Back in 2004, Nissan jumped into the full-size pickup truck wars with a sporty, nimble even, truck that offered gusto, ride and handling acumen that was rare for the class. Unfortunately, the first Titan’s debut coincided with the debut of an all new F-series truck that shook the segment to its core and quickly produced competing models that splintered the previous pickup paradigm into smithereens. Since then, we’ve been gobbling up pickup trucks that are more comfortable, more powerful, more luxurious, more fuel efficient and lots more expensive at a record pace.
In 2016, after Nissan’s planned alliance with Ram for a new pickup redesign was defeated during the 2009 depression, the second-generation Ram debuted as a more muscular four-fifths scale truck meant to slice into both half-ton and three-quarter-ton model sales. Crew Cab XD models arrived first — including a V-8 diesel engine — while the more conventional extended-cab and crew cab versions are just arriving now.
Visually, it’s hard not to think that this Nissan shares more than a passing hint of Ford’s styling themes. From the broad, flat front grille to the drop-down swoop under the front windows, to even the suicide rear door panels (other makers have swapped to front-hinged rear doors on extended model trucks) the Nissan has a look — and a feel — that suggests “the blue oval” was a large part of engineering planning.
As with all new trucks, the interiors of these multipurpose commuters are every bit as comfortable and convenient as in your favorite family sedan. Knobs and dials are oversized, controls are conveniently placed for gloved hands, while often-used functions remain easy to access. The touchscreen is toward the small end of the scale as FCA and GM install even larger units in their latest trucks, and the steering wheel buttons might seem tiny for those users possessing real working hands, yet the Titan’s interior earns top marks for comfort, ease of use and available accessories and features.
Rear seat space here is best-suited for occasional adult use, or dogs and kids. Leg room is at a premium if front seat occupants are of average height, plus the upright angle of the seatback deems long-term use less viable. The opposing doors also mean that accessing the rear requires opening the front doors first.
Buyers will find a robust 5.6-liter Endurance V-8 under the hood, making a strong 390 hp, mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Throttle tip-in and power request are both appropriate for subtle maneuvers while shuffling a trailer around, or, hurried highway excursions. This is not a subtle point to overlook, especially if you work your truck; Nissan’s cross-country rival still hasn’t figured this out. Fuel economy ratings for our four-wheel drive Pro-4X trimmed King Cab were 15/20/17 mpg. Over 750 miles of mixed use, our real world economy ranged from 15-17 mpg, which is below its rivals.
With a mid-level King Cab 4X4 price of $43,490, you get a host of features that truck buyers never realized they needed 15 years ago but are now very much expected. Power captain’s chairs, plus Sirius satellite radio, navigation, push-button ignition, dual-zone climate, heated power mirrors, removable locking tailgate, front tow hooks, spray-on bedliner, blind-spot detection, rear-cross traffic alert and vehicle dynamic control are standard. Add Pro-4X trim to get front and rear parking assist, Util-Trak cargo system, rear outlets, LED bed lighting, power sliding rear window, Rockford-Fosgate audio, trailer brake controller, manually extendable and folding two mirrors with puddle lamps ($1,845) while Pro-4X convenience and premium packages ($4,090) add ventilated and heated leather seating, heated power tilting/telescoping steering column, memory settings, remote engine start, Nissan-connect services and 360-view rear camera. The Titan is built in Canton, Miss.
High points include stable highway tracking, space-saving column shifter, strong powertrain, plus the well-integrated touch-points that you use repeatedly. The cabin is quiet.
On the flip side, the truck’s driving dynamics hew closer to the Super Duty than an F-150, with a firmer ride than most half-ton pickups, while cruise control was not as adept at holding top-gear as manual throttle use, which negatively affected highway fuel economy. The rear windows in the King Cab do not lower (like in the Ford), yet the Titan mirrors the Ford by not offering a sensible rear bumper step as GM trucks do.
Nissan is committed to this latest Titan, however, buyers have yet to swamp dealers with demand. It will take some large incentives to create more desire for a credible alternative to the top sales performers in this legacy segment.