Review: 2017 Nissan Titan Pickup Truck Still Lags Behind the Domestic Competition

March 10, 2017 by Scott Oldham, @RealScottOldham

Over the last 12 years, the Nissan Titan has been the worst-selling full-size pickup in America. It’s dead last in sales, behind the Ford F-Series, Chevy Silverado, Ram and GMC Sierra trucks. It is even behind the struggling Toyota Tundra. That poor showing leaves a mark. And the full-size Nissan Titan pickup truck might as well have it tattooed across its big chrome grille.

Truck buyers don’t want their new-vehicle smell tainted with the whiff of failure. How else can you explain Titan sales not even reaching 22,000 last year in a record auto sales market that moved more than 2.2 million big pickups?

Still, the redesigned 2017 Titan in combination with the Titan XD, which slots between half-ton trucks and their larger heavy-duty pickup siblings, have begun to move the needle. In January, sales jumped to nearly 3,000 units. That was triple the number of Titans sold in the same month a year earlier, and for the first time in ages, Toyota’s Tundra might just be starting to see the Titan in the rear-view mirror.

Despite its progress, Nissan has quite a grade to climb. In the same month, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sold nearly 34,000 Ram trucks. Sales of General Motors’ Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra twins topped 49,000 units. Ford pushed out 58,000 F-Series pickups.

Nissan has to make the very best truck in the segment if it is really going to take on the domestic truck brands. That’s the only way to do it. That’s the strategy. Anything else is spit in the wind. Nissan would have to gather the know-how and spend the money to create the greatest full-size pickup in the world; a dead-reliable truck that out techs, out performs, out rides, out comforts, out luxuriates and out cools the Ford, the Ram, the Chevy and the GMC. And it better offer the highest capability, the most power and the greatest fuel economy.

The 2017 Titan isn’t that truck. It isn’t even close.

Our test vehicle was a fully loaded Titan 4×4 in the Platinum Reserve trim. The sticker price was $56,595, including $1,195 destination charges. We spent a week driving it around Los Angeles, keeping in mind that it’s the lighter-duty quarter-ton brother to the competent Nissan Titan XD we reviewed recently. The XD uses a more robust frame, while the standard Titan makes due with essentially the same chassis Nissan used in the first generation of the truck. That’s right, its design dates all the way back to 2004.

Nissan Titan King Cab Pickup truck back

2017 Nissan Titan King Cab. (Photo: Nissan)

Its normally aspirated, big-displacement powertrain isn’t exactly state-of-the-art either. The 390- horsepower, all-aluminum, double-overhead cam, 5.6-liter V-8 engine, now with direct injection, also dates back to the first-generation Titan. Its seven-speed automatic transmission is new, but the combination seems downright prehistoric compared with the twin-turbo V6 engine and 10-speed automatic powering Ford’s latest F-150. Series. Still, it’s the best part of this truck.

The combination — used in the Titan XD as well as the Armada, the NV van and Infiniti QX80 — delivers excellent throttle response, good low-end torque and a nice kick in the upper ends of the tachometer, which redlines at 6,000 rpm. And it sounds good, kind of rumbly like a muscle car.

This is a fast truck. Highway merging, even when loaded, is not a problem, and hammering the throttle off the line will spin the Titan’s 20-inch rear tires. The transmission is responsive and geared well, and there’s a likable firmness to the way it shifts. Manual shifts are possible with an up or down toggle on the shifter.

Fuel economy is acceptable for the class. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the truck at 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, with a combined rating of 18 mpg. With its 5.5-foot bed empty and four aboard, our Titan averaged 17.1 mpg during a road trip.

The Titan does like the interstate; it eats miles effortlessly. Its interior is quiet, and its leaf spring rear suspension provides a good overall ride — but not as good as the coil-sprung Ram pickup, which remains the class leader for ride quality.

Around town, however, the Titan feels big and graceless compared with the more car-like Ram and the more athletic Chevrolet Silverado or Ford F-150, which is the sport sedan of the segment. In the suburbs, the Nissan feels hulking because of its slow, heavy steering and its huge A-pillars, which cause visibility issues. You need to look twice for pedestrians at every crosswalk.

The Titan’s interior makes a great first impression. The gauges are clear and attractive, the black and brown leather seats look fantastic, and there’s contrasting stitching on the seats, the dash and the shifter. There’s also a heated wood and leather steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, navigation and other cool tech like the Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection, which makes parking this beast manageable. The Platinum also comes standard with blind-spot warning and rear cross traffic alert active safety systems.

