Among America’s auto shows, the Chicago Auto Show is the pre-eminent truck show. It’s also a show wherein Nissan has had a huge presence of late, so it’s fitting that Nissan made news with a truck — specifically, a diesel-powered Frontier called the Frontier Diesel Runner.
Designed in San Diego, the Frontier Diesel Runner is officially a “technical study” at this point, and is bound to get a lot of miles put onto it by engineers, according to Nissan. It features a red and matte silver paint job fit for an energy drink, and wears other nifty add-ons such as a “carbon-fiber coated” roof rack, mesh grille, tonneau cover and tailgate spoiler, and PRO-EX 16-inch wheels (silver in front, red in back) mounted by white letter tires. The leather-lined interior is pretty close to stock, with a splash of red paint here and there, and some ancillary gauges.
Our favorite show-car bit, however, is a carbon fiber hood with a C-shaped clear section that shows off an illuminated engine bay stuffed with a Cummins diesel engine. Cummins has been allied with Dodge and Ram for decades, but has never produced a small diesel for pickup duty here. Said diesel engine is a 2.8-liter four-cylinder producing 200 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a ZF eight-speed unit, sending the engine’s power to a 3.13:1 rear axle. Nissan promises a whopping 35 percent boost in fuel economy compared to the current Frontier’s V-6, which produces 261 hp but a comparatively paltry 281 lb-ft of torque.
Otherwise, there’s not much about the Frontier itself that is terribly newsworthy — it’s been around in more or less the same form for the last 10 years and isn’t going to be replaced any time soon. Nissan’s other truck, the aptly named Titan full-sizer, is also on the old side, and at the same press conference, Nissan promised that we would be hearing a lot more about its replacement in the next year (our bets are on a world debut next year, same time, same place).
Nissan says it is soliciting feedback from potential customers about the potential of a diesel Frontier. Besides, the upcoming Chevy Colorado will also be offered in 2015 with a 2.8-liter diesel four-cylinder engine with roughly the same level of output.
The Frontier Diesel Runner wasn’t the only new thing rotating on a turntable at the Nissan display in Chicago. Nissan also brought the 2015 Versa Note SR, which is essentially the cuter half of the super-cheap Versa econocar line, dressed up with a unique fascia and black mesh grille, darkened headlight treatment, fog lights and rear spoiler. Inside, the Versa Note SR features a 370Z-inspired leather-wrapped steering wheel, suede-like fabric seats with contrast stitching and orange accents, a piano black center instrument panel with silver accents and chrome knobs, and a three-pot gauge cluster.
The Versa Note SR will become the fifth trim level in the Versa Note model range when 2015 model year production begins later this year.