2017 Nissan Titan First Drive

Aug. 16, 2016 By Josh Burns

Itís been a long time coming, but Nissanís new half-ton truck is finally here. First unveiled in 2003, the Titan boasted a powerful V8 engine and a bold look that Nissan hoped would crack into the truck marketís most fiercely competitive segment. Nissan again returns to the half-ton segment with its new 2017 Titan, highlighted by an updated V8 gasoline engine, a seven-speed transmission and a 5-year/100,000-mile warranty bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Nissanís entire truck and SUV segment in the midst of an overhaul, but on the truck side this rebirth of the brand started in 2016 with the Titan XD, a truck first offered with only a new 5.0-liter turbo-diesel Cummins engine. Although the exterior styling is very similar, the Titan XD is on an entirely different chassis than the standard Titan (Nissan goes as far as noting it has different lug nuts), and thatís because the Titan XD was purpose-built to house the new Cummins diesel engine, though it will now also features the updated Endurance V8 engine also found in the new Titan. The XD also looks to carve out its own niche as a hybrid truck thatís larger than a half-ton (and offers more payload and towing capacity) but isnít quite as large and cumbersome as a 3/4-ton.

Nissan will offer a single-cab option of the Titan.

The Titan XD was Nissanís headlining big splash last year and serves as the brandís new flagship truck, but the Titan is still the volume truck and is no afterthought for the company. The Titan (139.8 in. in length), which is 14.7 inches shorter than the Titan XD (151.6 in.), will represent the lionís share of Nissanís truck sales and will look to create a larger footprint in the half-ton segment. With a new engine and segment-best warranty, it looks like Nissan came ready for a fight.

73 Ponies More
A few months prior to our first drive of the new Titan in Northern California at Carmel Valley Ranch, Nissan actually pulled the cover off of its new Endurance V8 engine, which we first drove in a Titan XD. The new V8 is rated to produce an impressive 390 horsepower (73 more than the 317 hp from last generation) and 394 lb.-ft. of torque (up 9 lb.-ft.).

The new Endurance V8 is rated to produce 390 hp and 394 lb.-ft. of torque.

The increase in power and efficiency on the new Endurance V8 doesnít come from a single source. The new engine will employ a host of upgrades compared to the previous generation engine, the most notable being Variable Valve Event and Lift (VVEL) technology, which uses hydraulic-controlled variable valve timing along with electronically controlled variable valve lift on the intake side to improve performance and throttle response. The V8ís intake valve timing is controlled via non-variable camshafts to further enhance throttle response. Direction Injection Gas, or DIG, is also employed to improve wide-open throttle performance, offer better fuel economy and reduce emissions. Nissan also employs new pistons in its V8, which increase compression to 11.2:1 versus 9.8:1 on the previous engine. Nissan also notes a Multi Control Valve (MCV) is employed to more efficiently manage thermal efficiency versus a traditional thermostat. Nissan has paired the new engine to another new item Ė a seven-speed automatic transmission.

Being that the previous V8 is a bit long in the tooth at this point, we were less concerned with a direct comparison and more mindful of its performance to the rest of the half-ton segment. It felt powerful and paired nicely with the new seven-speed when we first drove it in the Titan XD. As expected, in the lighter and smaller Titan the V8 feels even more impressive. Off the bottom it provides strong acceleration and impressive seat-of-the-pants pull. The new V8 doesnít fall off its strong start, as it continues to pull hard through the midrange. Once at highway speed, the powerful V8 isnít lacking or wanting for performance in any situation, and even though its new transmission features a few more gears than the first-gen Titan, we never once felt it hunting around for a gear Ė the engine-transmission combo felt great.

The new seven-speed automatic transmission paired with the V8 offered smooth performance both on the highway and off.  

The towing department is where things get a little murky with the new Titan, and honestly a little bit confusing considering how good the engine feels; in fact, we actually canít speak to its towing performance because we didnít have the chance to test this at the press event. All we could go on is the numbers, and the Titan has a considerably lower maximum towing capacity than the rest of the half-ton class at 9,390 pounds. That max figure is more than 1,000 pounds less than the next closest competitor. Weíre a little surprised at this figure, especially considering the truck doesnít feel any less powerful than its half-ton competition (though obviously tow ratings arenít solely based on engine performance). The Titan does come to the table with a 1,610-pound maximum payload rating, though.

In spite of the max tow rating, the Titan actually offers plenty in terms of features in the towing department; actually, it offers many of the same features included on the Titan XD, such as an Integrated Trailer Brake Controller, Trailer Sway Control (TSC), Tow/Haul Mode with Downhill Speed Control, and arguably one of our favorite Titan XD features, a Trailer Light Check system that makes it easy for one person to check proper operation of all trailer lights. The Titan will also feature RearView Monitor with Trailer Guides and Around View Monitor (AVM) to give a 360-degree view of the area around the truck.

