Unlike any of the other full-size pickup trucks — the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Ram 1500, GMC Sierra 1500 and Toyota Tundra — Nissan has a two-pickup strategy: one called the Titan XD, which debuted in 2016 and is built on a bigger and stronger platform, and the lighter-duty offering we review here, the Nissan Titan half ton. The XD can carry and tow heavier loads, and it offers a turbo-diesel 5.0-liter V-8 Cummins as well as a gas V-8. The two are built on the same production line in Canton, Miss., and currently offer single and crew cabs as well as different bed lengths. A King Cab will be joining the lineup soon.
Exterior & Styling
If you're going to sell a half-ton pickup to American buyers, you'd better have as many cab and bed variations as possible, as well as several layers of trim levels. that's what Nissan is now doing with three different cab models paired with a 5-foot-6-inch box (for the crew cab), 6-foot-6-inch box (for the King Cab) and 8-foot cargo bed (for the new single cab). Cleverly, Nissan uses only one wheelbase — 139.8 inches — while the overall length varies slightly between the three configurations. Nissan has said it might offer a larger mix of wheelbases in the future.
Currently, singular-cab Titans come only in the S and SV trim levels with the 5.6-liter V-8 and seven-speed transmission (the same combination found in the Nissan Armada), but there will be a new V-6 option available in the future. King Cab models will be offered for the S, SV and Pro-4X, while crew-cab models show up on the more well-equipped SL and top-of-the-line Platinum Reserve; the latter is designed to compete with Ford F-150 King Ranch, GMC Sierra 1500 Denali and Ram 1500 Longhorn premium pickups.
Our test truck for this review was a Pro-4X trim level, which rides a little taller because of four-wheel drive and larger, more aggressive 275/70R18 General Grabber all-terrain tires. The Pro-4X is designed to be a little tougher, with rugged monotube Bilstein shock absorbers to compete with the Tundra TRD Pro off-road trim and the Ram 1500 Rebel. The Pro-4X includes a massive aluminum front skid plate, frame-mounted tow hooks, hill descent control, special decals and interior badges.
We think the Pro-4X offers the most muscular stance of the Nissan lineup, but a few weaknesses arose when we took several off-road-equipped pickups on our 2017 Monster Factory Off-Road Challenge: The Titan Pro-4X finished third out of six solid players. Although it sustained a few injuries, it performed better than expected.
How It Drives
In the past, Nissan Titans were typically defined by their torquey V-8 engines and throaty exhaust note. They were the youthful, sportier option in the category but did not offer the standard capabilities of competing trucks.
Nissan engineers did not reinvent the wheel here, keeping similar suspension strategies (coil-spring independent front, leaf-spring solid-axle rear) from before, but with significant performance and comfort capabilities.
Overall, we found the ride quite comfortable with an empty bed. The standout feature of the truck is the steering feel; clearly the engineers paid a lot of attention to the ratios, wheel feel, and the way the steering boost moderates itself differently at high and low speeds. This rack-and-pinion setup has sharp turn-in response at slower speeds and smoothness at higher speeds (with a good on-center feel) that we haven't found in other half-ton pickups.
The new direct-injection, all-aluminum 5.6-liter V-8 gas engine is rated at 390 horsepower and 394 pounds-feet of torque — that's significantly up from the previous-generation 5.6-liter V-8, which had the weakest feel of the class. The Titan engine doesn't feel particularly powerful like Ford's EcoBoost engines, nor does it feel sluggish like the Tundra's aging V-8 — it's sort of just right. The new V-8 is well-matched with a smooth, quick seven-speed transmission that does a great job of moving seamlessly from gear to gear.
During the last zero-to-60-mph acceleration test of our Monster Factory Off-Road Challenge, the Titan's 7.5-second time finished well behind the new high-output 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 and 10-speed transmission in the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor (5.7 seconds) and just ahead of the 2016 Tundra TRD Pro V-8 (7.6) and 2016 Ram Rebel with the 5.7-liter V-8 (7.7). (GM did not participate in this contest.) Yes, the Titan is quick, but it seems like the transmission is doing the heavy lifting and getting that muscle to the ground.
During our off-road competition, our only issue as we carved our way through the serious desert trails of the Santa Catalina Mountains outside Tucson, Ariz., was keeping the Titan's nose away from rocks and wash ruts. This is a big truck with a long hood and underbelly, and it's tricky to keep clean on a technical trail. We came to appreciate Nissan's 360-degree bird's-eye-view camera that offers clean views in front and behind each bumper, as well as what's on the far side of the truck. Getting into low range was easy work with the four-wheel-drive dial, and the extra 2.72:1 (low-range) gear enabled plenty of slow-go crawling speed that allowed us to better climb both loose-dirt and hard-rock slopes with control and poise.
Our crew-cab Pro-4X 4x4 (weighing almost 6,000 pounds) had an EPA rating of 15/20/17 mpg city/highway/combined — not stellar, but competitive. We should note that the Pro-4X did win our fuel-economy test, with an average of 17.0 mpg on our 170-mile all-pavement route in and around Tucson. Nissan does not offer a small diesel for the half-ton Titan, but it could go that direction if needed with all the engines it has access to around the world. For now, the Titan XD is the only Nissan pickup to offer a diesel (a 5.0-liter V-8 Cummins); the XD's Pro-4X version averaged 16.6 mpg in the same mileage test.
Along with the steering, we count braking as one of the Titan's best assets; the feel and grip of the four-wheel discs seem exceptionally well-matched for a vehicle of this size and weight. In fact, when comparing empty braking distances from 60 mph in our Off-Road Challenge, this new Nissan Titan crew-cab 4x4 had the best stopping distances of all competitors, stopping from 60 mph in just 134.9 feet and beating the Ford, Chevy and Ram.
