Nissan has taken an interesting approach with the new TITAN. Unlike Ram, they actually released the diesel version to the public first in 2016, with a gasoline engine option to come at a later date as a 2017 model. What’s more, there are actually two TITANs to choose from: the heavier-duty TITAN XD (available with either diesel or gas power) and the conventional, just-released TITAN (gas only).
Both the 2017 Nissan TITAN and TITAN XD, additionally, get two model subsets unto themselves: you have the basic truck, available in a variety of trim levels (S, SV, SL, and the ultra-luxurious Platinum Reserve), as well as the more off-road-centric Pro-4X model. The latter is almost an entirely different vehicle with off-road specific tires, Bilstein dampers, underbody skidplates, and the deletion of the sidesteps.
To give these new trucks a go, we were dispatched to Quebec’s Charlevoix region―steeped in agriculture that has inspired hundreds of painters over the years―on a couple of beautiful fall days in October.
The big news for 2017 is the launch of two new gas engines for the Nissan TITAN including a 5.6L V8 that’s good for 390 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque, while an even more fuel-efficient V6 will arrive later in 2017. So, for now, the V8 is the star of the show in the gas engine department.
You’ll feel it and hear it right away, too. From startup, the V8 emits a burbly growl through the rear tailpipes, and as you start to push it a little more, it takes on the air more akin to a muscle car than a workaday pickup truck. It’s not overly loud and in-your-face, however; I found it very smooth in its operation and capable of executing even the hardest manoeuvres (passing a slow-moving farm vehicle on the highway, for example) without turning you deaf or shaking your ribcage.
You can partially thank the 7-speed Jatco transmission for this. Diesel trucks get a 6-speed Aisin autobox, but I like the 7-speed unit as the extra ratio makes it easier to exploit the less torque-rich gasoline engine.
Meanwhile, a number of changes in noise insulation in the chassis and around the cabin make the ride that much quieter. It starts with the front and side windows, which have been given sound-deadening laminated glass―a feature normally seen on luxury cars and SUVs―allowing occupants to carry on a conversation at normal levels. Add triple-layer insulation in the dash as well as 45% better sealed body seams, and you have an improvement of 3 dBa over the previous generation. It’s great for the quieter V8, but it makes a world of difference in the louder diesel trucks. Want more? Active body mounts mean additional savings of 10 dBa.
As good as it is to ride in a quiet vehicle, it’s nice to have that complimented by comfortable environs with regard to materials used and the tech on offer. If you pick either the Platinum Reserve or Pro-4X Luxury trim, all manner of luxurious materials are at your disposal: Sumptuous leather seats, real open-pore wood inserts, front- and rear-seat heating, a heated steering wheel, and dual-zone climate control all do their part to make you forget you’re driving a pickup.
With regard to on-board technology, however, there is some work still to be done. While vehicles like the Ram 1500 and Ford F-150 are going with big, bright infotainment displays, the 2017 Nissan TITAN gets a 7” display that looks smaller than it is and features slightly muddy graphics and a less-than-responsive touchscreen. Worse still, it’s surrounded by bland plastic panels and buttons. It’s a truck, so who cares, right? Perhaps, but in the furiously competitive (and loyal) truck game, these things matter, especially considering that more and more people are using their trucks for more than just the jobsite. I am a fan of the display between the gauges, however, as it provides all kinds of info―from your trip computer to the road’s grade angle―in big, bold, clear graphics. The Nissan Around View monitor’s top-down view is also a huge blessing when it comes to parking a vehicle of this size.
You shouldn’t have any trouble with the interior space, mind you. Both the TITAN and TITAN XD are huge inside (they share the same body from the A-pillars back). With 1,061 mm of legroom for front passengers and 978 mm for rear passengers, you’ll be able to get the whole family in with hardly any difficulty. Those measurements pertain only to the Crew Cab model, which is all we’re getting for now until the King Cab and single cab models arrive later in 2017.
Of course, once the kids are dropped off at school and it’s time to get to work, the rear seats can easily be flipped up. And while the floor isn’t flat at the outset, it can be made so by folding out the floor beneath the seats, which also reveals previously hidden storage bins. The resulting platform can hold 136 kg.
Speaking of load hauling…
Another benefit of the lighter V8 gas engine is that the weight saved can be put towards a larger payload. The 2017 Nissan TITAN can hold 1,610 kg in its cargo bed compared to just 1,145 kg for the TITAN XD Diesel. Bed lengths, meanwhile, will be restricted to 6.5’ on King Cab models and 8’ on single cab models; Crew Cab models currently offer 5.5’ and 6.5’ beds.
