The good people at Nissan saw fit to invite me as a representative of CurbsideClassic to attend a dinner and driving event focused on the new 2017 Nissan Titan. Most of you have probably heard/seen/read something about the new Titan XD (perhaps best described as a 5/8 ton truck) but the focus here was on the addition of the regular 1/2 ton Titan (non-XD) to the range.
The event was held at the Denver Coliseum, which Nissan seemed to have rented out in its entirety. Upon arrival I was ushered into the main arena where I was greeted by several staff members, handed my name badge and informed that we would first be enjoying dinner, then given a walkaround tour of the truck and after that be heading outside to sample various trucks on both an On- as well as an Off-road course that had been laid out for us.
While I was waiting, Nissan had erected sort of a maze and gathering area lined with huge displays and video presentation proudly explaining Nissan’s rich history of trucks. Some of them were obviously familiar to me (and you) but a couple were new.
There was one panel that spoke of the early 1980’s trucks and pictured was the first one that was built in the United States in 1983 – If you attended the Lane Motor Museum gathering this summer, you saw this particular truck in their collection.
Once the invitees had all arrived, we were ushered to the dinner area which had a buffet consisting of selections from an excellent local BBQ place with all the trimmings as well as beverages and dessert. I sat at a table with two other attendees (there were around twenty in total) and we chatted trucks and writing etc while we ate.
There was a short introduction of our hosts and product specialists while we ate. The food was absolutely delicious, by the way. Nissan USA now being HQ’d in Tennessee apparently helps in selecting a quality BBQ vendor.
After dinner we moved into another area of the arena which was set up sort of camp-fire style with a new 2017 Titan where the campfire would normally be. Off to one side was big brother, a Titan XD, and on the other side was a table with selected components from both trucks to help explain the differences between the two.
One of the Nissan representatives then walked around the whole truck and explained some of the features that were on it while his colleague followed him around with a camera whose feed was displayed on a huge screen above the truck so that we could all follow along with whatever detail he was showing.
What I found interesting is that the sample truck was a Titan SV which is the second step up from the bottom of the range, there are several levels above this version and only one below it. What was most interesting is that this was far from the most loaded model but was still very well equipped with no obvious signs that you would have missed out on stuff by purchasing this level.
For example the seats were a stain-resistant cloth, and when I crawled all over the truck later in the evening, I found that the cloth was very soft, had excellent “feel”, and seemed far nicer than what I’ve seen in some competitors. Leather seating is a reasonably priced option but for my money I would probably stick with the cloth.
Now, I’m the first to admit that I do not know everything about trucks, I have somehow not owned one as part of my 44+ vehicles to date but have eyed them over the years. I don’t profess to know all the details of every manufacturer and every model but this one seemed nicer than the equivalent level offered by the competition. By “nicer” I mean the quality of the plastics, carpet, seats, and other materials that you’d see and notice on a daily basis.
Nissan will also be introducing different cabs (Regular and King in addition to the Crew featured here), but the cab here is identical to the one on the XD version, the differences between them are underneath (frame and hardware) and wheelbase as well as bed length. This regular version has the common shorter 5.5 foot bed while the XD has a longer bed.
All of the regular versions share a (related but significantly revised from the old Titan) 5.6 liter V8 engine that produces 390hp and 394lb-ft of torque with the standard 7-speed automatic transmission while gas mileage is rated at 15 city/21 highway and 18 combined with a 9393lb tow rating. (The much bally-hood Cummins Diesel V8 is available in the XD version only.) Is this all class leading? In some ways yes, in some ways perhaps not, but the focus of this truck is for the regular guy, maybe someone who uses it to commute, haul stuff on the weekends, maybe pull a normal sized boat or snowmobiles or whatever. Pretty much the way that most of the other ½ ton trucks are used most of the time.
Does Nissan think they are going to take over the market? I doubt it, many people are simply too entrenched in their own brand loyalty to ever consider it but perhaps some people want to switch to something new, or they aren’t a fan of the Toyota Tundra, or they just want a different option. It’s a big market, even a small share of it can be a very good result.
Some of the standard features and optional extras include acoustic glass on the front side windows as well as the windshield to reduce noise along with is apparently a large amount of sound insulation and better door seals, a multifunctional rear seat that can be folded up with a compartment below that is lockable and differently configurable, hydraulic body mounts to isolate the cab from the frame and reduce NVH, several bed rail and cleat configurations to help make securing loads easier, factory applied spray-in bedliner, a 120V outlet in the bed area along with a plethora of lighting in the bed and more.
Obviously the more entrenched players in the segment offer even more customization options but this seemed like a very good start for Nissan’s second attempt at the full-size truck market after leaving the original Titan withering on the vine for a bit too long.
This particular model (SV, 4WD, Crewcab) starts at $40,700 and with the options mentioned above comes out to around $46,000 on the sticker. Leather would be an additional $860 per the online configurator. I guess the end price depends on your own bargaining skills. My local dealer tends to be fairly aggressive…
One other thing that was touched on was the amount of American involvement in the design and construction of these. The truck was designed in California, the engines are built in Tennessee (Gas) and Indiana (Diesel), the truck is assembled in Mississippi (with some components from different countries, admittedly), and overall seems to be very “American” even though Nissan is obviously a Japanese company.
Personally I’ve always been more concerned with where a vehicle is actually designed and manufactured rather than where the HQ is as I figure even if the profits go elsewhere, there are still plenty of wages being paid to the locals that design, engineer, and build the things that in turn would use that money to spend on things that I (and you) may produce or offer.
