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Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner Concept Shown at 2014 Chicago Auto Show

Nissan is testing the waters for diesel power in the midsize pickup truck market with Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner project truck at the 2014 Chicago auto show. Under the hood of this Frontier is a 2.8-liter Cummins turbodiesel four-cylinder engine, and Nissan says this engine could make its way into the next-generation Frontier depending on consumer interest. If approved for production, the diesel Frontier would go up against the upcoming diesel versions of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups that go on sale later this year.

Nissan originally announced a partnership with engine-builder Cummins last year, when the automaker said a 5.0-liter Cummins diesel V-8 would be available in the next Nissan Titan full-size pickup, due in 2015. Nissan is hoping that this concept will help gauge interest in this smaller diesel powertrain for the Frontier, which is due to be redesigned within the next year. The 2.8-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel produces around 200 hp and over 350 lb-ft of torque and mates with a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. This would reportedly make for fuel economy up to 35 percent better than a standard Frontier V-6.

A second Nissan Frontier development vehicle with the Cummins four-cylinder diesel is currently testing, so it appears the company is serious about this proposition. A redesigned Nissan Frontier with this diesel engine would certainly put up a challenge to the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, which have an optional 2.8-liter diesel four-cylinder.

Other than the diesel engine under the hood, the Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner also has a few visual upgrades over the Frontier Desert Runner on which it is based. The truck features a red and matte-grey paint scheme with faux carbon fiber accents inside and out. There's also a see-through hood insert that highlights the diesel powerplant underneath, and red and grey painted wheels that continue the concept's overall color scheme.

Nissan previously offered a diesel engine on the Hardbody pickup in the late 1980s. We'll see if there's enough interest in this project truck at the 2014 Chicago auto show to warrant a diesel comeback for the next Frontier.