On the Road Review: Nissan Titan Platinum Reserve

This is our third exposure to the new Nissan Titan pickups in the past 12 months and each has demonstrated a composure and confidence that will serve the brand well as it proposes to really challenge the status quo in the highly profitable full-size pickup class.nissan-titan-platinum-reserve-5

Our first two samples were the Titan XD, the larger almost 5/8ths scale pickup meant to bridge the gap between conventional half-ton and ¾-ton heavy duty pickups. The XD currently features a powerful 5.0-liter Cummins V-8 turbodiesel engine, but the 5.6-liter Nissan gasoline-fueled V-8 used in this week’s half-ton Titan will soon be shared with the XD trim.

The “regular” Titan will come in four-door Crew Cab, seen here, with King Cab and regular cab configurations coming in a few months. For now, all Titan models will use the revised dual-overhead cam, direct-injected, variable valve-timing 5.6-liter V-8 that makes 73 hp more than before — now 390 hp. A V-6 engine is promised as well as a smaller diesel engine for the half-ton Titan series.nissan-titan-platinum-reserve-6

Over a foot shorter in both wheelbase and total length compared to the XD, the Titan is right in the hunt against conventional pickups like the Ford, Ram and Chevy in dimensions, work capabilities and even content. So what strikes us as different?

First is the “feel” of the truck. Not unlike the original Titan from 2004, the Nissan utilizes components that produce a tight, controlled feel, a taut level of driving style that could lead to thinking that this is the “Z” of pickup trucks. Of course, all pickups drive better than even just a few years ago, and none are as sporty as Nissan’s infamous “Z” sports car, yet the Titan’s steering, braking and general handling have a crispness not always found in its rivals.

Up front, the chassis uses double-wishbone pieces in each corner with the customary leaf springs in the rear. Nothing special there — which is unfortunate, because an independent rear suspension should be more prevalent in this segment (only Ram uses now). But Nissan quickened the steering ratio for faster responses from the helm, while the low-grade surface interruptions that abound in daily driving were aptly handled. We didn’t get the Titan off-road, so any perceptions about ride capabilities in this environment will need to come from others.nissan-titan-platinum-reserve-2

Like other new trucks, access was aided by lighted running boards so all shapes, sizes and ages found no problem entering this 4WD model. Seating up front in our top-of-the-line Platinum Reserve ($56,595 with the 4WD) was spacious, supportive and nicely complemented by heated and cooled leather upholstery. Rear passengers also boasted about their accommodations with excellent legroom, clear sight lines, and comfortable heated seating that splits and folds and hides an optional tool tray/storage bin system under the seat. A power rear window supplies additional airflow when needed, or, when those long pine boards won’t fit in the bed.

And that fact is becoming more and more true, as many of these latest CrewCab pickups pack just a 5.5-foot bed. Augmented by several retention cleats, a sliding floor rail system, a spring-assisted tailgate, plus spaces for optional auxiliary racks and folding cargo retainers at the rear, a 5.5-foot bed is small space compared to a conventional 8-foot bed — which now seems almost heretical to cite, because so few are sold. A 6.5-foot bed is optional, although the preponderance of these shorter bed lengths supposes that customers just don’t need that much bed space — they want the SUV-like cab first, buy the trailer if necessary, second.nissan-titan-platinum-reserve-3

With base “S” trimmed crew-cab Titans starting at under $35,000, and the projected volume SV model beginning at under $38,000, Nissan will be in the heart of the market. In our sampled Platinum Reserve, Nissan has plunged into the luxury end of the segment with both feet. Soft glove-leather abounds on the doors, seats, and dash — with the expected raised-seam stitching too, while just enough chrome trim and competing textures add some visual and luxury flair to this re-purposed work truck. A simple, efficient, and easy to use dash completes the affair, with the expected touchscreen (7-inch Nissan-Connect here, smaller than GM and RAM) while a full assortment of man-sized buttons, dials and controls leaves no doubt to who and what the target audience is. Add a functional and versatile console, and there should be no complaints about the working interfaces in the Titan.

While Nissan packs a large rotary knob for the electric four-wheel-drive system, with low and high range, the Titan falls short of several competitors with no “auto-mode” for self-detecting slip management and applying four-wheel drive automatically on those dark, snowy nights on rural roads. You are either in four-wheel drive or not. If you are assured by that certainty, this is not an issue for you.nissan-titan-platinum-reserve-7

Toe the Titan’s throttle and you are rewarded with fluid power delivery and seamless shifting from the new seven-speed automatic. The engine is hushed, in fact the whole truck is quieter than our recent Volvo CX90 when going down the highway. No histrionics, just a polished, refined feel to the Titan with a sweetheart of a powertrain. Buyers should be pleased with the significant NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) gains experienced in this newer Titan.

EPA ratings for the 5.6-liter V-8 are 15/21 mpg — two miles per gallon better than the older truck. Over 800 miles and two fill-ups, the measured mileage calculated to 17.2 mpg in our low-mileage sample — almost spot-on with the dash trip computer. This Titan can tow up to 9,390 pounds, aided by a trailer brake control on the instrument panel.nissan-titan-platinum-reserve-4

Built in Canton, Miss., the Titan is an important truck to Nissan as the brand labors toward an internal goal of earning 10 percent of the new vehicle market in America. But so far, sales have been flat on the Titan XD and now the Titan as America is apparently just learning about this latest offering to a crowded field. Nissan is determined to make inroads, as a new five-year/100,000-mile warranty is now offered to help spur interest and sales.

The new Titan is nicely done. It feels good, with engineering details like excellent throttle tip-in and accurate steering feel subtle clues that Nissan sweat the details. The Titan also carries a certain Ford F-250 look to it, which can’t be a bad thing.

Who would have predicted ten years ago, a luxury truck from Nissan? Who would have predicted ten years ago that $50,000-$60,000 pickups would become 25 percent of truck sales?

The market continues to evolve, and this time Nissan appears to have a pickup that will be competitive with an ever-changing market.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.

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