Maybe you know the story of the WWII-era Japanese battleships Yamato and Musashi. They were the largest, most powerful battleships ever built — 72,000 tons, 18 inch guns (vs. 45,000 tons and 16 inch guns for the largest-ever American battleship, the Iowa class).
But there were only two of them. Yamato and her sister ship.
There were — and still are — four Iowas.
Numbers — rather than size and firepower — won.
The full-size pick-up wars are not unlike this little history lesson.
Japanese manufacturers face a vast fleet of Big Three trucks available in almost any conceivable cab/bed configuration — with multiple engine offerings in addition. Competing head-to-head would mean a massive commitment of resources and a heavy gamble. If it didn’t work out…
So, why not go “Yamato’”?
Try to outgun the more numerous competition?
Enter the Titan.
It comes standard with more engine than its Big Three rivals (this includes their standard and next-up, optional engines) and — at least for now — will only be available in crew cab configuration, one (and two) upping the regular and extended cab versions of its Big Three rivals.
But, this strategy has its perils. Not everyone needs a “Yamato,” including the size — and price — that comes with it.
WHAT IT IS
The Titan is a full-size/1500 series pick-up truck available (for now) in just one cab/bed style (crew/short bed) and with just one engine (a big V8).
Base price is $34,780 for the 2WD S trim; adding 4WD bumps the sticker up to $37,810. In between are SV, SL and off-road-minded Pro-4X trims, with the $55,400 Platinum Reserve 4×4 topping things out.
The competition includes the crew cab versions of the Chevy Silverado 1500, Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram 1500.
Buyer’s note: Nissan — somewhat confusingly — also sells a Titan XD. Which looks the same but is a different truck. It has a heavier-gauge frame, longer wheelbase and is also available with a Cummins turbo-diesel V8.
The Titan XD falls in between a 1500 and a 2500 series truck; it’s reviewed separately, here.
After a two year break, the Titan returns. The 2017 model is the second-generation version of Nissan’s first-ever full-size pick-up, which made its debut back in 2003.
It’s new from the frame rails up.
Highlights include a much more powerful version of Nissan’s 5.6 liter V8 engine paired with a new seven speed automatic transmission, all-new bodywork and a new interior layout that features second-row under seat storage compartments and back seats that can be folded flat for even more cargo-carrying capacity inside the cab. An integrated trailer brake (and sway) controller is available, too.
Popular previous-gen Titan features such as the Utili-track cargo tie down/moveable cleat system and Titan Box lockable/waterproof storage cubbies built into the bed walls have been incorporated into the new truck.
There are also two new touchscreens, a standard 5 inch unit and (in higher trims) a larger (and nicer) 7 inch unit.
Standard V8 is much stronger than Big Three’s standard V6s — and several of their optional V8s.
High standard towing capacity (9,230 lbs.).
Versatile bed tie-down/storage system.
About $2k less to start than a Silverado crew cab.
Much more up-to-date than aging Dodge Ram 1500 (current Ram is basically the same truck as the 2010 model).
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD
No cab, bed — or engine — options until next year sometime.
Much less towing capacity than F-150 (12,200 lbs.) and Silverado (12,000 lbs.) offer.
Less legroom in both rows than the Ford and the Chevy.
May be too “Yamato” for you.
UNDER THE HOOD
Like the Japanese battlewagons of WW II, the Titan packs big guns — in the form of a standard 5.6 liter high-compression (11.2:1) high-performance (390 hp) V8 engine. The Chevy Silverado’s standard 4.3 liter V6 (285 hp) and its next-up optional 5.3 liter V8 (355) are light cruisers in comparison.
Ditto the Ford F-150, which starts out with a 282 hp 3.5 liter V6, moving up to 325 hp twin-turbo 2.7 V6 and from there to a 5.0 liter V8 that almost matches the Nissan’s horsepower (385) but not quite. You’ve got to buy the F-150’s fourth-available engine, which isn’t a V8. The F-150’s top gun is a twin-turbo 3.5 liter V6 — which doesn’t make as much horsepower (365) as either the Ford’s 5.0 V8 or the Nissan’s 5.6 V8, but does produce more torque than either: 420 ft.-lbs. (at 2,500 RPM) vs. 394 ft.-lbs. (at 4,000 RPM).
The aging Ram 1500 comes standard with a 305 hp, 3.6 liter V6. You can upgrade to a 5.7 liter, 395 hp V8 (that also makes 410 ft.-lbs. of torque) or — unique among 1500s — a 3 liter turbodiesel V6 that makes 240 hp and 420 ft.-lbs. of torque (same as the F-150’s twin-turbo V6).
