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2017 Nissan Titan: First Drive Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Russ Heaps August 2016

A pickup too mean to give up, the 2017 Nissan Titan has been fully redesigned for the model year, and it's taking another run at the full-size segment. If this feels like deja vu all over again because it seems like only a few months ago that Nissan made a big splash with a redesigned Titan, you'd be right ... sort of.

What you remember hearing about is the all-new Titan XD, the not-to-big, not-too-small, baby-bear example of full-size pickups that falls somewhere in heft between a half and three quarters of a ton. It's the one that Nissan outfits with either a Cummins diesel or a gas V8.

The Titan we're talking about here is the redesign of the half-ton Titan that Nissan began marketing in 2004. At one point, Nissan was going to outsource the Titan's production to Chrysler, but the deal fell apart, and with that breakdown began rumors that the Titan would disappear entirely. In fact, there wasn't a 2016 version of the half-ton Titan. But Nissan dug in its heels and set to work, resulting in the all-new Titan XD and, now, a much-improved half-ton Titan.

Don't be fooled, though -- although similar in styling, these two trucks are quite different. They don't share a chassis, and the Titan XD is more than a foot longer than the regular Titan, with a wheelbase about 1 foot longer, as well.

We got our first crack at the revived 2017 Titan a few weeks ago in Carmel, California. Although we thought the last Nissan Titan was a good pickup truck, the 2017 edition is better in just about every way.

Roll Call

Nissan offers the half-ton Titan in five grades: S, SV, PRO-4X, SL and Platinum Reserve. Currently, showrooms will only house 4-door crew cabs, but look for extended-cab and even single-cab (a first for the Titan) versions in coming months. All grades except the PRO-4X, which only comes with all-wheel drive (AWD), can be configured with rear-wheel drive or AWD. Opting for AWD adds just over $3,000 to the bottom line. A 5.5-foot bed is standard on all crew-cab versions.

Pricing begins at $34,780 for the rear-wheel-drive Titan S, which is basically outfitted as a work truck. At the top end of the pricing spectrum is the duded-up Titan Platinum Reserve, ringing the register at $55,400.

Bona Fides

Make no mistake: The Titan is a serious truck. Yes, its hauling and towing capacities still fall somewhat short of the domestic big boys such as the Ford F-150 and the Chevrolet Silverado, but it is capable. Offering rear-wheel drive with rugged body-on-boxed-frame construction, its main rear-suspension components are a rigid axle and leaf springs. No question about it -- the Titan can handle the tough jobs. Able to tow 9,390 pounds, this pickup can also haul a payload of up to 1,610 pounds. Towing capacity falls just shy of the 2-wheel-drive Chevy Silverado with its 5.3-liter V8.

The Titan's towing features include a rearview monitor with trailer guides, a 360-degree bird's-eye-view camera array displaying the area around the entire truck and a trailer light-check system that allows a single person using the key fob to verify that the trailer's brake lights, running lights and turn signals are operational.

Although displacing 5.6 liters, as the V8 in the previous-generation Titan did, the V8 in 2017's Titan is all new to this pickup, and it's shared with the redesigned 2017 Armada full-size SUV. Its 390-horsepower output is a 73-hp increase over the previous V8. Torque is a robust 394 lb-ft. Nissan promises that a V6 of undetermined size will eventually be an engine option, but in the meantime, the 5.6-liter is the truck's sole powerplant. A 7-speed automatic transmission distributes engine output to the wheels.

Nissan has yet to announce fuel economy estimates for the Titan, but even with its more powerful V8, we expect it to achieve better mileage than the previous-generation truck.

Cabin Finery

First and foremost, the Titan's upmarket interior is remarkably quiet. Although the Titan doesn't mask its truck roots, it does make passengers feel right at home. Being able to carry on a conversation at a normal volume when blasting down the highway at 70-plus miles per hour is just one way this truck coddles its occupants.

Developed in conjunction with NASA, the front and rear Zero Gravity seats -- leather-appointed in SL and Platinum trims -- are engineered to stay comfortable even on all-day treks. Whether cloth or leather, both rows of seats can be heated and cooled. Nissan researched the way people actually use systems controls, arranging the knobs and buttons on the dashboard according to frequency of use.

Even the entry-level S grade comes standard with six cupholders, eight bottle holders, power windows, power locks, remote keyless entry, two 12-volt power points, a sliding rear window, cruise control, air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, a 5-inch color audio display and a 6-speaker audio system.

Storage Schemes

Pickup trucks are all about carrying stuff like sheets of plywood, bags of peat moss and a buddy's bedroom furniture on moving day. But just because it's a pickup doesn't mean you won't ever require more sophisticated solutions to store smaller valuables. The Titan creatively handles both needs.

Let's face it: We can wax on about the upscale cabin and the nifty technology, but the Titan is a truck after all, and trucks are all about the cargo box. Featuring a damped tailgate that drops smoothly when opened and can be closed with one finger, the bed also has a spray-on liner and Nissan's Utili-Track bed channel system. Dual lockable, removable, in-bed, watertight storage boxes that are accessible from inside the bed are available.

Nissan has expanded the Titan's interior storage by 33 percent in the front-row seats and 28 percent in the rear. Able to accommodate a 15-in laptop, the center console is cavernous. Designed for the cushion to be folded up -- exposing hooks for plastic grocery bags and so forth -- or for the seatback to be folded down, creating a flat surface, the second-row seat is extremely versatile. Beneath the split second-row seat are lockable storage bins and a fold-out heavy plastic floor on which to stack items.

Powered Up

While in Carmel, Nissan provided an opportunity to drive the Titan on- and off-road. Responding to the huge fire engulfing central California, the automaker had to make some last-minute changes in the drive routes. What we discovered in the revitalized Titan is a truck that finally feels and drives like a full-size pickup. The previous version was so driver-friendly that it felt like there wasn't as much truck as when piloting its domestic competitors -- not so with the new Titan. Although the steering is wonderfully responsive and the cabin library-quiet, it feels as though you're at the helm of a big, rugged, capable truck.

Operating smoothly, the V8 has no shortage of get-up-and-go. Its well-matched 7-speed automatic downshifts with enthusiasm when calling on the engine for a burst of speed to overtake slower traffic.

Final Thoughts

Nissan's goal for the Titan is to keep its current owner base in the family when the need arises for a full-size pickup. No doubt, the automaker would love to overtake the Silverado, the F-150 and the RAM 1500 when owners of those vehicles shop for a replacement truck, but history tells us that's unlikely -- at least in numbers high enough to mean much. Although, Nissan has turned up the heat, offering the best warranty in the segment with 5 years/100,000 miles bumper-to-bumper coverage.

Nissan views the Titan as a purchase for current Nissan car and crossover owners, as well as first-time full-size truck buyers. Whether that will all translate into sales numbers sufficient to sustain the pickup remains to be seen. If not, it won't be because the 2017 Nissan Titan isn't up to the task.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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2017 Nissan Titan: First Drive Review - Autotrader