Test Drive: 2017 Nissan Titan, new and improved

Test Drive: 2017 Nissan Titan, new and improved

May 20th, 2017 by Mark Kennedy in Business Around the Region

The 2017 Nissan Titan pickup features a 5.6 liter V-8 engine manufactured in Smyrna, Tenn.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

CORRECTION: This story was altered 5-22-17 to correct the location of plant where the Titan's engine is assembled.

The cab of the 2017 Nissan Titan features supportive seats and an uncomplicated dash.

The cab of the 2017 Nissan Titan features...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Fast facts

- Model: 2017 Nissan Titan SL 4WD Crew Cab

- Exterior color: Gun Metallic

' Interior color: Black

- Engine: 5.6-liter V-8

' Horsepower: 390

- Transmission: seven-speed automatic

- Fuel economy: 21 mpg highway, 15 mpg city

- Local Dealers: Nissan of Chattanooga East, Mountain View Nissan

- Price (as tested): $51,015

The bread-and-butter engine for the all-new 2017 Nissan Titan, a 5.6-liter V-8, is manufactured up the road in Decherd, Tenn., while final assembly of the truck is done down in Canton, Miss. That makes the Titan the closest thing we have to a home-grown truck.

Twelve years ago, Nissan introduced the Titan as a competitor in the half-ton truck segment dominated by the Ford F-150 and the Chevrolet Silverado, the best-selling vehicles in North America.

Gaining market share in a segment so thoroughly dominated by Ford and Chevy was always going to be a heavy lift. Whether the redesign will help the Titan gain more traction is yet to be seen, but the improvements in the product are demonstrable. Even a modest uptick in sales would be important to Nissan dealers, since the half-ton pickup represents one of the most profitable segments in automotive retailing.

Last summer we noted after spending a week in a hulking Nissan Titan XD that the truck was so tall we had to climb down from the cab to pay the drive-through window attendant at a McDonald's in Red Bank. Well, our Titan SL Crew Cab tester is not nearly as big as the XD. In fact the four-door set-up and modest 67-inch bed are more like a full-size SUV with a small, elevated trailer.

Like all truck lines, the number of Titan configurations is vast. We counted nine trim levels ranging in price from the S model ($35,975) to the Platinum Reserve ($49,460). Our Gun Metalic tester, a four-wheel drive Titan SL Crew Cab, has an MSRP of $51,015 including a towing package and destination charge.

A scan of Chattanooga-area Nissan dealerships shows an abundant supply of 2017 Nissan Titans on area lots.

FEATURESĀ AND STYLING

Like all full-size trucks, much of the designers' work on the Titan was concentrated on the front fascia. Because the basic outline of a truck is more or less fixed, the grille and headlight assemblies are often what animate the design of a pickup.

The Titan's grille is a honeycomb pattern encased in a bold, chrome frame. Huge, trapezoidal headlight assemblies add even more personality. Taken together the message is clear: the Titan is a serious truck for serious times. There is no hint of playfulness or risky inventions. Big V-8 badges embedded in the quarter panels are further evidence of the Titan's macho personality, while the flat side panels are uninterrupted by character lines.

The interior of the Titan, meanwhile, is built for comfort, with soft leather-covered captains' seats up front with contrasting stitching, padded armrests and easy-to-read analog gauges. Unlike the Titan XD, which feels super-sized in every way, the Titan SL feels roomy but proportional. All the controls are reachable.

Large window surfaces make for excellent outward visibility. I found myself wincing on narrow roads, however, worrying that one of the extended tow mirrors would clip a mailbox. (It never happened, thankfully).

Standard equipment on the Titan SL includes a Rockford Fosgate sound system, satellite radio, 20-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, remote engine start, power sliding rear window, running boards, factory spray-on bedliner and a head's-up instrument display.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

While Titan owners have their choice of three engine configurations, the 5.6-liter V-8 figures to be the work-horse power-plant and likely volume leader. The V-8 engine is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. With 390 horsepower, a V-8 equipped Titan can tow more than 9,000 pounds and handle a payload of 1,610 pounds.

Far from ponderous, the Titan has plenty of pickup for a truck — although the big V-8 does take a tick or two to gather itself. The ride, even on such a big rig, is quiet and compliant. The cabin feels like it would be a comfortable place to be on a cross-country trip pulling a camper.

The second-row bench seats offer ample room for three passengers and legroom is immense.

The Titan can shift to four-wheel-drive on the fly and feels like it would be a blast in an off-road romp. With 394 pound-feet of torque, the Titan has plenty of low-end grunt.

BOTTOM LINE

The government estimates the Titan SL will get 21 miles per gallon highway and 15 miles per gallon city. Annual fuel cost, based on 15,000 miles traveled, is estimated to be $2,050.

This new-generation Nissan Titan yields nothing to the competition and seems well positioned to create more choice in the segment.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

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