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The Asian diesel dilemma

Tuesday, August 1, 2017 - 07:00
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Here at Motor Age we like to keep content on the cutting edge and as we planned for this month’s feature, well over a year ago, we were hopeful that diesel technology would be appearing across the Asian vehicle product lines, particularly in platforms such as the Toyota Tundra and Tacoma, as well as other vehicles who’s market segment has been screaming for a diesel powerplant in the U.S. for years. Fast forward to today and we have yet to see the Asian diesel vehicle materialize. The Nissan Titan XD is the only one currently in production and just one more, the Mazda CX-5, on the way. We’ll spend some time taking a closer look at them both, as we’ll discuss some of the reasons that the expected diesel flood has instead been a slow trickle.

(Image courtesy of Nissan Media) The Nissan Titan is the only Asian truck to offer a diesel option.

Nissan

Leading the way in Asian market diesel offerings is the Nissan Titan XD Pickup with an optional lightweight Cummins 5.0-liter V-8 Turbo Diesel. This diesel engine comes in at 1.7 liters shy of its Ram truck counterpart, the 6.7, and is rated at 310 horsepower with 500-600 Lb.-Ft of torque, making this mid-size pickup capable of towing a maximum load of 12,314 pounds. This power plant is the one that made Toyota truck fans giddy as rumors suggested that a similar unit could wind up in a Tundra at some point.

The technology on this Cummins power plant includes a proprietary M2© two-stage turbo designed to work at both low and high engine speeds, a Bosch high-pressure, common rail (HPCR) injection system and two-stage filtration system to capture any contaminants larger than 4 microns, protecting the HPCR system. The 5.0 also sports maintenance-free advanced glow plugs for cold startability.

Emissions on the Cummins engine include Cummins M2© Two-Stage Turbocharger, cooled Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) and Cummins Emission Solutions After treatment System, which includes a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR). According to Cummins this results “in near-zero oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions while delivering better performance and fuel economy.”

(Image courtesy of Nissan Media) The Cummins 5.0 Liter Powerplant is available in the Nissan Titan XD.

Overall this diesel power plant seems to get the job done but is unfortunately paired with the worst-selling pickup truck on the market. Give Nissan credit, however, they are at least trying to satiate the desires of the market segment that has been asking for an Asian diesel truck. Reviews of this truck since its inception have been fair to poor at best with complaints ranging from poor handling and fuel economy, excessive diesel exhaust fluid consumption due to a low capacity tank, and styling that is less than imaginative (some have called it an F-150 copy).

Mechanical issues including poor transmission performance as well as a variety of other issues uncovered by a simple Google search of “Nissan Diesel problems”. Poor pickup is also a complaint of the Cummins powered Titan. Interestingly, there were not many problems listed with the Cummins itself. Most of the complaints were typical of those we have seen as technicians over the course of working on the Nissan product line that have long made them a distant cousin to Toyota and Honda in terms of quality and reliability. Some other complaints are issues with failing radiators, door lock actuators and window motors.

(Courtesy of Cummins Media) Cummins also offers a two-stage turbo on it’s 5.0 Liter Nissan Offering.

While major issues on these Nissan trucks remain to be seen it is always a good idea to be prepared. The Nissan platform has one that has been known for needing reprogramming and as such a suitable J-2534 device is required. Some have also moved to the CONSULT-III, the factory tool for Nissan / Infiniti in order to ensure a cleaner programming transaction.

Mazda

The Mazda CX-5 Diesel is slated for sale in late 2017. The CX-5 will be the first diesel offering here in the states for Mazda and will feature Mazda Skyactiv-D technology. Mazda claims this engine to be “the world’s lowest compression ratio diesel” at 14:1 and boats this to be a clean, highly efficient engine that “will comply with strict exhaust gas regulations globally without the aid of expensive NOx (nitrogen oxides) aftertreatment systems.” According to Mazda, Features of the Skyactiv-D platform include “20 percent better fuel efficiency thanks to the low compression ratio of 14.0:1.” Mazda does not specify what the 20 percent is in comparison to which makes it difficult to judge what the rated fuel economy will actually be. Also featured, and similar to the Cummins offering, is a newly developed, two-stage turbo charger. This dual stage trend is also making its way into other brands such as Lexus (On the NX 2.0), but the Mazda will be the first proprietary two-stage on a diesel here in the US. Mazda claims this turbo will also lend itself to providing superior throttle response and torque in all RPM ranges. Emissions on the Skyactiv-D “Comply with global emissions regulations (Euro6 in Europe and the Post New Long-Term Regulations in Japan), without expensive NOx aftertreatment,” according to the automaker.

(Images courtesy of Mazda Media) The Mazda CX-5 with Skyactiv-D diesel is slated for launch in late 2017.
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