2017 Nissan Titan

First Drive: Testing the Titan of trucks

CHARLEVOIX, PQ – “By the end of 2016, nearly 85% of Nissan trucks and SUVs will be new,” Nissan Canada corporate communications director Didier Marsaud told group of auto journalists at a Titan of Trucks event in this picturesque Quebec area.

Trucks are especially important since full-size pickups became the second-largest sales segment in 2015 and are holding that position.

Andrew Harkness, senior chief marketing manager for trucks and SUVs, says the growth is in the 1500, or half-ton, series while 2500 and 3500 series trucks are losing market percentage although “volumes are very consistent year-over-year.”

That’s why Nissan brought us here: to tackle a trio of Titan trucks: half-ton, XD V8 gas and XD Diesel.

The Titan test trek tackled a variety of road surfaces and activities. We picked apples, hauled even more apples, we pulled trailers. We rode along on a ski run hill-climb at Le Massif de Charlevoix ski area and took to some rough service trails around and over the ski area, giving us a panoramic view of the St. Lawrence River.

We even watched it pull a train.

I have spent a fair amount of time in the XD Diesel and my favourable initial impression remains unchanged. In fact, I might be even more impressed with its ability to fill the “white space” between half-ton and heavy duty pickups. This event served to reinforce the impression.

The gas-powered XD and the new half-ton were driving firsts for me and I have to say the half-ton impressed me most, largely because I disliked the previous version and I like this one – a lot.

Tackling the three separately would take way too much space, so I’ll try to hit the high points.

All the vehicles we drove came in top-of-the-line Platinum Reserve trim which brings an interior decked out to luxury standards: leather, wood trim, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, power everything, navigation, high-end audio – all the trimmings of a high-end sedan, plus the ability to tow and haul.

The interiors are nearly identical so opting for one model or another doesn’t mean sacrificing amenities. Switches are grouped by function and location is based on frequency of use. The cabin also has 110-volt power outlets, remote function and premium Rockford Fosgate audio.

Exterior differences aren’t immediately obvious unless the trucks are parked side-by-side. Titan is built on an entirely different chassis from the XDs and is 14.7 in. (373.4 mm) shorter at 228.1 inches (5.794 mm) although they share the same cabs.

While the XD diesel uses a 5.0 L Cummins turbo diesel to produce 310 horsepower and 555 ft. lb. of torque, its siblings are powered by a 5.6L V8 that turns out 390 horsepower and 394 ft. lb. of torque. Shiftwork in the diesel is handled by a six-speed automatic transmission while the others employ a 7-speed automatic.

The Titan lineup has a fit for nearly every need, from a diesel’s high-torque grunt to the half-ton’s elegantly efficient versatility.

XD with diesel will pull up to 12,010 lbs. (5,448 kg), the XD gas unit will hitch up to 10,970 lbs. (4,976 kg), while the Titan half-ton will yank a respectable 9,730 lbs. (4,413 kg). In all cases, choosing the top trim costs a bit in pulling power.

“We’re bench-marking the domestics for pricing, content and incentives,” says Harkness.

Rich Miller, chief product specialist for the Titan program says that when development began, engineers were told there would be no compromises, no sacrifices of one quality over another.

“We told them we have to make sure you have the quality right for your component, whatever that component might be.”

It seems to have worked.

The Titan pickup with its hydraulic rack and pinion steering has a light handling quality while the HDs require a heavier driver input with their recirculating ball setup. In any case, the driver gets an excellent feel for the road and quick response to any request for direction change.

Ride in the pickup is the smoothest of the three, almost car-like in its handling of humps and hollows. Exterior noise is effectively blocked, making conversation easy even with rear seat passengers. HD interiors are only marginally noisier with the diesel making itself heard under heavy acceleration. Still, conversation did not require raising one’s voice or saying “what?” a lot.

All three trucks easily handle the rougher going and those “Zero Gravity” seats are practically perfect perches for this old bod. I could drive any one of these trucks all day long and not be fatigued.

Off-highway performance features aids like Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist, Brake Limited-slip Differential and electronic locking rear differential. A new off-road gauge uses accelerometer data to calculate the truck’s pitch and roll angles.

It’s all so very civilized.

Pickup and XD gas models come in five grades: S, SV, PRO-4X, SL and Platinum Reserve. Pricing starts at $44,650 and runs up to $65,800.

XD Gas prices run from $46,250 to $68,500 while diesel models fun from $53,400 to $74,900 across a seven-vehicle lineup: S, SV, SV Premium, PRO-4X, PRO-4X Luxury, SL and Platinum Reserve.

Titan still faces a Titanic struggle against the domestics, but it’s a warrior to be reckoned with.

Trim Level: Platinum Reserve
Price as tested: $65,800 to $74,900
Freight: $1,730
Configuration: Front engine, four-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 5.6L V8 gasoline/seven-speed automatic, 5.0L turbo diesel/six-speed automatic
Power/torque: 390 hp/394 lb-ft (V8 gas), 310 hp/555 lb-ft (diesel)
Fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): city: 15.2, hwy: 11.1 (Titan half-ton)
Warranties: 5 years/160,000 km bumper to bumper
Competitors: GMC Sierra Denali, Chevrolet Silverado, Toyota Tundra

Related links:
Nissan Canada
The Car Guide

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