A look at the two-tone interior of the Platinum Reserve model.

Fresh Look
The second-generation Titan has an all-new look inside and out for 2017.  Nissan Design America in Southern California gets credit for the exterior look, which includes an aerodynamic improvement of roughly 10 percent over the prior generation. Front, roof and tailgate spoilers add to the drag improvement and new appearance, but a significant reducer of drag is the new Active Grille Shutter, which closes the grille opening behind the radiator when a large amount of airflow is not needed.

Nissan has always done a great job offering value with its trucks, and the Titan again returns with many of the functional features found on the original Titan, such as its Utili-track tie-down system in the truck bed, spray-on bedliner, a 120-volt in-bed electrical outlet, a damped tailgate, and a new lockable in-bed Titan Box storage system.

The 7-inch touchscreen on the Titan offers a host of features, including a rear backup camera and, on some models, Around View Monitor.

Inside, the new Titan has a clean appearance with easy-to-use controls for the 7-inch touchscreen. We like the blend of analog and digital gauges on the 5-inch color display for the driverís instruments. We spent a good amount of time in a Pro-4X 4x4 model, which features a more customized appearance that includes Pro-4X stitching on the front driver and passenger captainís seats (both of which are power adjustable). The Pro-4X also features a metallic instrument panel finisher, PRO-4X-branded floor mats and of course Pro-4X graphics on the exterior rear quarter panels of the truck bed.

The new instrumentation features digital and analog displays for the driver.

Nissan says the Titanís storage space has increased considerably on the second-gen Titan, with 33 percent more in the front part of the cabin and 28 percent more in the back seat, where a new lockable under-seat storage compartment is found. Sound in our Pro-4X model is pumped through a 12-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system.

A new transfer case is employed in 4x4 models for 2017.

Hitting the Road & Dirt
For the second-gen Titan, Nissan is fitting 4x4s with a new transfer case that is designed to ensure maximum power distribution in every gear. The Titan Pro-4X also offers additional upgrades such as Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist, Brake Limited-Slip Differential (BLSD) and an electronic locking rear differential. Nissanís new ďoff-road gaugeĒ uses accelerometer data to calculate the vehicleís pitch and roll angles and relay that to the driver.

Aside from the selectable rear locker, Nissan also provides Pro-4X buyers who plan to venture off of the highway with upgraded Bilstein monotube shocks and more dirt-ready 275/70R18 all-terrain off-road tires. Our custom off-road course provided a decent mix of off-road obstacles, including off-camber hills, rutted trails, a hill climb and deep moguls. The Bilstein shocks do a good job of soaking up the bumps, whether during slow-speed crawling or most fast-paced driving. The ground clearance of the Pro-4X is decent at 9.8 inches in the rear, though the front is a little more inline with what weíd expect from an off-road package at 10.6 inches. The approach (22.8 degrees), departure (23 degrees) and break over (21.7 degrees) angles on the Pro-4X are all, for the most part, an improvement over the non-Pro-4X models.

The power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering provided smooth and predictable steering during all of our testing, whether in tight quarters off-road or making a turn on the highway. Having tested the longer Titan XD on more than one occasion, we praised its smooth highway handling but didnít care for its turning prowess in tighter quarters since it required more effort to turn the truck than weíd like, but we learned during our drive the Titan doesnít suffer from the same sluggish handling.

The Pro-4X is the model most off-roaders will want, thanks to its upgraded Bilstein suspension, more off-road-savvy tires, and a selectable rear locking differential.

Final Thoughts
Nissan has significantly expanded its offerings with the second-generation Titan to include multiple cab configurations (with a single-cab option), three different bed sizes, and multiple trims that include S, SV, SL, Pro-4X and Platinum Reserve. The starting price of the Titan is $34,780 for a Crew Cab S 4x2, while the starting 4x4 S Crew Cab price will be $37,810.

Arguably the biggest news for the Titan, which also applies to the Titan XD, is the addition of Nissanís new five-year/100,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. Between pricing, performance and the extended warranty, Nissan is aggressively taking aim at the half-ton truck market with its new Titan, but we are surprised itís such an underdog in the towing department.

If we used the Magic 8 Ball to sum up our first drive impression of the 2017 Titan it would respond with ďReply hazy, try again.Ē Although thereís a lot to like about the new truck Ė warranty, pricing, engine performance, overall handling Ė itís hard to say how we feel about a half-ton truck with underwhelming tow figures, especially since we didnít get a chance to actually test it. Considering the emphasis Nissan placed on the towing prowess of the Titan XD, we imagine theyíd direct those looking for regular tow needs to that truck. But half-ton buyers are expecting whatever truck they buy to stack up to the competition, and from the numbers alone, the new Titan is coming up short.


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