This week, the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Germany’s Daimler AG announced the development of a new Mercedes-Benz pickup truck, based off Nissan’s new NP300 platform built for almost every global market except North America.
Yet the NP300 – the 12th generation of this light pickup badged either as the “Navara” or “Frontier” overseas – may very well be the platform upon which Nissan builds its new Frontier midsize pickup for North America, joining its completely redone full-sized big brother, the Titan.
It should also be noted that the new 2016 Titan pickup features a Cummins V8 diesel – and that Cummins is working hand-in-glove with Nissan testing one of its global small-block diesel engine models in the “Desert Runner” Frontier concept pickup revealed last year.
Back to the NP300: Unveiled in June last year, Keno Kato, Nissan’s VP of product planning said “comfort” turned out to be one of the key aspects focused on by the Japanese automaker’s engineering team.
“Customers today really need comfort, but comfort in any road condition, in any situation, that’s not so easy,” he explained. “[The NP300] was tested in various markets, various road conditions [with the] key for comfort a comfortable interior, supported by zero-gravity seats.”
Yet all that focus on “comfort” didn’t mean the OEM ignored power or performance, stressed Andy Palmer, Nissan's chief planning officer
“Since we built our first pickup in 1933, over 14 million customers around the globe have come to depend on a Nissan pickup to transport their families, workmates and cargo, sometimes in the toughest of circumstances,” he said.
“Nissan pickups are often the lifeblood of their communities, and they need a broader range of abilities than almost any other vehicle,” Palmer noted. “That’s why engineering a good one isn't easy [and] why the new NP300 sets new benchmarks for performance, toughness, versatility and running costs; all the qualities that are critical for pickup users.”
So while life-on-board is comfortable and convenient, the NP300 has is built to easily and confidently handle heavy loads, while allowing ease of loading and unloading, he emphasized.
For example, the NP300 boasts a high-strength chassis and leaf suspension re-engineered to take the punishment of intense daily usage, all while reducing its turning radius, reflecting the importance of agility and maneuverability in city driving, Palmer pointed out.
Nissan noted that its NP300 models come equipped with improved versions of Nissan's 2.5-liter dual-overhead camshaft (DOHC) in-line 4-cylinder diesel engine or a 2.5-liter in-line 4-cylinder gasoline engine.
Palmer added that the fuel economy of the new 2.5-liter DOHC in-line 4-cylinder diesel engine is 11% greater when compared to the previous model.
Shift-on-the-fly 4x4 driving can be engaged while the vehicle is in motion, while Nissan’s VDC (short for “Vehicle Dynamic Control”) system helps improve off-road driving performance and safety, along with ABLS (Active Brake Limited Slip), HSA (Hill Start Assist) and HDC (Hill Descent Control) – basically all the same goodies U.S. pickup makers offer on their models.
[Nissan also claims the NP300 is a “smarter” pickup, too, as the video clip below illustrates.]
Nissan added that the transmission options for the new NP300 include a seven-speed automatic and six-speed manual transmission, with the seven-speed automatic helping reduce fuel consumption at slow speeds as well as boost acceleration.
The OEM added, though, that its six-speed manual also helps enhance fuel efficiency from low to high gear, while its optimized shift stroke makes for what the company dubbed “quick and effortless” gear changes.
Other NP300 features include:
- “King Cab” and “Double Cab” options, which are roughly equivalent to extended cab and crew cab configurations in the U.S.;
- Light emitting diode (LED) head lamps, rear ventilation for passengers in the backseat as well as push button engine start;
- Exterior refinements such as a reduction in roof height and higher ground clearance, as well as a larger loading area;
- Multiple easy-to-read dials, plus a large center console with a full array of intuitive features that combine with steering wheel controls to enable easy and safe use while driving;
- High-resolution color thin film transistor (TFT) liquid crystal displays with access to compass and turn-by-turn navigation support, fuel economy indicator and audio track and radio content;
- Customization features provide driver assistance in a variety of languages, as well as alerts, maintenance reminders and more.
Will we see a version of this pickup in the U.S.? That’s the million-dollar question. One thing’s for sure – it’s got all the features most U.S. pickup operators, especially on the commercial side, want for their vehicles. We’ll see what happens.