2017 Nissan Titan Crew Cab PRO-4X
These days there’s a lot of talk about big SUVs and trucks selling much better thanks to cheaper gasoline. To be fair there were some pretty deep discounts at the pump right after the big oil crash two years ago that initially helped spur on large vehicle sales, but from where I’m standing the price of petrol is no better now than it was before the downward plunge. As a result all the watercooler gossip is no longer rooted in reality, at least as shown by 2016 U.S. auto sales stats.
Only Ford’s F-150 saw a big improvement last year, with 820,799 units out the door compared to just 780,354 in calendar year 2015, but it suffered from production issues that year. Ram grew its pickup numbers too, from 451,116 deliveries in 2015 to 489,418 in 2016, while the only other brand to progress over the same two years was Nissan with the very same Titan being reviewed here, which found 21,880 new buyers compared to 12,140 the year before. Of course, compared to the blue oval or Ram brand, Nissan is clearly in the minor leagues when it comes to full-size pickups, but as the saying goes, you’ve got to start somewhere.
Last year’s losers include Toyota’s Tundra that had its best year ever with 118,880 units in 2015 but fell to 115,489 sales in 2016 (nevertheless that’s its third-best-ever tally), whereas GMC Sierra deliveries dipped from 224,139 units in 2015 to 221,680 last year, and Chevy’s Silverado sales dropped from 600,544 in 2015 to 574,876 in 2016. Interestingly, if GM had managed to hang onto its 2015 results its twinned entries would have collectively trumped Ford’s F-Series with 824,683 deliveries, but alas the twosome’s 2016 total could only reach 796,556 units and therefore missed the mark by almost 25,000 trucks.
What a luxury to fall short by more vehicles than one of your competitors manages to produce altogether, but as noted, Nissan is playing a game of catch in the backyard compared to the big three domestics that are prepping to play in the MLB All Stars at Marlins Ballpark on July 9, so to speak.
Just the same, the dramatic rise in Titan sales (they almost doubled) had everything to do with the introduction of this all-new model for 2016 and the reintroduction of a gasoline-powered version (only the new heavy-half “Extra Duty” Cummins diesel was available for 2016) for the 2017 model year, the latter resulting in sales growing to 20,265 units after only the first five months of this year. If extrapolated throughout the year this number grows to somewhere around 47,000, which wouldn’t result in the Titan’s best year ever (it’s previous high was 86,945 units in 2005), but would certainly be a solid step forward. Then again we’d better not count these chickens before they’re hatched, as we know how that can turn out in the auto industry.
Still, there are a lot of reasons to be bullish about the new 2017 Titan, especially in standard trim. Those who like the look of the rugged new Titan XD will be happy Nissan kept its façade mostly unchanged with the standard truck, including its bold three-part rectangular grille, massive headlamp clusters, muscularly flared fenders, sporty side engine vents, and acres of chrome (depending on trim).
Actually, the $45,470 Crew Cab PRO-4X reviewed here is the sportiest Titan variant, meaning much of its chrome has been swapped out for body-color, matte black and satin aluminum, resulting in a look that’s much more sophisticated and (to these eyes) much more appealing. Along with the subdued glitter it gets a fabulous looking set of 18-inch machine-finished alloys with black painted pockets and partially painted spokes, these wrapped in 275/65 Toyo Open Country winters on my tester (although the standard 275/70 all-terrains would no doubt prove more capable off the beaten path).
Adding to the PRO-4X model’s trail trekking prowess are Bilstein off-road shocks, an electronic locking rear differential, hill descent control, transfer case and lower radiator skid plates, and more, while the interior gets metallic-tone interior accents, carpeted floor mats with PRO-4X logos, front bucket seats with special PRO-4X embroidery, a center console in place of the standard bench, etcetera.
On top of the unique PRO-4X details, my tester came with the $3,520 Convenience package and $750 Luxury package, both making for an impressive off-roader thanks to former allotment’s addition of perforated leather upholstery with white contrast stitching, this even covering the dash top for a premium-level experience, a power-adjustable steering column with memory, a heatable steering wheel, a four-way powered passenger seat, heatable front and rear outboard seats, driver’s seat memory, auto-dimming rearview and driver’s side mirrors, NissanConnect services, a HomeLink garage door opener, a compass, and remote start with intelligent climate control; whereas the latter package added three-way front seat ventilation, a 360-degree Around View monitor, and reverse tilt-down for the side mirrors.
Proximity keyless entry with pushbutton ignition gets you inside, where you’ll be met by everything already noted as well as a really nice leather-wrapped steering wheel, attractive primary gauges with a large color multi-information display in the middle, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7.0-inch touchscreen featuring easy-to-use navigation, mobile apps, voice recognition, SiriusXM Traffic and Siri Eyes Free, a handy center console-mounted household-style 120-volt AC outlet, an ultra-comfortable eight-way powered driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar, a lockable rear-seat cargo organizer, and much more.
The interior is a mix of very high-grade materials as noted, and the pickup truck segment’s usual rudimentary hard plastics. A nice strip of textured looking metallic trim splits the instrument panel’s higher quality surfaces with the more basic hard composite, this meeting up with an especially attractive silver metallic exoskeleton design for the lower console, mirrored on each door panel as well. Yet more satin silver and chrome accents can be found throughout the cabin, while those door panels just noted receive particularly nice swatches of contrast-stitched leather for the armrests and soft, padded inserts for cushioning elbows. The door uppers aren’t soft to the touch mind you, an oversight that should be addressed in this near luxury truck.