But to out-muscle (and outrun) the Titan, you’ll need the Silverado’s available 6.2 liter, 420 hp V8. However, it’s only available as an option on the higher-end LTZ and High Country versions of the Silverado, which start at $44,350 (LTZ crew cab, 2WD). Then you pay another $2,695 to get the Big Gun. For which you have paid a big price — $47,045 vs. $34,780 for the base Titan.
Some interesting stuff about the Titan’s V8:
Though it is a very high compression engine (which helps it make horsepower; the previous version of the 5.6, which made 317 hp, had a CR of 9.8:1) it does not need premium fuel. This is a regular fuel (87 octane) engine. Direct injection (DI) which is replacing port fuel injection (PFI) has made it feasible to run high compression ratios without having to run high-test gas.
Other technical differences include a “smart” thermostat Multi Control Valve to finely control engine temperature by modulating coolant flow through the engine and electronically controlled (rather than throttle-controlled) intake valve timing.
In addition to more power, the updated 5.6 V8 also gets much better gas mileage: 15 city, 21 highway for both the 2WD and the 4WD versions of this truck. The previous-gen Titan with the 317 hp version of the 5.6 V8 (without all the updates) delivered a best-case 13 city and 18 highway — with 2WD.
The 4WD version of the old Titan gave you 12 city, 17 highway.
The Nissan’s mileage, incidentally, is about the same as the Silverado’s with its mid-range/optional 5.3 liter V8 (16 city, 22 highway with 4WD) and the F-150 with its third-available 5.0 liter V8 (15 city, 21 highway).
The Ram 1500 with the turbo-diesel V6 clears the room, though: 20 city, 28 highway (2WD versions; the 4WD downgrades slightly to 19 city, 27 highway).
An oddity — a liability, probably — is the Titan’s mediocre maximum tow rating of 9,390 lbs.
It’s odd given the power of the Titan’s V8 — and the lesser power of rivals like the Silverado 1500, which can pull 11,100 lbs. That’s with the 5.3 liter V8.
With the 6.2 V8, the Chevy can tow 12,000 lbs.
The F-150 V8 (also a lesser V8) can pull 11,000 lbs. — and with its top-of-the-line twin-turbo V6, the Ford pulls a class-best 12,200 lbs.
It’s a closer match-up vs. the Ram 1500, which has a max tow rating of 10,640 lbs. with the optional Hemi 5.7 liter V8 and 9,210 lbs. with the turbo-diesel V6.
ON THE ROAD
A few weeks back, I test-drove the Titan XD — which looks like a regular Titan (identical cab) but is much longer overall (242.7 inches vs. 228.1 inches) and rides on a longer wheelbase (151.6 inches vs. 139.8 for the regular Titan). The XD is also heavier-framed (it’s almost a 2500 series truck) and so, heavier.
By some 500 pounds.
The regular Titan weighs 5,508 lbs. for the 2WD model; 5,935 for the 4WD version. A 2WD Titan XD is already 6,006 lbs. Add the 4WD and the scales groan as the needle swings to 6,680 lbs.
But it’s the nearly 15 inch difference (14.7 inches, to be exact about it) in overall length that makes the difference, driving-wise. You almost need a pair of tugs to maneuver the XD into position — and even if you manage to line it up perfectly, the tail is still going to stick out. It’s also too long for some garages — unless you don’t mind leaving the door open.
Acoustic laminated windshield and side glass and hydraulic engine mounts (shared with the high-end Infiniti QX80, which is built off the Titan’s platform) give this battleship a Queen Mary ride. If, like Hiro Nakamura from Heroes, you could travel through time and space back to 1995 or so and test drive a truck from back then, you’d realize how good we have it now. The Titan is as smooth and quiet as luxury cars used to be. It’s only on narrow roads — and in close-quarters maneuvering — that you become aware of its Yamato-esque proportions.
To deal with this, electronic “tugs” are provided in the form of closed-circuit cameras and sensors that give you visual assistance as well as audible warnings that you’re about to maybe bump into something.
The available 4WD system has a two-speed transfer case with Low range gearing and — unlike a growing number of systems — has a 2WD (rather than 4WD Auto) mode. Some people like 4WD auto but I prefer a system that lets the driver control when 4WD is engaged. When you have to actually turn a knob (or pull a lever) you’re more conscious of what the vehicle is doing, for one. For two, there’s less potential for wear and tear resulting from the 4WD engaging when it doesn’t need to be engaged, or staying engaged without you being aware that it is engaged.
Also — and I realize this is juvenile, but I am a car guy and it goes with the territory — in 2WD it is possible to do a power-braked smoky burnout. In trucks and SUVs that have 4WD Auto, the system will fight you — will prevent you from spinning the rear wheels by kicking power to the front wheels.
