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A look at future Nissan products

Wed, 29 Aug 2012

The push for fuel economy leadership will heavily influence the look and performance of Nissan's new products for the next three years. The effort will be focused on three primary areas: cutting vehicle weight, improving aerodynamics and reducing friction in the engine and transmission.

Those three priorities already can be seen in the 2013 Altima, which went on sale in June with 20 percent better fuel economy than the outgoing model. They have also shaped the upcoming Sentra compact, Pathfinder SUV, Versa hatchback and Rogue crossover.

The friction-reduction directive has Nissan more focused on improving existing powertrains rather than plunging into new engine programs. But Nissan also has developed new engines that will see greater use in the North American market in the coming product cycle.

Chief among them: Nissan's in-house developed hybrid drive, which has yet to debut in a U.S. Nissan vehicle, and turbocharged direct-injection engines that have been used only in the Juke so far.

Here is a rundown of Nissan product plans for the 2013 through 2015 model years.

Sentra: Nissan will launch a new generation of its compact sedan for 2013, appearing late this year with a more Altima-like design. The outgoing model was perceived to have too radical a design for the mass-appeal segment. Nissan now hopes to move the car into the sweet spot in which the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic thrive, typically at three times the Sentra's volume.

Pathfinder: A redesigned Pathfinder will arrive in mid-fall, moving from a body-on-frame truck to a unibody construction it will share with the Infiniti JX. Although still two months from reaching showrooms, the next Pathfinder already is being touted as having the highest fuel efficiency of the mid-sized crossover segment, claiming 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.

Vehicle weight will fall by 500 pounds, primarily from dropping the truck frame. The 2013 model will have a 3.5-liter V6 engine instead of the previous model's 4.0-liter V6, and will switch to a more fuel-efficient continuously variable transmission.

Versa: The redesigned sedan version of the Versa debuted last year with styling based on the Asian-market Nissan Sunny. The redesigned hatchback will appear late next spring as a 2013 model, based on the Japanese-market Note. The new model will be sportier looking than the current hatchback, with a more angular front end and a pronounced slope to the back roof.

Rogue: The popular compact crossover will be redesigned for the 2014 model year at the same time production moves from Japan to Smyrna, Tenn. The next Rogue is likely to use a design influenced by the Hi-Cross global crossover concept shown this year at the Geneva auto show, which featured a rounded front end and a backward-sloping roofline. Although engine plans vary from market to market on global platforms, the Geneva concept envisioned a hybrid powertrain mated with a 2.0-liter engine.

Titan: The second generation of the full-sized pickup was to have appeared as a 2014 model but was pushed back a year as a result of the strain on engineering resources caused by the March 2011 Japanese earthquake. The next Titan had been planned as a Chrysler-built 2012 model, but the partnership was scrapped during the 2009 economic crash.

Nissan is considering Titan variations to include a regular cab body style, which it has never offered, and also a more fuel-efficient smaller-displacement engine option. The current generation offers only a 5.6-liter V8.

Leaf: The biggest change to the electric Leaf in the near term is expected to be its price, which should be helped when it moves from Japan production to Smyrna in December. The company's main focus in product enhancement for now is extending the range of its lithium ion battery.

GT-R: Contrary to a rash of recent press reports, Nissan's high-end GT-R sports car is not dead or scheduled to die. The development program is active, and Nissan is planning an undetermined number of model variations of the low-volume racer to appear in the 2014-16 time frame. Because the sports car is a unique piece of the portfolio, its future development is not being shaped by Nissan's push for fuel-efficiency and weight reduction.

Cube: Nissan will discontinue the cargo version of its quirky B-platform Cube crossover this year. But the nameplate's long-range future is far from certain. Clearly an underachiever, the Cube is selling fewer than 700 units a month so far this year. But it still represents an entry-level, fuel-efficient youth-market product for Nissan in a segment in which sales of the somewhat similar Kia Soul top 10,000 a month. Nissan's position in the segment has been hampered by sourcing the Cube from high-yen Japan, where the model remains popular.

Armada: The full-sized SUV was restyled for the 2008 model year. It is built on the same frame as the Titan pickup and will be redesigned on the same timetable.

370Z: Nissan's next Z will arrive in 2014 as a 2015 model. Nissan designers are trimming down the dimensions. But what is not clear yet is whether Nissan will also have a smaller front-wheel-drive "Mini Z" selling at a lower price point.

Murano: The Murano's second generation launched in January 2008 as a 2009 model. It will be the 2015 model year before the redesigned next generation arrives.

Maxima: The brand's flagship is scheduled for a redesign in 2014 or 2015. As with the new Altima, Nissan will use the redesign to make a significant gain in fuel economy.

Frontier: Production of the pickup is being relocated to Canton, Miss., in time to launch 2013-model sales early next year. No major changes are planned. A reskin is scheduled in 2014, with new sheet metal and improved aerodynamics to improve fuel economy.

Xterra: A reskinned Xterra SUV is scheduled for 2014. The model got a face-lift in 2009.

Juke: The Juke will be freshened for 2014. The limited-edition Juke-R, fitted with the GT-R's turbocharged 480-hp V-6 and a $590,000 sticker price, will continue on a build-to-order basis.

By Lindsay Chappell- Automotive News