2018 Nissan Titan Review

Testing trucks on the hunt

Jan. 22, 2018 By Matthew Guy. Photos by Nissan and Matthew Guy.

When Nissan first unleashed its mid-sized Frontier on the American market in the 1990s, they used an ad campaign with the tagline "Dogs Love Trucks."

Twenty years later, in the pre-dawn hours in front of a Mississippi hunting lodge, I watched a 14-month old black Lab named Coal excitedly run around a Nissan Titan Midnight Edition painted the same color as his short black fur.

Nissan should re-hire that ad agency.

Titan Strategy

The Titan and Titan XD have been on the market for a couple of years now, selling at a torrid pace considering the lack of interest in the old model which was produced from 2004-2015, a lifetime in the truck industry. It's not going to snatch the sales crown off the F-150's head, and Nissan doesn't expect it to, but it has certainly carved out a comfortable place for itself in the field.

Offered in two flavors, like all good ice cream or pizza, Nissan has taken a unique tack to the pickup truck market with its Titan. The standard Titan is built in the visage of other half-ton trucks offered in the segment, with a trio of cab configurations and bed lengths, plus a five-spot of trim levels ranging from base-spec to the uber-lux Platinum Reserve. A single engine choice is on tap: a 5.6-liter V8 making an appropriate 390 horsepower. Nissan calls it the Endurance. I call it the NASCAR Special; its exhaust note is glorious.

Built on a completely separate chassis is the not-quite-3/4-ton Titan XD. Rather than enter a battle of numbers with the Ford Super Duty, Chev & GMC HD twins, and the Ram Heavy Duty, Nissan shrewdly slotted their more brutish offering in the hair's-breadth between the traditional half- and three-quarter ton segments. The XD is offered with either the familiar 5.6L Endurance V8 or 5.0L Cummins V8 turbo-diesel.

The Hunt

Take a look at a satellite image of northwestern Mississippi, between the cities of Memphis and Jackson, and one will find a superb array of blue fragments, as if a cartographer's pen exploded. Some of these lakes are natural, some man-made by rice farmers flooding their fields in preparation for next year's harvest. Regardless of their origin, these waters are perfect for hunting a few duck.

In the early morning chill, we set out from the hunting lodge with our guide's black Lab birddog in tow. These parts, smack dab in the middle of the Mississippi Flyway, have earned their name as the waterfowl capital of the state. Ducks cry in the distance but legal light (6:25am) is still half an hour away.

The Titan is a great choice for getting the squad to the trail leading out to the duck blind. The interior design team at Nissan has done their homework when it comes to accommodating outdoor enthusiasts. Under the flip-up rear seat, the responsible hunter will find lockable storage big enough in which to safely store a 20-inch 12-gauge shotgun and some ammo. Its center console is larger than some coolers I have owned and and, yes, the cup holders fit a 32oz bottle of Gatorade. The design team made sure of that.

Out back, the Titan also features available in-bed "Titan Box" storage boxes that are lockable and sit sight-unseen at street level. They can hold a wide range of essential work and recreational equipment like shotguns or fishing rods. The boxes are watertight (and drainable) and can be used as a cooler for picnics or tailgating. They are also easily removable for times when extra bed capacity is required.

This is in contrast to the RamBox solution which permanently eats up bed space. The RamBox can be keylessly locked and unlocked with the truck's fob, however; the Titan requires the twist of a metal key. The keyhole is smartly covered by a rubber cap to keep out debris. A 120v plug and lighting are also available in the bed.

In mid-January, the chartreuse timber have long since shed their leaves, but enough cover remains at the treeline to hide half a dozen fully grown men who are waiting for mallards and teal to check out their decoys. Besides, our guide had brought the entire Mossy Oak catalog and enough 3-inch shot to equip a small army. Our limit is bagged quickly.

2018 Tweaks

The new-for-2018 Midnight Edition of the Titan blends in pretty well to its surroundings, too. Painted inky black, it features a body color front grille with dark insert, darkened headlamps, and black finishing around the fog lamps. Nissan's paint booth hit the exterior badging, mirrors, door handles, and bumpers with black paint. Snazzy 20-inch rims are, you guessed it, black in color.

It's easy to dismiss Nissan's efforts as simple paint-and-wallpaper packages designed to keep consumer interest two years after the truck's launch, but that would be a mistake. The company has intently listened to existing customers, taking note of their grins and gripes. Starting in 2018, for example, the Titan is ditching its fender badge, which resided in a quadrant above the front wheel well and never looked quite right.

Nissan listened to the off-roaders, too. The Pro4X trim does a great job of melding off-road capability with luxury touches. Feedback for 2018 led Nissan to continue offering the Pro4X trim, with its trio of skiplates, Bilstein monotube shocks, and all-terrain tires on 18-inch rims. Hill Descent Control (dandy when navigating the sticky Mississippi mud), Hill Start Assist, and an electronic locking rear diff are all part of the Pro4X package. An off-road gauge uses accelerometer data to calculate the vehicle's pitch and roll angles.

One of this author's favorite Titan features, continued for 2018, is the Trailer Light Check system. By pressing the lock button on the keyfob twice (holding it down on the second press), the Titan will cycle through all its lights so a person who is hooking up a trailer by themselves can be sure the turn signals, brake lights, and running lights are all in working order. It's a solution to a real-world problem, one yet to be picked up on by other manufacturers. 

In another nod to real-world usability, the new King Cab bodystyle is offered with a rear seat delete option. While this configuration does appear on a couple of mid-sized trucks, your author is left scratching his head trying to think of any other extended cab full-size truck on the market that allows for a completely blank slate aft of the driver's seatback. Access to that space is easy thanks the King Cab's clamshell doors and flat rear floor.

A Titan so equipped offers one of the biggest lockable storage spaces in the American pickup market with plenty of room for shelving or comfortable space for a loyal dog. Our topnotch birddog, Coal, would be very happy.

See? It's true. Dogs love trucks.

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