Some standard PRO-4X exterior features not already mentioned include auto on/off headlights with signature LEDs, “Follow Me Home” functionality and integrated LED DRLs, plus fog lamps, rain-sensing wipers, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a factory-applied spray-on bedliner, a Class IV tow hitch receiver with a four-pin/seven-pin wiring harness, and more.
Our Crew Cab tester was also outfitted with the $1,820 PRO-4X Utility and Towing Package that added heatable power-adjustable manually-extendable tow mirrors with integrated turn signals and proximity-sensing puddle lights, front and rear parking sensors, a power-sliding rear window with a defroster, LED under-rail bed and tailgate area lighting, a Utili-track Channel System with four load-securing tie-down cleats, a 120-volt power outlet in the bed, an electronic locking tailgate, rear utility bed steps, a trailer brake controller and trailer light check, and more to the exterior, while a superb sounding Rockford Fosgate audio with 12 speakers and a sub is also part of this rather utilitarian package, although I must say I’m not sure why this is included here instead of being offered as a standalone option.
Of note, the standard Titan loses no size to the XD, with both near identical in length, width and height, depending on trim. The Regular Cab body style gets an eight-foot bed, whereas Crew Cab models utilize a five-and-a-half-foot bed. Nissan promises an extended cab model at a later date, but for now only the two cab and bed configurations are available.
This lighter weight Titan is an able ranch hand yet not quite the beast of burden of the XD, its maximum payload just 1,610 lbs compared to the XD’s best 2,000-lb rating, and its top tow rating is 9,390 lbs instead of 12,000 lbs. This comes down to a lighter duty chassis with unique spring rates, hubs, brakes, and more.
There’s only one engine on offer in the regular Titan, but it’s one worth bragging about. Nissan’s Endurance 5.6-liter V8 is capable of a very generous 390 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque, which is 73 additional horsepower and 16 lb-ft of extra torque over the outgoing V8. This new engine is also found in Nissan’s 2017 Armada SUV (and its Infiniti QX80 counterpart), while all variations on the theme are partnered to the same seven-speed automatic transmission.
For comparison purposes, the Endurance 5.6-liter V8 matches up well against the Ram 1500’s 5.7-liter Hemi V8 and Toyota’s 5.7-liter Tundra V8, while it’s stronger than Ford’s 5.0-liter V8 and GM’s 5.3-liter V8.
Also important, four-wheel drive is standard on all but the base Titan Regular Cab S model, which incidentally starts at just $29,580. That price will likely go down when a V6 model is introduced, but so far we only have a promise from Nissan, with no release date.
As for fuel economy, the base Titan 4×2 achieves a claimed 15 mpg in the city, 21 on the highway and 18 combined, whereas my PRO-4X tester is only slightly less frugal at the pump with a rating of 20 city, 15 highway and 17 combined.
On the road the gasoline engine makes for a quieter more refined experience than the big Cummins turbo-diesel, although I’ve never been one to complain about the sound of truck engines unless they don’t give off a notable note at all. Fortunately there’s nothing anemic about the Endurance V8, the exhaust emitting a subdued loping grumble at idle and a wonderful bellow at full stride, albeit never overwhelming the cab.
In fact, the Titan’s passenger compartment is quite quiet overall, Nissan effectively exorcising the majority of wind and road noises so that easy conversations can be held from the front to back row and vise versa, and the aforementioned stereo can even be enjoyed when its volume is turned down. Likewise the Titan’s ride is very compliant, the big truck’s mass helping to iron out most road imperfections nicely and its substantive wheel travel allowing the truly nasty bumps and potholes to be absorbed effectively.
I admit to driving it gingerly most of the time to save fuel, but I wouldn’t have been doing my job if I hadn’t opened it up once in a while. Its muscular V8 pulls mightily from standstill and never relents all the way up to and beyond legal highway speeds, while the seven-speed auto is wonderfully smooth albeit with quick, positive shifts. A toggle with plus-minus markings is located on the handle of the column shifter, which provides manual-mode control if you really want or need it, while a button on the end of the shift lever engages Tow/Haul mode. Other than for testing purposes I just left it in Drive and let it do its thing, the Titan drivetrain a really nicely sorted bit of mechanical engineering.
Look on the center stack below the ignition button to engage four-wheel drive, Nissan providing a convenient rotating knob for leaving its most economical 2WD mode and selecting “4H” or “4LO”, the former for snow or lighter duty dirt roads, and the latter for tackling the really tough stuff. Let’s remember that Nissan’s four-wheel drive prowess is the stuff of legend, not only here in North America where Datsun pickups got the ball rolling (my dad had one of these and it was bulletproof), followed by the Frontier, original off-road-capable Pathfinder SUV and Xterra, and globally where trucks like the Navara/Pick Up and SUVs like the Patrol have long been used for personal, commercial and military purposes. Nothing they have, short of the latest Patrol (same as our Armada), enters the woods as comfortably as this Titan PRO-4X.
The front seats are especially large and accommodating, while the rear seating area is limousine-like, in keeping with most full-size four-door pickup trucks. They’re plenty comfortable too, with decent back support and a nice, wide flip-down center armrest incorporating cupholders. The lower cushions flip upwards for placing cargo on the floor, providing a sheltered and secure storage area for valuables.
After yet another week in a new Titan and my first with the uprated gasoline-powered 5.6-liter V8, I can easily understand why sales growth has been so strong. Sure it has a way to go before it catches up to Tundra numbers, and will probably never match any of the domestics, but the Titan is once again a worthy member of the full-size pickup category and totally worth investigation. Seriously, Nissan offers a lot of truck for the money, and if Tundra is any example of how the Titan might fare when it comes time to resell (imports often hold their value better), it might be an even smarter long-term bet than one of the domestics. I say you’d better check it out.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press