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Auto Show:  2014 Chicago Auto Show

Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner Concept: Chicago Auto Show

author photo by Doug DeMuro February 2014

What Is It?

It may not seem like much, but the Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner Concept could preview the future of the midsize truck world. That's because underneath its snazzy paint job and knobby tires is a unique feature that distinguishes it from most midsize trucks: a diesel engine.

That's right. The Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner Concept boasts a 2.8-liter 4-cylinder diesel, which is currently unheard of among midsize trucks. General Motors says its new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks will soon offer diesel power, but for now, diesel is largely confined to full-size, heavy-duty pickups.

In the Frontier, the 2.8-liter diesel offers 200 horsepower and a whopping 350 lb-ft of torque -- a big number that helps keep the pickup's towing and payload capacities similar to the V6 while offering a 35 percent bump in gas mileage. Power is delivered to the ground through a new 8-speed automatic transmission designed to emphasize the truck's efficiency.

Beyond the diesel engine, the Frontier Diesel Runner doesn't offer much in the way of new features or technology. Exterior upgrades include unique paint and wheels, while interior revisions are limited to red, silver and carbon-fiber trim.

Will They Ever Sell It?

We don't think the Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner will ever come to market with the concept model's paint scheme. But beyond that, we could easily see Nissan offering diesel power in the Frontier, though we may have to wait for the next-generation model. That's especially true considering that Nissan recently partnered with Cummins, noted diesel engine builder, to make diesel engines for the next-generation Nissan Titan full-size pickup.

Why It's Important

One look at the numbers and it's easy to see why diesel technology could be so important for midsize trucks. Despite being smaller in size than Nissan's 4.0-liter V6 and offering much less power (only 200 horses to the 4.0's 260), the Frontier's 2.8-liter diesel makes a whopping 350 lb-ft and boasts towing and payload capacities that rival the V6. As an added benefit, you get better gas mileage. Considering all the advantages, we think diesel could find a real niche among midsize pickups.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner Concept: Chicago Auto Show - Autotrader