Rate It: The Nissan Trail Runner Was Like a Lifted, Off-Road Sports Car

Sure, you could put some trick suspension on a sports car to give it a bit more off-road capability, but it probably won’t come close to the kind of ground clearance that Nissan gave its Trail Runner concept.

Perhaps ahead of its time, the Trail Runner—introduced at the 1997 Tokyo International Auto Show—was two-door sports car equipped with a massive rear wing and an absurd amount of ground clearance. That wing did serve more than one purpose, however, as it doubled as a snowboard holder.

The spare tire and wheel were placed in a sort of tray that slid out through the rear bumper. Equally unexpected was the yellow interior.

A 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine was said to lurk under the hood, sending around 180 horsepower and 140 lb.-ft. of torque to all four wheels through a continuously variable transmission.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Trail Runner never made it to production.

Was the Nissan Trail Runner an idea ahead of its time, or are there few situations in which a lifted sports coupe is the most practical choice?

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View comments on the GRM forums
Patrick (Forum Supporter)
Patrick (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/18/20 10:09 a.m.

This doesn't help my desire to build a lifted car 

Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) UberDork
11/18/20 10:13 a.m.

Love it. Given that most of the SUVs out there are basically sedans that have been stretched vertically and restyled, why not give us the higher ride hight and tougher suspension bits, but leave the sport coupe format?  

matthewmcl (Forum Supporter)
matthewmcl (Forum Supporter) Reader
11/18/20 10:18 a.m.

Ahead of its time? It seems like an updated AMC Eagle. I would be very tempted by that.

spandak HalfDork
11/18/20 11:07 a.m.

I'm not a CVT hater but I cannot see that being the right choice in this application. Interesting idea though

I do want a lifted car 

MotorsportsGordon HalfDork
11/18/20 11:17 a.m.

I see mustang  and 928 when I look at the rear.

MotorsportsGordon HalfDork
11/18/20 11:20 a.m.

The front angle shots remind of the saturn ion redline.

spacecadet (Forum Supporter)
spacecadet (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
11/18/20 11:26 a.m.
spandak said:

I'm not a CVT hater but I cannot see that being the right choice in this application. Interesting idea though

I do want a lifted car 

this is the right kind of application for a transmission like mazda's skyactive automatic, you still get the torque converter, but it will engage the lockup clutch and once you are moving.

i agree the CVT is a bad choice here.

spandak HalfDork
11/18/20 12:04 p.m.

Mazda does make a good transmission. Very intuitive

MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
11/18/20 12:39 p.m.

It looks like a hybrid of a Pontiac Aztec and a Ford RS200.

Placemotorsports Reader
11/18/20 12:47 p.m.

Always wanted a lifted Miata

thatsnowinnebago (Forum Supporter)
thatsnowinnebago (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
11/18/20 12:54 p.m.

Its like a proto-Rally Fighter. Wonder if Local Motors still makes those...

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) PowerDork
11/18/20 1:49 p.m.

Somebody needs to try throwing a Hyundai Tucson drive train under a Tiburon, or some such nonsense from another OEM.

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