When we first saw the advanced press material on the Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner concept, we simultaneously thought "Awesome!" and "We told you so." Awesome because it presents the strong possibility of a third midsize diesel truck in the U.S. market, and "we told you so" because reading between the lines of comments made by Nissan and Cummins officials at last summer's Nissan 360 event, it was clear the two companies were considering collaborating on other projects beyond the officially announced Titan diesel. The Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner concept is proof that Nissan is strongly considering a Cummins diesel option for the junior member of its truck family.
Based on the current-generation Desert Runner two-wheel-drive model, the Diesel Runner employs Cummins' 2.8-liter I-4 diesel producing close to 200 hp and more than 350 lb-ft of torque. It's mated to a ZF 8HP70 eight-speed automatic transmission enabling the combination to achieve up to 35 percent better claimed fuel economy than the current V-6 Frontier, meaning highway fuel economy could be as high as 28 or 29 mpg, and payload and towing capacities comparable to the current Frontier V-6.
For the concept truck, the unique powertrain is designated by generous applications of red accents throughout the exterior and interior of the truck, with red being Cummins' signature color. The Diesel Runner gets painted a in a unique red and silver two-tone paint scheme with carbon-fiber film accents. To make sure observers know what's under the hood, a section of the hood is transparent acrylic showing the carbon fiber engine cover featuring the Cummins logo and "Cummins Turbo Diesel" front fender badges. The front wheels are silver with satin black accents, while the rears are red with black accents. The brake calipers are the inverse: red in the front, and silver in the back.
On the inside, the Diesel Runner gets carbon-print leather trimmed seats with red accents and gray stitching and "tracks" embroidery. The Diesel Runner also gets a diesel-specific three-gauge pod on the instrument panel, embroidered floormats, and shift knob and steering wheel accents.
Nissan says it built the Diesel Runner to gauge customer interest of a diesel engine option in a midsize truck. We have a feeling it will be overwhelmingly positive.