To put it simply, previous Titan interiors lacked style and quality materials. All the trucks in this class have upped their game significantly during the past five years, which means Nissan had to do something drastic here. It did, but it's also obvious that Nissan wanted simply to be included in the group, as opposed to becoming a class leader.
The new Titan's entry-level trims offer noticeably ordinary and simple gauge designs as well as hard plastic materials, but those trims do come standard with power windows, mirrors and remote keyless entry, while the center control panel layout has a much smaller radio screen and less ornate climate-control knobs. Pro-4X, SL and Platinum Reserve models have cleaner, wider gauge layouts and higher-quality material on the dash, seats, doors and center armrest, accented with contrasting stitching.
The top-level Platinum Reserve offers two-tone leather with Zero Gravity padding in each seat to provide better support and comfort for all occupants. It comes up just a bit short versus Ford's and Ram's western-themed look and feel.
The Titan crew cab has plenty of hidden storage compartments under the rear seats, taking a page from the Ram and Ford Super Duty pickups with a set of under-seat locking bins. With the rear seats raised, you can unfold a larger rear floor out flat or hide small cargo underneath.
Other convenience features include seven grab handles (no other pickup truck has more), two console map pockets, 12-volt and 110-volt outlets, remote engine start, Rockford Fosgate 12-speaker audio and a telescoping steering wheel.
Ergonomics & Electronics
The Titan's controls and gauge layout are familiar and comfortable, mostly because it looks like a combination of the current Ford F-150 and Ram 1500 control panel and gauge cluster designs.
The multimedia choices in the Titan are competitive, but the 7.0-inch color touchscreen that incorporates both radio and navigation controls seems small, short and low in resolution; this becomes apparent when trying to use the optional backup or 360-degree cameras. Because of the cameras' wide viewing angle, anything smaller than an actual vehicle is difficult to distinguish, and oncoming vehicles weren't big enough until they were on top of us.
Additionally, where the Ford and Ram offer a boatload of information between the speedometer and tachometer (with numerous scrollable information screens), the Titan has only a few truck and fuel-economy data screens. Nissan offers subscription-based, SiriusXM-powered NissanConnect Services, which provides several remote services such as emergency calling, a stolen vehicle locator and automatic collision notification.
Some customers will be disappointed with the smaller navigation screen and limited data screens, but those details can be corrected in a future upgrade. Ditto for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which are not currently present.
Cargo, Storage & Towing
The 2017 Titan Pro-4X comes with a standard Tow/Haul mode at the tip of the transmission stalk, trailer-sway control and downhill speed control. It offers a multi-setting trailer brake controller as part of its optional towing package (which also includes bigger, extendable mirrors, puddle lamps and LED headlamps). Our only complaint about the brake controller is its location, which is low and out of sight.
One of the more interesting features Nissan offers is a trailer light check system that allows the driver to check the working status of the connected trailer lights from the driver's seat, thanks to a screen image of the trailer in the center gauge cluster. Additionally, since the half-ton Titan uses the same cab and bed configuration as the bigger Titan XD, just about anything you can order on one, you can get on the other.
In addition to the improved cabin storage, Nissan is also offering what it calls "Titan Boxes" as a factory option that provide for lockable bed storage space. Unfortunately, the bed boxes — installed over the wheel wells in the truck bed — are challenging to reach unless you're in the bed, and they will limit the width of the cargo box. Still, we think it's a pretty good solution to a common problem. Only Ram has anything similar with the RamBox. We've always liked the RamBoxes, and they now lock along with the doors using the same key fob — a convenience not available for the Titan Boxes, which require a separate manual key.
The half-ton Titan's payload capacities are solidly centered; they're not class leading, but they are more capable than specialty trucks such as the Ford Raptor and Ram Rebel with four-corner air suspension. Our Titan Pro-4X test truck had a calculated payload of almost 1,400 pounds, offering a stout 7,300-pound gross vehicle weight rating. Those figures play in the same ballpark as the F-150 and Silverado 1500.
We haven't towed with the half-ton Titan yet, but its maximum tow rating is more than 9,000 pounds.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the 2017 Titan crew cab received top scores of good (out of a possible good, acceptable, marginal or poor) in all crashworthiness tests except the small overlap frontal crash test, where it was marginal, which is typical for the crew-cab half-ton segment. The Ford F-150 is the only competitor rated good in two cab styles. The Titan single and King Cabs hadn't been tested as of publication.
Where most of the other trucks in the class received poor ratings with standard headlights, the Nissan crew cab was designated marginal. Only the GMC Sierra 1500 received an acceptable headlight rating. The 2017 Honda Ridgeline — typically considered a mid-size pickup — received top scores in all categories.
A full 360-degree camera system with front and rear parking sensors is available on select Titan trim levels, but to date there is no collision warning or automatic emergency braking, features available on higher trim levels of half-ton competitors such as the F-150 Platinum and Sierra 1500 Denali. Automatic collision notification is available when equipped with NissanConnect Services and a subscription, which, like Ram's Uconnect Access, adds cellular communication for the vehicle apart from any smartphone device.
Other safety features on this new Titan include blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
We found this new half ton to be well-suited for the typical driving habits and family demands of general consumers; however, when looking at traditional truck categories such as payload and towing capacity and owner needs, the value equation can flip.
It all depends on what you need to do.
Of special note, the Nissan Titan is the only pickup in this category that offers a five-year/100,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. There's a good amount of value beyond that, and given Nissan's hunger to build market share, our guess is your closest dealership is likely to want to make a deal.
Compare the Titan side-by-side with the Silverado 1500 and Ford F-150 here, and the Ram 1500 and Tundra here.