Full-size pickup truck buyers continue as a particularly loyal bunch, not given to switching allegiance without sound reasoning. The traditional Big Three domestic U.S. brands (Ford, Chevrolet, Ram) continue to dominate sales, so it's no surprise others desire a bigger slice of the pick-up pie.
The United States checks in as the number one world market for full-size pickups, each one sold delivering sizeable and welcome profit margins for respective parent companies.
In the 2000 model year, Toyota debuted its long-awaited Tundra. Nissan followed four years later with a serious contender of its own, the full-size Titan. Over the last decade-and-a-half, both have made inroads, but the goings been tough.
Titan was long overdue for an encore. Nissan learned mightily from its first effort, developing a fine-tuned marketing and content strategy for Gen Two, which rolled out in stages.
While the domestic Big Three historically offer multi grades of non-commercial pickup trucks (light duty, medium and heavy duty or HD) both Toyota and Nissan focused primarily on the higher-volume light-duty segment since the turn of the Millennia.
Not anymore. The second-generation Titan made a huge splash in the 2016 model year with the XD Crew Cab intro. The Titan XD includes the brand's first V-8 diesel powertrain, a Cummins-brand 5.0-liter, generating 310 horsepower and hugging a newly carved niche between conventional medium duty and heavy duty.
For 2017, Nissan eyes the higher volume light-duty segment (also known as half ton) with 'Titan.' It's powered by a naturally aspirated, direct injected 5.8-liter V-8 gas engine delivering 390 horses and teamed with a seven speed automatic transmission. A V-6 is scheduled to join the lineup in the coming months.
Titan and Titan XD are built from two different chassis, with Titan's wheelbase (distance between front and rear axles) about a foot shorter.
First impressions remain important and our Titan tester delivered many. Inside, a driver's side "A" pillar grab handle awaits, a simple assist not all pickups employ. Shot-gun riders enjoy their own A-pillar handle. Grab handles also adorn rear-seat assist B pillars. Side running boards eased entry not only for this curmudgeon scribe, but his all-to patient spouse and aging grey schnauzer found the extra berth indispensable.
Large side-view mirrors include a concaved upper outside corner spotlighting side blind spots, a low tech, yet effective visual aid.
Interior wind noise remains relatively muted at highway speeds, impressive for such a large, not always aerodynamic structure.
All half-ton Titans feature an 'active grille shutter,' helping reduce air flow drag by closing an opening behind the radiator when large amounts of air flow are not necessary. Our tester's grille sported a huge chrome-like honeycomb pattern with Nissan's log front and center. Also extra bold; exterior strap-like door handles adorning all four side doors.
Our Titan 'Platinum Reserve' tester included the four-door Crew Cab, the largest-available passenger compartment with two full-size rear doors. Platinum Reserve is the top level Crew Cab trim joining S, SV, Pro 4X and SL. A smaller, two-door Titan single cab is available in S and SV trims. All cab configurations come with 4 x 2 or 4 x 4 drivetrains, however bed lengths remain specific. Larger Crew cabs feature a 5-foot, five-inch bed while an 8-foot bed comes standard with single cabs.
The Crew Cab tester increases storage capacity by 33 percent in the front row and 28 percent in the rear compared with Generation One. A new second-row under storage seat includes a locking lid. Also, seat cushions fold up against the backrest, increasing cargo carrying options.
Our Platinum Reserve four wheel drive came loaded with standard goodies, no options and a $55,400 starting fare. The bottom line ended at $56,595 after factoring the $1,195 destination charge. The lowest priced Titan, a 4 x 2 single cab S trim sneaks in a pinch below thirty grand at $29,580.
Titan got to work immediately, helping to relocate a couch-like, seven-foot wide futon from point A to point B. Built-into-bed circular eyelets helped secure the futon in place via bungee cords. Illuminating the situation after dark, light emitting diodes (LED) located under rail beds.
Inside, Push-button start comes standard. Below, a circular 4 x 4 dial for shifting-on-the-fly between two-wheel rear drive and four-wheel drive. A four-wheel low setting is available for slow speed challenges. A notable change from Generation One is the transmission shifter location, moved to the steering column from between front buckets, allowing for a huge center console able to accommodate a 15-inch laptop computer.
Titan now promotes the longest duration bumper-to-bumper truck warranty in the business at five years or 100,000 miles. This covers not just the powertrain, but suspension, electronics and many non-wear-and-tear items.
During the 2017 Chicago Auto Show, Nissan debuted a four-door King Cab passenger compartment available in both Titan and Titan XD. King Cab slots between the single-row cab and two-row, full-sized Crew Cab. King Cabs feature a 'clam-shell' door design (with second-row doors hinged in the rear) providing a 172-degree door opening sans a center 'B' pillar and standard 6.5-inch bed. Also available is a second row 'seat delete' built primarily for commercial use with no second-row bench or heating ducts but a flat rear load floor. King Cab's available in S, SV and Pro 4x trims.
Fred Diaz, general manager of Nissan's truck division comfortably sat on a lowered King Cab tailgate during a laid-back auto show media preview press event in February. Prior to helping launch the Gen Two Titan, Diaz oversaw Fiat Chrysler Automobiles spin off its Ram truck division from the Dodge group in late 2009.
"Titan gained about 1.6 points of market share (since the launch of the 2016 Titan XD). We're almost at two percent market share," Diaz shared. Prior to the second-generation redesign, Titan's U.S. market share hoovered below .5 percent.
Top trim Platinum Reserves remain the sole trim offering an optional, exterior 'Titan Box;' a novel idea Diaz brought along from his days at Ram Trucks (which offer a Ram Box). A tubular, lockage storage container extends along the interior bed side (with handy bottom-side drain plug) capable of swallowing a wide range of supplies or beverages. It's also removable of extra bed capacity is required.
Last September, Nissan sponsored an outdoor dealer training event at the Odium multi-purpose venue in Villa Park, inviting select media and other assorted guests. Experiential road-course opportunities included drives over a bundled set of logs, zero-to-60 trials and simulated rock crawls, all of which Titan handled with grace and ease.
Nissan assembles Titan in Canton, Mississippi.
2017 Titan Platinum
Price as tested: $56,595
Engine: 5.6-liter V-8
Wheelbase: 139.8 inches
Overall Length: 228.1 inches
Overall Height: 44.2 inches
Overall Width: 80.7 inches
Fuel Economy: 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway
Curb weight: 5,935 pounds
Bumper-to-bumper warranty: Five years/100,000 miles
Assembly: Canton Mississippi