Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Nissan Trail Runner amazing SUV ahead of its time


At the end of the nineties of the last century, rally raids were at the height of their popularity, and the Paris-Dakar was called so not for a red word, but for the actual start and finish points (although there were cases when the start was given, say, in the Spanish Granada - in 1995 and 1996). From 1994 to 1996, the race was dominated by Citroën ZX prototypes, which became the main inspiration for the Nissan Trail Runner concept.

The Trail Runner was first shown at the 1997 Frankfurt Motor Show. In the same year, the car was shown at an exhibition in Tokyo. And it wasn't a homologated competition car - the designers just came up with an image of a sports car that would be equally exciting on any road surface.

The all-wheel drive and all-wheel drive chassis of the Nissan Skyline GT-R with the ATTESA system was taken as the basis, on which a relatively light fiberglass body was hoisted. The ground clearance was significantly increased, tires 205/55 R18 appeared with rims of the original design. In order for the car to cope with any road conditions, the driver could select the appropriate coverage mode using the Multi-control Grip selector. About the same as Land Rover's Terrain Response, only a few years earlier.

In the cabin, in addition to bright yellow inserts and luxurious "buckets", one could find all the advanced electronics at that time: an LCD instrument panel, climate control, a TV, a navigation system, and a projection display that displays speed data on the windshield.

The choice of gearbox from a racing point of view seems strange - it is a V-chain variator with six virtual gears. Rather, Nissan engineers wanted to once again show their most progressive transmission at that time. And although CVTs were not used on Nissan sports cars, on other models this type of gearbox is still almost the main one. It was possible to switch between six virtual speeds manually.

Some of the solutions implemented in this concept still found their serial implementation - the most parallels can be drawn between the interiors of the Trail Runner and the first 350Z. This is the architecture of the dashboard, and the design of the luggage compartment with a powerful transverse strut.

At the same time, the color scheme of the interior and smooth lines create an emphatically non-aggressive mood. The serial 350Z was nevertheless more strict and sporty in spirit.

The concept also had pseudo-racing features, such as a spare wheel placed on a retractable platform in the bowels of the rear bumper. In the rear wing there are two slots for snowboards. The Trail Runner has xenon headlights - a very technological solution by the standards of 1997.

It is no coincidence that the wheels look huge: 18 inches a quarter of a century ago, only concept cars could afford. For comparison: the Nissan Maxima business sedan of the same year was content with 15-inch wheels.

At the same time, the tire size 205/55 R18 today would undoubtedly be recorded as a “crossover” tire size: a relatively small width, a high profile and a large landing diameter. By the way, the modern Qashqai has larger 18-inch wheels: the tire size is 215/55 R18.

The Trail Runner had an appropriate engine - a NEO VVL four-cylinder power unit equipped with a turbocharger system and variable valve timing. The power of the 1.8-liter "heart" was 185 horsepower, and the maximum torque was 196 Newton meters.

If the characteristics did not impress you (for example, because you remember how much power the Germans removed from the serial "four" 1.8 of the first Audi TT) - everything from what we did not mention: this is a diesel engine.

However, no matter how good the Trail Runner concept was, this project did not grow into anything serious. Perhaps the public simply did not show enough interest in such a Mega Track at the minimum. Since then, Nissan has not returned to the topic of rally-raid cars. Even as concept cars. We add that in the history of Nissan there have already been concepts that were ahead of their time and therefore (presumably) did not receive a serial continuation.


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