It’s great for traction but sucks for fun.
AT THE CURB
At a glance, it’s hard to tell the difference between the Titan and the Titan XD — but the same is true of the 1500 Silverado and the 2500 Silverado (and so on).
This is policy now.
Ford started it.
They decided to take the “super duty” look that was once unique to the 2500/3500 series versions of their F-truck and make the half-ton F-150 look pretty much the same. Everyone else aped this — Nissan included.
I am not sure it was good idea.
These trucks all look like every 13-year-old boy’s fantasy vision of what a truck ought to look like. That is, like a full-scale Tonka truck. The problem is these full-scale Tonka trucks make even a full-grown/full-size man feel like a 13-year-old boy.
I’m 6 ft. 3 and 200 pounds — which makes me at least taller than probably 85 percent of the male population. I feel small relative to the Titan which is exactly that…
Even with the arm-reach of a 6 ft. 3 man, I had to lean over toward the right to be able to reach the far-away knob that controls the radio station adjustment. In tacit acknowledgement of the Reach Issue, Nissan relocated the glove box handle to the left-hand side, but it’s still a stretch. Same goes for the bed. The Titan — like all current 1500s — has high bed walls. Standing next to the truck, the tops are at chest height on me — 55.5 inches off the pavement. That’s about 4.6 feet high. Which makes it awkward at best to get at things in the bed.
At least the tailgate is damped (it doesn’t just flop down) but guys of normal height might have been better served if Nissan had included a step ladder (Ford does).
On the upside, the Titan’s rear wheelhouse bulges are slight and that makes it easier to load 4×8 sheets flat — and the Utili-track bed channel system with adjustable cleats is brilliant. So also the available Titan Box storage system, which builds cubbies that are not only built conveniently into the bed wall but also conveniently mounted at street level, where you can get at your things without a step ladder. These are waterproof and lockable, too.
Another ergonomically sensible design feature — and a difference vs. the previous Titan — is the relocation of the shift lever, which is now a stalk-type column-mounted shifter and no longer a console-mounted lever that may look sportier but eats up console storage space.
A cool design feature is the Titan’s scrollable LCD accessory gauges in between the speedometer and tach in the main cluster. These include oil pressure and temperature, transmission temperature and off-road angle of approach/departure/tilt indicators.
The Titan also gets a set of Nissan’s “zero gravity” seats, ergonomically designed to ease driver/passenger fatigue. These are no marketing gimmick, either. Nissans have among the most long-haul comfortable seats of any new vehicles on the road.
On the downside, the Titan’s not quite as roomy on the inside as the F-150 or the Silverado. It (the Titan) has 41.8 inches of legroom up front and 38.5 inches of legroom in the second row. This is by no means cramped — both specs are comparable to or better than the spaciousness you’d get inside a big SUV (for example, a Chevy Tahoe has 38.7inches of legroom in its second row). But the Silverado is even more spacious: 45.3 inches up front and 40.9 in the back. Ditto the F-150: 43.9 inches up front and 43.6 in the back.
Also, both the Chevy and the Ford (and the Dodge) offer a greater variety of cab/bed configurations — and they offer them right now.
For whatever weird reason, Nissan decided to launch the Titan as a crew cab/short bed-only deal, with other cab/bed configurations on deck for next year (calendar year 2017).
But not everyone needs or wants a crew cab — and buyers who do need more than a 5.5 foot bed (and don’t want to spend $34k-plus for a truck) are out of luck.
No, that’s not quite right. Nissan’s out of luck. Because people who don’t need the four-door cab but do need an eight foot (or even a 6.6 foot) bed can walk across the street to the Chevy or Ford or Dodge Ram store.
Not next year.
In order to compete effectively, you probably ought to offer at least what the competition does — and hopefully more (and better). Nissan has the bases covered (mostly) if you’re in the market for the Full Monte.
But if you’re not?
Regular and King cab versions (with longer beds) are on deck, but they’re not available now.
This limits the appeal of the Titan to urban cowboys, mostly. This deficit will be fixed in a few months, but why exclude so many potential buyers from the get-go? Six months from now, the Titan won’t be “new” — even if the regular and king cab versions of it are.
Better to play a royal flush than a straight.
Especially if you have the cards in your hand.
THE BOTTOM LINE
That said, it’s an impressive sight — and an impressive ride. Like Yamato, boilers lit, sun glinting off the gilded imperial crest, waves crashing over the foc’sle as she makes best speed toward the waiting American fleet…
*** Photo courtesy of Caricos