midsize Diesel - Final Gear
My love affair with small diesel pickups is no secret. If you're taking the time to read this, then you're probably familiar with that fact. After all, I was the one crazy enough to fly halfway across the country to buy a diesel-powered '85 Ford Ranger...sight-unseen. Then, if that wasn't bad enough, I drove it back home to California. So whenever talk of the newest generation of light-duty pickups equipped with four-cylinder diesel engines comes up around the water cooler, my ears perk right up.
So far, only one is confirmed. GM has told us the new Colorado and Canyon pickups will be available with the highly anticipated 2.8L Duramax engine. The bad news is that it's slated to be late-availability, not joining the lineup until 2015, possibly as a 2016 model. I can be patient, though; at least we know it's coming.
I know what you're thinking right about now, and no, I want smaller than the Ram 1500. Yes, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is great, and the highly anticipated 5.0L Cummins-powered Nissan Titan is set to be outstanding. But they are not what I'm looking for. At their size and price point, I'd probably just buy a used ¾-ton instead. So back we go to the small trucks.
In addition to the confirmed Colorado and Canyon diesels, Nissan has paraded out a prototype 2.8L Cummins-powered rig. And the people in charge were dumb enough to let me get behind the wheel.
Built from a 2014 Nissan Frontier Desert Runner, the factory gasoline engine was given the boot in favor of a four-cylinder Cummins mill. Backed by a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, this mighty engine pumps out 200 hp and in excess of 350 lb-ft of torque. This truck is nearly one of a kind, with there being only two in existence (that we've been told about at least).
While the red show truck we've seen in these pages before (June 2014) was off-limits, we were treated to a decent drive loop in an inconspicuous gray crew cab. From the outside, the only indicator something is amiss is the slight diesel-clatter emanating from under the hood and, if you have a real keen eye, an intercooler hidden behind the grille. Driving the truck is like a dream. It's plenty powerful, has a great sound, and has the potential for returning amazing fuel economy numbers. If this truck existed, people would trample over each other to be the first in line to buy one, much like shopping at a Walmart on Black Friday. If the folks at Nissan could produce this pickup with a tow rating of around 7,000 pounds and get it to return more than 30 mpg on the highway, they could all but eliminate the ½-ton diesel segment. At least in my mind they could.
Alas, as much as I would love for this truck to become a reality, Nissan has said there currently are no plans for production. Sad, I know, but the simple fact that this pair of mules even exists is cause enough for this skeptic to believe the folks at Nissan aren't telling the full truth. And really, since when has any auto manufacturer told the truth when it comes to future product planning? That means now is a good time to start telling Nissan how much you'd love a diesel Frontier. Can't hurt, anyway.
For the time being, the only other manufacturer with a midsize truck (Toyota) has shied away from the D-word. So, here I sit, holding out hope for success of the diesel midsize. And in the meantime, it's a good thing I still have my Ranger.