Nissan has struggled with a legitimate alternative to the full-size pickup powerhouses from Ford, Chevrolet/GMC and RAM. In its second generation, does the 2017 Nissan Titan have what it takes?
What is it?
The Nissan Titan is a full-size, V-8-powered pickup truck, available in a range of trim levels, and in single- or crew-cab configurations. It’s up against competition from rival Toyota with the aging Tundra, and Ford, Chevrolet/GMC and RAM, all with established full-size trucks.
The Titan is the direct competitor to the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra and the RAM 1500. Nissan offers the Titan in an XD model that aims to compete with the lighter duty versions of the 3/4-ton trucks from those manufacturers.
Like the RAM 1500, Nissan offers the Titan with a diesel engine — a 5.0-liter Cummins — making those the two trucks in this segment that offer diesels in half-ton configuration. The Titan we drove had the 5.6-liter gas-powered V-8.
Pricing and trims
You can’t describe any full-size pickup as “cheap” now, and the Titan is no exception. The least expensive way out is the Nissan Titan S in regular cab, rear-drive configuration. Even that truck starts out at just south of $30,000. The target customer for that stripped regular cab is probably the company that services your pool. Nissan only offers regular cab pickups in the S and SV trim levels. The SV regular cab starts at $32,460 and adds chrome trim, a Sirius XM radio, Advanced Drive-Assist display and trailer sway control.
From the $37,670 SV Crew Cab (4×2), it’s an $8,710 jump to the volume leader, the Titan Crew Cab SL. It pads the equipment list with remote start, leather seats, NissanConnect services via the Sirius XM radio, and a Rockford Fosgate sound system.
At the top of the ladder is the truck we drove, the 2017 Nissan Titan Crew Cab Platinum Reserve. In 4×2 format, you’re looking at $52,310. Four-wheel drive brings it to $55,4o0.
Check out the video review we did with NESNFuel:
Full-size pickups have gone through some revolutionary advances to catch up to cars in the last few decades. It wasn’t long ago that pickups didn’t even have headrests. Nissan’s no different, but the proof of how those advances are working hasn’t surfaced yet. NHTSA and the IIHS are both slow to crash test full-size trucks, and neither has evaluated the updated Titan — new for this year — in its crashworthiness. Since the truck went through a complete redesign, it’s not even worth looking at crash ratings from its last generation.
The equipment is there, though. It has a full complement of driver and front passenger airbags, side airbags and roof curtain airbags that protect occupants in side and rollover crashes. The Titan also features Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with Traction Control, both of which work to manage traction and minimize under- and over-steer to help drivers avoid a crash.
The Platinum Reserve also adds a range of additional crash avoidance equipment. Signal your intent to merge into an accompanying lane, and visual and audible signals let you know if a car is occupying that space.
The Titan is an enormous truck, so the addition of the Around View Monitor is key. Place the truck in Reverse and the camera shows two different views: the first is a standard backup camera, but the second utilizes cameras under both mirrors, on the tailgate and under the Nissan emblem in the grille. These cameras provide a 360-degree bird’s eye view of the truck and whatever is around it. If pedestrians or other objects are around, the system signals the driver. It combines with rear cross-traffic alert to help drivers avoid backing into pedestrians or other vehicles. Sensors also alert drivers to objects close by when the truck is in drive.
Nissan makes a terrific gas-powered V-8 engine. The 5.6-liter V-8 delivers 390hp and 394 lb.-ft. of torque, which is fabulous on paper, but the enthusiasm is damped a bit by the fact that the Crew Cab configurations of these trucks weigh in at 5,935 pounds. (Ed. Note: Nissan’s data conflicts on curb weight. The consumer website shows 5,935 pounds. The media website shows 5,684.)
No matter how strong a performer your V-8 engine is, moving 6,000 pounds unloaded is a challenge. The Titan does it with a smooth-shifting, capable seven-speed transmission. At the far end, the rear differential has a super-tall 2.937 axle ratio. It keeps the engine turning at just 1,500 RPM in 55 mile per hour traffic. The transmission downshifts quickly and the engine roars to life to pass.
Ride and handling
A lot of attention went into the Titan’s road manners. Both on the highway and the back roads, and in rain and dry pavement, the Titan is capable and confidence-inspiring.
It’s the overall size that presents some issues, especially as New England back roads get narrow and twisty. The Titan holds the road well, but its enormous width coupled with large mirrors means that the driver really needs to negotiate with oncoming traffic. Runners and bicyclists in the road mean than you’ll spend a lot of time stopped, waiting for an opening to floor the accelerator.