The two shorter cargo beds get all manner of tech to make hauling easier. Nissan’s Utili-trak system allows the installation of various racks, while the removable TITAN Box storage system adds sealed storage to either side of the bed―ideal for wet or dirty items… or a pile of ice cubes if you happen to need a cooler. It’s better than the similar system found in the Ram in that it’s removable and the Ram’s is fixed. It’s worse in that you have to reach over the side of the bed to access content, while the Ram’s Rambox is built directly into the outside wall.
We loaded 362 kg worth of apples into the bed to see just how capable the new Nissan TITAN was. While that’s only about a third of what this truck can legally haul, it’s still an impressive weight, made that much more impressive by how little it affected acceleration. Even on the steep 10% grades we were tackling, the loaded truck surged forward and displayed little hesitation under braking. The heavier load also made for a smoother ride: The TITAN still uses leaf springs in the rear, and while Nissan says they’ve been tuned to walk the line between capable and comfortable, we did notice some jounce over small, repetitive bumps when unladen. Not so once we started doing our best farm-to-table-delivery-man impression.
Sure, you can tow in the regular 2017 Nissan TITAN, but the real star in this department is the TITAN XD Diesel with up to 5,460 kg of capability. Picture a heavy-duty trailer laden with a Bobcat front-loader, and you pretty much get the idea. That’s what we used to put it to the test.
Like the TITAN did when loaded with apples, the TITAN XD Diesel would not be denied when it came to dragging that Bobcat behind it―up hills, down hills, around bends, you name it. We did it all and were impressed.
When climbing, the diesel V8 proves an able partner with 555 lb-ft of torque, keeping the pace and even having enough in the tank to pass slower traffic on the steepest of climbs. Then, when it’s time to head back down, activating tow mode with the press of a button on the end of the column-mounted gear lever also activates engine braking. Simply tap the brakes once as you head down a grade, and the transmission will help you comfortably descend without having to wear down the brakes. Of course, in addition to that, there’s also an adjustable trailer brake control, though I wish it were a little easier to reach.
The TITAN’s back-up camera has a guideline to help you line up your hitch. While appreciated, it can’t hold a candle to the multitude of aids featured on the king of techy F-Series Super Duty, which we sampled earlier this year. That may seem like an unfair comparison, but with Nissan taking a shot at filling the towing gap between light- and heavy-duty trucks, wouldn’t it have behooved them to develop these a little further?
When the going gets tough, the tough get going
In addition to the standard and fifth-wheel hitches, the 2017 Nissan TITAN XD Diesel can also be specified with a gooseneck option. This makes sense; gooseneck trailers are made to work well on uneven roads, and if the TITAN’s off-road chops are any indication, it’s meant to be used in these types of circumstances.
The Pro-4X model we tested climbed a ski hill with no problem. Then, when it was time to attack more common off-road scenarios like rocky gravel paths, the suspension sucked up the bumps with hardly a complaint, keeping the body in check. There’s also a hill-descent control system, but I found it less impressive as you’re limited to an incredibly slow speed and the way the ABS intervenes to maintain said speed is harsh and noisy.
The main issue came on looser gravel roads that would cause traction control to step in a little more often as the long wheelbase would begin to slide. While I liked how transparent the TITAN’s traction control was, I do wonder if less experienced drivers would ask a little more from the system.
Into the storm
The first days of our test were shrouded in stormy skies, the perfect metaphor for just how hotly competitive and tumultuous the half-ton pickup segment is. Has Nissan answered the bell with this latest truck? Well, if you look to the skies again for an answer, then the gorgeous blue skies that closed out our drive would suggest that yes, they most certainly have done their homework. They’ve developed a truck in the XD Diesel that can haul at nearly the pace of more expensive heavy-duty trucks from other manufacturers, while the slightly lower and less rough-and-tumble TITAN is a worthy on-road companion for long hauls and some tighter city driving alike.
Yes, the looks remain divisive, but the lower-profile hood on the Nissan TITAN makes a world of difference and creates a better-looking truck than the TITAN XD and TITAN XD Diesel. Moreover, the starting price of $44,650 for the Crew Cab actually undercuts similarly equipped offerings from both Chevrolet and Ford. The $53,400 required to get into the TITAN XD Diesel, meanwhile, beat the F-250 Lariat to the punch by $6,600. It’s a great way to get super-duty hauling power without having to pay super-duty prices.
It will be interesting to see how pricing for the short-cab, long-box versions competes, since trucks at that level typically retail for less than $30,000. If Nissan can woo some fleet buyers, then watch out.
The capabilities are undoubtedly there, and pickup buyers who aren’t died-in-the wool fans of a single brand should absolutely have a look. Heck, even those who are and plan to buy a new truck should at least consider it.