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2010/2011 Maxima diesel
Since fuel economy is the main motivation behind offering a diesel in the Maxima, I personally believe a smaller displacement (2.5L to 3.0L) is the best option. Since the car will probably weigh between 3,600 and 3,800 pounds, I would think the motor should produce at least 200 horsepower. This doesn't sound like much, but a 200 to 220 horsepower turbo-diesel will easily produce 280 to 300 pound/feet of torque. With well-spaced transmission ratios, the car could actually perform decently.
By saying it could perform decently, I'm making an educated guess and projecting a zero-to-60 time of between 7.5 to 8.0 seconds, and a quarter mile time between 15.5 to 16.0 seconds.
Now, if they went with higher turbo boost (and/or higher displacement), they would probably get output figures of at least 230 or 240 HP and 350+ pound/feet of torque. My educated guess, for those output figures, would project zero-to-60 times of 6.5 to 7 seconds, and quarter mile times around 15.0 seconds. However, assuming the automotive gremlin "torque steer" is caused by a high-torque engine driving the front wheels, having this much torque in a FWD configuration would cause some major torque steer issues. I'd assume, then, that a 350+ pound/feet turbo-diesel would require AWD, dividing that power between all 4 wheels to avoid the serious torque steer issue. The only other way to go about it would be to develop some type of revolutionary new FWD torque management system that could actually balance that much torque between the two front wheels to eliminate a large amount of the torque steer.
Remember, people who choose diesels are looking for better MPG, and at the same time would prefer not to deal with monster torque steer issues. Having a high-output diesel and AWD could push the cost too high. At this point, I'm betting on a lower-output turbodiesel, producing 200 to 220 horsepower and 280 to 300 pound-feet of torque, with FWD. Anyone have other ideas or suggestions? I'll bet Nissan has their ears open.