By Jim Bray
It's big, it's brawny - and, for those who want maximum hauling performance, now you can get it with a torquey and businesslike Cummins diesel engine.
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It's the Nissan Titan, and I just spent a week in Nissan Canada's sample 2016 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Diesel Crew Cab 4x4 (one of five versions offered), tooling around the city and environs, cutting a swath through lesser vehicular traffic - which is most vehicular traffic!
If you're a regular reader of my stuff - and thanks, by the way! - you'll know I'm not really a truck guy, so to ensure as much fairness and accuracy as possible I enlisted the help of a couple of friends, one of whom owns a first generation Titan and one of whom owns two big Ram trucks, including a diesel. I defer to their knowledge and experience, though of course I also have my own opinons for whatever they're worth.
One of my early experiences with the big Titan was driving it downtown, on a street the city poohbahs deemed should suddenly become two way instead of the single direction it has been since before I moved to Calgary 30 years ago. The big Nissan had no trouble staying in the lane, and I found the big convex mirrors below the main side mirrors a great help here (and elsewhere), but its front parking sensors freaked out at the tall, skinny cones the city folk had dumped between lanes to delineate eastbound from westbound traffic. Not a big deal, and you can shut off the sensors, but it just goes to show how technology and civil idiocy can combine to freak out a driver. And his truck.
Nissan's sample carried a starting price of $74,900, though they also said they'd knock seven grand off that for a cash purchase. That's a lot of lucre, but not out of line with the competition, and to be fair you get a lot of truck and a lot of comfort and convenience features for that amount of after-tax disposable income.
The Cummins diesel is a five litre engine Nissan says is good for 310 horses and 555 lb.-ft. of torque. Torque is what diesels are best at (well, that and fuel mileage, though one shouldn't expect Prius like sipping from this big bruiser of a beast) and the Cummins does a great job here. Nissan says the turbo diesel doesn't have any lag, but that's, well, hyperbole. I didn't find the lag to be particularly annoying or off putting, but it's definitely there. But so what? I doubt many Titan diesel owners will be doing drag races with them!
The other engine choice is a 5.6 litre gas V8 rated at 390/401 horses/torque.
Nissan says the diesel Titan will carry 2000 pounds of payload and that it'll tow over 12,000 pounds. I did neither, though just putting my portly posterior into it might have challenged its payload capacity…
One thing I've always hated about full sized pickup trucks is trying to back up in them. Nissan, though not alone in this, answers this conundrum via a rear view monitor mounted in the "one handed operating" tailgate, as well as a "top down" monitor on the LCD screen inside the cabin that looks as if there's a camera floating about 10 feet above the truck. Dunno how they (and others) pull that off, but it's sure convenient! Ditto the parking sensors, despite my experience outlined above. Combined, they help a lot when you're docking the Titanic, er Titan.
Another thing I noticed about the parking sensors was how they work with the LCD screen: my wife walked in front of the Titan while it was parked and the front sensors not only went off but the screen lit up with a truck's eye view of her walking in front. This would be great when pedestrians are all over the place, helping prevent you from knocking them all over the place.
Angle parking the Titan is still a challenge, though. The truck has a decent turning circle considering its size, but I had to take a couple of tries when pulling it into a typical parking lot. This is more a truck thing than a particularly Nissan Titan issue, though.
Nissan's sample also came with the Utili-track cargo system, which includes flexible rails and LED bed lights and a 110 volt power outlet; it also had locking boxes mounted over the wheel wells that would be good for holding tools or whatever, though they probably aren't subtle enough for contraband.
Titan's tow-haul mode helps cut down on the transmission hunting and pecking for gears while you're towing and/or hauling. A trailer anti-sway control feature helps keep your "haulee" lined up behind you despite crosswinds, and the integrated Trailer Brake Controller on the centre stack lets you activate or adjust the trailer brakes for better directional stability.
Inside, the cabin is very nice. The sample had lovely brown leather trim and the seats are very comfortable, though my neighbour with the Rams and I both found the bottom cushion too long for our short legs. But that's about all the suffering you can expect other than just getting in and out, which in the sample was helped by a good set of flat running boards running beneath front and rear doors.
There's so much nice stuff inside the Titan you might forget you're in a truck until you open your eyes. It even comes with a remote engine start system with intelligent climate control you can set to warm up the truck in winter or cool it down in summer before you leave the house.
Instrumentation is straightforward and complete. The controls on the left side of the (heated) steering wheel are laid out a tad weirdly, with differently shaped and mounted rockers that require too much thought and too much time with your eyes off the road. For example, the volume control is fine, but to switch radio presets you have to go up two controls on the wheel and use one that's tilted 90 degrees from the volume control. You'd probably get used to this stuff before too long, but it isn't as intuitive as it could be.
The audio system is from Rockford Fosgate and it's powerful and clean, but overly bassy. The seats front and rear, except for the bottom cushion's length (which may not bother you), are comfortable and more supportive than some bosses I've had.
As for how my friends liked it, the Titan owner - who loves his truck - said that except for cosmetic details and the Cummins it hadn't changed a lot from his version. That wasn't a complaint, since he'd buy his truck again, just an observation. Most of the interior changes he noted, for instance, were things like differently designed and mounted buttons, switches and the like.
I think that's actually a good thing, certainly better than change merely for the sake of it.
The Ram owner loved the one touch, softly lowering tailgate and said the Titan ran more quietly than her truck, though part of it may be due to differences in tires between the two vehicles (hers is equipped with heavier duty off road rubber). She was also taken by the flat running boards (her Rams' are tubular so she has to pay more attention when getting in and out) and said the Titan's steering and braking was tighter than on her Rams.
She also lauded the rear view camera and top-view camera and the Titan's reasonable turning circle.
Nissan and Toyota have been trying to be accepted as full sized pickup truck manufacturers for quite a few years now, and the Titan and Toyota's Tundra (nee T100) have come a long way. Whether they're going to finally knock Ford's F-150 off its perch at the top of the market niche is doubtful - the other two of the "Big Three" haven't been able to do it, either - but they've at least shown that they can be - and are - competitive.
Copyright 2016 Jim Bray
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