That’s not a specific Nissan problem, it’s a full-size truck problem that seems to get worse every few years. If you live somewhere with wide-open spaces, you won’t notice it at all, but in the Northeast, where the roads were former cow-paths, it’s something to consider.
The Titan Crew Cab provides ample seating for five, and it could seat six comfortably if the wide console wasn’t there. The upside of the Titan’s enormous size is the space in the cabin, especially at the rear. The legroom for rear seat passengers is truly impressive. There’s more room back there than a standard length Lincoln Town Car ever provided.
At the same time, though, every other truck manufacturer has upped the ante in interior volume. While the Nissan Titan’s room is impressive, it exceeds the F-150 in only one dimension — front seat headroom — and that by only two tenths of an inch. It loses out by inches in other dimensions. For example, there’s 7.1 inches more legroom int he back of an F-150. That’s the difference between crossing your legs and feeling confined on a long ride.
The Platinum Reserve — which sounds more like a scotch than a pickup truck — adds to the experience with two-tone, quilted leather upholstery, cupholders for both front and rear passengers, heated seats for four of the five positions, cooled seats up front, and a 110-volt outlet at the back of the console.
There’s also some nifty configurations for stowing the rear seat. A carpeted tray folds out underneath, providing a flat load floor that would easily accept a flat panel TV in its box.
Cargo and Towing
Cargo capacity is where you start to see a wide difference between the Titan and its American competition. With the Titan, you’re limited to 1,610 pound maximum payload.
The F-150, on the other hand, offers a range of payload options beginning where the Titan’s capacity ends. In a regular cab, 4×4 F-150 with the EcoBoost six, Ford offers slightly less payload than this truck. In the F-150 4×2 regular cab with the 5.0-liter V-8, though, you’ve got access to hauling 3,270 pounds.
It’s the reason that Nissan now offers the XD line of Titan pickups, but a truck of this size that can only haul 1,600 pounds is tough to swallow.
Towing capacity is little brighter. The Nissan tows 9,230 pounds. The F-150 has a bewildering array of engines, drive configurations and final drive ratios that change towing capacity from a low of 5,000 pounds to a high of 12,200 pounds.
Infotainment and controls
The Titan Platinum Reserve has a Rockford Fosgate–powered audio system with 7-inch color display. It’s equipped with Sirius XM radio, Bluetooth streaming, a single CD player, an aux-in jack, a USB connection, steering wheel mounted radio controls and 12 speakers.
Sound quality is great, but keep in mind we spent most of the time listening to 1960s-era garage rock and early punk, which is kind of like serving Dinty Moore beef stew on your best china. On the plus side, volume and station controls are available not only on the steering wheel, but via two substantially sized knobs, a major plus in our book. On the negative side, the station control is far, far away from any position a driver would normally be in, so setting stations in memory is a must.
Pairing a phone was easy, but for some reason, the system couldn’t find the device once it was paired. The Bluetooth connection failed consistently until we deleted and re-paired the device. It could’ve been something relatively simple to fix, but we didn’t have time to sort it out and used the USB connection in its place.
The Titan is a supremely nice drive, with good towing capacity, great comfort for front and rear passengers and plenty of power. But the question is, does it really work as a full-size truck, or is it more of a luxury car with the added benefit of an occasional cargo bed?
Sixteen hundred pounds might seem like more than you’re carrying on a regular basis, but it’s really not a lot of weight. For example, over the summer, I bought — literally — tons of river rock for a landscaping project from Lowe’s. The rock came in 40 pound bags which I bought 20 at a time, loading them into my 1996 Buick Roadmaster station wagon. Those 20 bags would equal half of the Titan’s payload capacity. Forty bags wouldn’t come close to reaching the bed rails but would be within 10 pounds of the truck’s maximum hauling ability.
If you’re planning on using this truck for anything resembling work, that figure should give you pause. Any midsize pickup — the Toyota Tacoma, the Chevrolet Colorado, the GMC Canyon, even the new Honda Ridgeline — can come within a hundred pounds of that maximum.
You’re paying a massive premium for a full-size truck, and not just in the MSRP. You’ll pay for it in convenience every time you try to park it. Chances are it’s not going to fit in your garage. You’ll also pay for it at the fuel pump. In average driving, we saw 14.4 miles per gallon, combined. With all those demerits, you should be able to freight a pickup with a pallet of sod, but that exceeds this truck’s ability.
2017 Nissan Titan Crew Cab 4×4 Platinum Reserve
Base price: $55,400
Price as tested: $57,345 including $1,195 destination charge:
Bed Utility Package: $750
- Powerful, capable V-8
- Smooth-shifting seven-speed transmission
- Supremely comfortable interior
- 1,610 pound payload
- Ginormous size
- Poor fuel economy