After the walkaround we were led outside where after a short safety talk, we were split into groups and some started with the on-road and others with the off-road course. I started on-road and climbed into a truck with the Nissan “professional driver” along with a couple of other people. The driver led us around the course that was laid out in the Coliseum parking lot.
One would have thought that the lot would be smooth, however what made it perfect for this experience is that it was apparently built on an old landfill and as a result has settled and buckled over the years to resemble a mix between a moonscape and a drive-in theater lot with serious elevation changes and off-camber turns laid out within the course.
The course let us sample full-throttle acceleration (quite good), panic stopping (minimal bounce but I think I now have seat belt marks across my chest), a slalom section (surprisingly responsive for the size), bump stretch (it was bumpy, we bounced around but apparently in comfort, I did not bonk my head) and an emergency lane change section (I think I would have missed the moose if this was real and we didn’t roll over so that was a success).
I did notice something while sitting in the back. While there are three different places/handles to hold on to, none of them were perfect. The handle above the window was too high to comfortably reach, the angled one at the top edge of the doorframe was too far forward and the one in the doorpanel itself was too far back ending up mid-forearm. There really needs to be an angled one near the front edge of the doorpanel. On the plus side there are apparently 14 (!) cupholders in each truck along with oodles of storage spaces.
You’ll notice that my somewhat poor pictures of the lot make it appear as if it was nighttime. Well, it was, which added a whole new dimension to everything. Still, the headlights did a good job of illuminating everything and nobody got lost on the course as far as I could tell. I just had my iPhone (sorry) as opposed to some of the others, one of which had this giant camera and was running all over the place taking pictures of literally everything and himself becoming an obstacle to be avoided.
After my first run, they asked if anyone would like to try a diesel, Yes Sir, hook me up! It turned out to be the XD version with the Cummins V8. Much of the course felt the same but a bit more muted as the difference is about a foot in wheelbase, 1000 pounds of extra weight and the diesel engine that builds torque fairly quickly but off the line takes a moment to get going.
I actually preferred the throttle actuation on the diesel as the gas engine, if anything, tips in too quickly making the start a little lurchy if that’s a word. The diesel was more like an older Mercedes in that respect. The diesel V8 was VERY quiet, nowhere near the rattle of a Cummins inline-6 as in the Ram, I don’t think I even recall hearing the engine.
After that I did the off-road course. Once again, I must confess that in addition to not being a truck nut, I am also more of a paved road guy and couldn’t really tell you what was or wasn’t impressive about the Nissan as compared to other trucks.
What I did recall is that in one section where we were balanced on two diagonally opposed wheels and sort of rocking back and forth, the doors still opened and closed without any binding and the way it can descend a steep hill without ANY driver involvement at a walking pace while braking itself was very cool.
Just as impressive were the cameras that would show you the path your passenger side wheels were taking (as you might want to know if near a boulder or dropoff) as well as a forward image with predictive lines (opposite of a backup camera on a modern car) that worked great when cresting a ridge when all we were looking at was the moon straight up but knew that somewhere in front was another truck.
I believe this camera setup is optional (or perhaps included with the Pro-4X package) but Nissan has had a good reputation for some time with its cameras, notably its all around ones, which make it look like you have a birds-eye view around the vehicle.
After this I headed back inside and looked closely at the sample truck that we did the walkaround on as well as the parts table. The XD components are certainly much heavier than the regular ones but even those seemed very beefy.
The front brake rotors for example, the ones on the regular truck are big and felt heavier than the ones I recently replaced on my Mercedes GL450, which I thought were huge and heavy already.
Then I looked at the XD rotor and tried to lift one up, I’m not kidding when I say that it was difficult to lift one-handed and I don’t think I could have walked the length of the building with it in one hand. The frame sections on hand were clearly different as well and there were a few other key items to play with.
Looking at the truck I was struck with how far back the engine is in the chassis, much (most?) of it seems to be under the firewall. If being serviced a stepladder or laying on the front end is probably the best option.
Many of us bemoan the height of trucks so I tested reaching into the bed from the side. It turns out that I can stand flatfooted and if I am willing to jam the side of the bed into my armpit (OK if the truck is clean, not if wet or filthy) then I could touch the bottom of the bed of the truck.
Picking up a suitcase or 5-gallon bucket would be no problem for me as long as they were near the side. For reference I am 6-foot 1-inch tall. The tailgate was damped on the way down and assisted on the way up. I think any of my kids would be able to handle it without a problem.
Obviously my time with the trucks was limited and the driving experience was very prescribed. I liked what I saw but can’t really judge all of its merits without the opportunity to try it for a longer period of time but don’t have much of a comparative basis anyway.
I did drive my Mercedes GL450 to the event since I figured of my fleet it was closest to a Nissan given that Nissan (Infiniti) and Mercedes currently have a few joint ventures in place and it was the most trucklike. Overall I think the Nissan Titan actually has a better ride than the Mercedes, it is vastly more spacious inside (mainly width of the seating areas) and the Nissan Titan was certainly faster and perhaps even quieter.
I am thankful for the invitation, it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. Nissan also made sure I left with some stuff as pictured above to remember my evening (Thank You!). Would I consider a Nissan Titan? Actually I would, I really liked the basic level interior which on the competition I generally have issues with until optioned up into the stratosphere and it seemed a fair value overall.
I have no idea how aggressive Nissan dealers are with selling these compared to the competition but it seems that Nissan corporate wants to see more of these out on the road. The reality is that I would use it for regular driving duties and some hauling work, it would be convenient but I know I would rarely if ever tax its abilities to the hilt based on what I saw at the event.