2015 Ford And Nissan Engineering Prototypes - The Driver's Seat
As I stare out of the window of my air-conditioned office at the triple-digit world outside, I'm reminded that it's fair season. County fairs are awesome. Nothing screams summer quite like all the fried food, carnival rides, impossible games, overly crowded exhibit halls, and D-list musical acts. All the best fairs have livestock exhibitions, but only the top-tier offer donkey rides. I love a good donkey ride.
I hate bragging, and really I don't mean to, but there are times when the position I'm in as the editor-in-chief of Truck Trend lends itself to more exclusive opportunities within the automotive industry. Not too long ago, I was presented with the chance to experience two very different engineering prototypes, commonly referred to in the industry as mules.
2015 Ford Edge
Technology is taking over, or more correctly, has taken over. The new 2015 Ford Edge will hit showrooms with adaptive steering technology, adaptive cruise control, collision warning with brake support, a 180-degree front camera complete with washer, an active glove-box-mounted knee airbag, and inflatable rear safety belts. On top of these advancements, this new mid-size SUV will hit with enhanced active park assist with perpendicular parking ability. In plain English, the new Edge will not only parallel park itself but will also back into a standard parking spot, almost entirely on its own.
To demonstrate its new voodoo technology, Ford offered journalists a ride in its one still-fully-camouflaged working prototype. Coming from the world of pickups, these features are plain spooky. This is how it works: With the system active, you simply drive past a parking spot, either parallel or perpendicular, at a speed of up to 30mph. The vehicle will alert the driver when it sees a spot, and direct the driver to come to a stop. From there, the driver is responsible for the accelerator, brake, and shifting while the vehicle handles steering and provides guidance prompts.
I call it witchcraft; others call it progress. Either way, I'd expect to see more of this technology coming in the future.
Cummins-Powered Nissan Frontier
The second mule I was privy to was the prototype 2.8L-Cummins-powered Nissan Frontier. Built from a '14 Nissan Frontier Desert Runner, the factory gasoline engine was given the boot in favor of a four-cylinder Cummins diesel mill. Backed by an 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 (at least that we've been told about), and we were fortunate enough to get behind the wheel and lay some rubber.
While the red show truck was off-limits, we were treated to a decent drive loop in an inconspicuous gray crew-cab. From the outside, the only indicator that something is amiss is the slight diesel clatter emanating from under the hood. 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—much like at the fair—to be the first in line.
Alas, as much as I would for this truck to become a reality, Nissan has said there are currently 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 that the folks at Nissan aren't telling the full truth, and that is exciting. Much like a donkey ride. TT