One cool feature is Nissan’s Utili-track Channel System, which was pioneered on its first-generation Titan and emulated by other manufacturers. The series of channels in the bed floor and bed side rails come with removable cleats, which slide into the channels, providing a wide range of attach points to secure cargo. Other bed features are a 120-volt power outlet and LED lighting under the bed rail, which is fantastic for night work or tailgating.

Nissan Titan King Cab pickup truck

Nissan Titan King Cab interior. (Photo: Nissan)

The seat bottoms, however, are a bit flat, and thigh support is a problem on long drives. Also, too much of the trim feels cheap, and the design doesn’t break new ground or set new standards against competitors in the segment. In fact, it turns back the clock with a 7-inch navigation screen, which is the smallest screen in the segment. Hey Nissan, 2010 called and wants its dashboard back.

With LED headlights, running boards, dark chrome wheels and large P275/60R20-size tires, the Titan looks imposing and properly expensive. Too bad it just doesn’t look as cool as the class leaders, especially the Ram, Chevy or GMC offerings.

Unfortunately, the more time you spend in the Titan, the more you realize how dated it feels compared with its more modern and more popular competition. Aside from the Nissan’s five-year/100,000-mile warranty, it doesn’t really leapfrog its domestic competition in any measurable or emotional way, and few Ford F-Series, Ram or Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra owners are going to make the trade.

The Titan is good enough, however, to steal a big number of buyers from the less powerful and homelier Toyota Tundra, which sold 115,000 units in 2016. Despite updates to the Tundra for 2017, Nissan smells blood in the water and has launched two additional body styles of the Titan to drive sales.

But Toyota won’t go down without a fight. It doesn’t want to be dead last either. That’s going to be a good thing for truck buyers.  Look for additional incentives on Tundras and Titans as these two wage war at the bottom of the full-size truck market throughout 2017.

Now WATCH a Nissan Titan XD Pickup Truck Get Built in Under 3 Minutes

14 Responses

  1. Ford Suck

    I drive a 2016 F-150 as a work truck and it’s a dog. Overpriced. Give me Nissan’s V-8 which will outlast anything Ford makes.

    Reply
  2. Robert Morris

    I’m enjoying the 2017 Titan SV I purchased — the closest thing that I could find to the smoothness, quiet cabin and comfort of my ’07 Avalanche. Some would dispute whether the Avy is even a truck — but the Titan SV matches it and more. I test drove them all – Ram came close, but purchased the Titan.

    Reply
  3. Steve

    My 2017 Nissan 4×4 PROX is a wicked powerful truck. I’ve owned a Ford F150, and a Chevy Silverado, and a 2006 Titan. This truck takes the cake. As far as truck buyers go, who in there right mind would not buy a truck because the instruments were a little outdated? Really? Give me a truck that has balls…and I can tell you this 2017 Nissan Titan does.

    Reply
  4. Kenny

    What a biased , emotional review of the new Titan. I tested all the big 3 US truck makes and Toyota. Firstly, the Ram and Chevy is made in Mexico, while the Titan is made 2/3 in the USA. So how do you keep American jobs? Buy Made in USA like the Nissan. The Chevy/GM overhead valve engine and the 2 valve Ram engine are outdated junk compared to the 4 valve variable timed Titan engine, made in TN, USA. The Ford engines are like the Euro junk being forced on us to save gas while the turbos will overheat and burn up once the warranty is gone. I had a Ford F 150 King Ranch 2002 and had to dump in for the Nissan as the F150 blew up 2 cylinder heads past the warranty due to soft metal heads. This is a nationwide problem and shows how weak Ford engineering is. The F150 exploded at 30 mph and then was shaking and could not go past 55 mph on the freeway. I also got a 5 year warranty /100k on the Titan ; all the others have 3 years, so I bought the 2017 SL Titan and is has more tech features than my Lexus or Infiniti cars.

    Reply
    • Chris

      The engine on the Titan is Engineered in Japan and brought over to the US along with the state of the art Machines to build them here. Chevy and dodge do the same in Mexico just to pay cheap labor

      Reply
      • Bryan Worley

        The engine is manufactured in Tennessee, while the full truck is assembled in Mississippi. The engineering team on this truck was fully based in the US, and it shares it’s engine with the redesigned Armada.

