Definitely ahead of its time, this 1997 Trail Runner concept.
Nissan was ahead of Jeep and many others who started sensing this small/fast off-roader trend by the early 2000s. Other big guys threw more production muscle to make sketches like this car a real thing, but the results were shockingly-bad from Pontiac and Jeep.
Yes, both the Pontiac Aztek and Jeep Compass were, in fact, really cool sketches and designs at first. But they were both D.O.A. in production thanks to tiny tires and no engine power to match the compact off-road racer premise.
Time has finally come for these ideas to go mainstream, which they arguably are in the Range Rover Evoque Coupe and a few others. But the rear-drive proportions and ski-rack/spoiler of the Nissan Trail Runner still set the bar high for a true off-road compact.
Perhaps the Nissan Juke Baja? Or how about the Ford EcoSport Raptor? See? It is a hard thing to make real.
The 2015 Peugeot Dakar entry is darn close to the holy grail of mini baja blaster, albeit a mid-engine model. It does look very short and very narrow (and very tall) versus the Trail Runner.
Did one inspire the other? Not really. =]
Very different ideas overall, but similar levels of cool desirability.
But on the 1997 Tokyo show floor — and perhaps even out on the rough stuff — the Nissan Trail Runner concept was top-of-the-rocks.
Concept Flashback – 1997 Nissan Trail Runner
What do you think?