  5. Vincent

    Isn’t the Honda Ridgeline in dead last in sales? So dead that you forgot to mention it?

    Reply
    • Matt

      The Ridgeline is not an actual truck. It’s just a car-based SUV with a small bed behind the cabin.

      Reply
  6. Jaden

    Extremely biased article. Also the Toyota Tundra is far from struggling. The author’s agenda clearly transparent.

    I have to agree with the other comments, even though this is a year old, this was written as a smudge report against the Nissan Titan, with clear jabs at the Toyota Tundra.

    I think based on our comments, the author should write a follow-up with some clarifications and maybe retract a few things.

    Reply
  7. Leo Brignac

    My 2016 GMC drivetrain jerks all over in slow traffic, my titan is smooth, my GMC has a 36k warranty, my Titan has 100k five year basic bumper to bumper warranty, GMC has no under seat storage, Titan has large locking storage plus folding floor, GMC has no bed lights, tie system in bed floor and bed rail tie system, Titan does, plus it has AC receptacle, GMC doesn’t. Titan has bigger and more expensive tires than my GMC. My Titan has adjustable headlamps for towing, GMC doesn’t, the Titan engine doesn’t miss a lick when accelerating while my GMC with 4and8 cyl system hesitates constantly, the seats are larger and softer than the GMC and smoother operating, I had wheel balance problems and engine idle problems with my GMC, no problems with the Titan so far, enough for now.

    Reply
  8. JACKSON B FOX

    Have new 2018 Titan Pt Reserve Tuck. Nice truck but one of my end caps on a running board was damaged. To replace the cap, Nissan says I need to purchase a completely new lighted running board at price of $590 + $250 install labor. End cap is a piece of Cr-plated plastic. Should cost only a few bucks. Asking user to spend to $800-$900 for cheap part is a crime!

    Reply
  9. Bryan Worley

    The most biased truck review I have ever read. I think what had happened was…

    The reviewer did not have his Starbucks and blueberry scone that morning and mistakenly climbed into a Silverado and reviewed the wrong truck…or trucks.com is totally in the tank for Detroit and the Italian owner of Ram.

    Having been a Ford F150 guy, I shopped all full size makes before purchasing my new truck. Hands down, the Titan was the best truck I drove. The only lag-behind was the towing capacity. But as both of my trailers are under 8k lbs, it was not as issue. Towing more than 9500 lbs in a half ton seems unsafe anyway.
    The engine is by far the most advanced of the makes, and pulls 9.5-10.5 mpg towing a 6k trailer, while getting me a real reliable 20mpg highway unloaded, sometimes more if the hills are kept to minimum. Just be means of sheer grunt the Nissan V8 is the punchiest while keeping that old school V8 rumble. The Ram 5.7 always has been trouble, and the Ecoboosts….c’mon. Government regulation fleet MPG pandering at it’s finest.
    The interior of the Titan is upscale for a truck, even in SV trim. Being that all the competition have basically copied the dash configuration that the Titan XD showed up with first, clearly it is the best of the pack. None of the others can boast Anit-gravity seating that was developed in conjunction with NASA. After my last 4k mile roadtrip with rv in tow, I can attest that they are amazing.

    The Ram would come in second in interior quality IMO, otherwise it is outdated. The GM offerings look like an obscene love child between the Tundra, F150, and Titan.

    Reply
  10. John Smith

    You all are a big lot of fan boys. wow. you are also all b*tt hurt over the truth.
    The Nissan Titan is old. Even with the redesign coming this year, 2020.
    The steering is heavy, slow and not easy to use around town or for fine maneuvers.
    The engine was punchy and i did like that, but it also was thirsty. way more than all the other brands.
    The interior is garbage. they have been using the same gauges, head unit touch screen, and switch gear for a decade or so.
    The camera system is nice, but the resolution /quality sucks. its so grainy and hard to really see. its not clear at all.
    The seats were really nice, and the heat and cooled part was awesome, but they did not go low enough to the floor. they made me feel like i was sitting on a pillow on top of the seat. i am 6 foot 2 inches. it should go lower.
    also, this truck came out in the 20-teens, why is this truck lacking a sun roof option? thats just stupid.
    Also, they are the worst selling truck in the US, you know why??? they are over priced.
    a platinum reserve is like 62K
    They come with less standard features than a corolla and are 3 times as much money. its stupid.

    Here is hoping the new truck is better.

    Reply

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