Test Drive: 2017 Nissan Titan Pro-4X

The more I drive trucks, the more I like the things. Maybe I’m getting old, maybe I’ve been exposed to too many manly marketing campaigns, but driving a truck is just plain fun for me.

Titan sales are up a whopping 217 percent year on year

I even have a truck song, that I play in my mind whenever I’m driving one, and occasionally sing out loud. It goes, “truck truck truck truck, truck-truck, truckity-truck, I’m a truck, I’m a truck, I’m a truck-truck-truck”.

Truck.

That childish joy is only intensified when driving the 2017 Nissan Titan Pro-4X, in no small part because of Nissan’s 5.6L, 390 hp, 394 lb-ft V8. “It sounds like a proper truck,” says my friend as we peel out of the office carpark.

And that “real truck” feel is a large part of this new Titan’s sales success. Since the new generation launched, Titan sales are up a whopping 217 percent year on year (as of August). In 2016 Nissan shifted 1,396 Titans up to August, putting it second last on the sales ladder behind the Honda Ridgeline. In 2017, that number leapt to 4,431 units.

That’s a long way from the 106,000+ Ford F-150s sold in the same time frame this year, but Nissan never expected to challenge the conventional units. This is a “white space” offering, and the company is rightly proud of its growth, and comfortable with its numbers.

Like any good truck company, Nissan has an off-road sport-focused edition, and this Pro-4X is that. The package comes with hill-descent control, tough-looking 18-inch alloys and perhaps most importantly, General Grabber off-road tires.

Our tester was also fitted with a trailer brake, which I didn’t get to use on this occasion, but with it the Titan is capable of pulling 4,100 kg.  

Earlier I touched briefly on the V8 engine – it’s a throaty little unit that pulls with an even, persuasive surge. It’s paired to a seven-speed automatic that is further attached to a two-speed transfer case. You can select RWD (for maximum skids… um, fuel efficiency. I mean fuel efficiency…) or 4lo or 4hi. I’ve tested this unit out more than a few times in rough conditions now, but the true test for me was when I left it in a muddy paddock during four hours of torrential rain at Shannonville Motorsport Park. Despite being up to the rims in mud the Pro-4X powered easily out in 4hi. Those tires certainly helped.

So too, the electronic locking rear differential, and the Bilstein shock absorbers. I’d wager this Titan is as competent off road as 99 percent of truck owners would ever need.

The Titan feels less truck-like than the Ram 1500 or Ford F-150 when driving on the highway, and the lack of wind noise is impressive. I like the hydraulic steering for its road feel and increased confidence in slippery conditions. There’s some pitch and jounce when you’re hustling it, on account of this being a truck. Overall the ride comfort is good, and the NVH low enough to make three-hour trips feel insignificant.

In the city though, the Titan feels more like a truck than the Ram or Ford, mostly because of the same hydraulic steering I love. It doesn’t help that at 2,636 kg the Titan is heavier than the Ram, Ford, Chevrolet and Tundra. This is all because the bare bones of the chassis are largely unchanged since the first generation, despite a significant feature, appearance and packaging refresh.

I wouldn’t be able to live long-term with this truck without the optional side steps, as my wee little legs struggled each time I clambered aboard. Once inside though, the cabin is extremely comfortable, with great visibility and solid ergonomics. The gauges are business-like, easy to read and give a good amount of information.

The central infotainment system’s small 7.0-inch touchscreen is backed up with plenty of easy-to-reach hard buttons, and the radio functions are easy to use. Navigation is not, and there’s a reason for that.

Nissan, like Toyota, has thrown its weight behind its own infotainment and connectivity systems, abandoning Android Auto/Apple Carplay. This is a massive mistake. And, as shoppers get used to the extreme user-friendliness of those offerings, they’ll be less and less content to live with the clunky navigation and phone functions that you get as native from manufacturers. Hopefully Nissan sees the light sooner than later, as almost every other mainstream manufacturer has already adopted the Google/Apple solution.

[Update: On the day this article was published Nissan announced a roll-out of Android Auto/Apple CarPlay across its 2018 model year line-up, having quietly added it to the 2017 Nissan Maxima already. It's unsure when this will roll-out will reach the truck line-up.]

The Pro-4X luxury package fitted to our tester is better value than the sticker shock of a $6,400 price would suggest. It gets you heated and cooled seats, four-way passenger power seat, heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, power tilting steering wheel with memory, a compass, Nissan Connect Services with navigation, mobile apps and app-based, remote engine start. You also get a key-fob remote engine start, auto-dimming rear-view and side mirrors, and memory driver seat.

To help with parking, the luxury package also adds auto-tilting side-view mirrors and Nissan’s excellent around-view monitor. But there’s a caveat.

When fitted with the four-door crew cab (which the vast majority of Titans will be) the Pro-4X has a short 5’5” box. That means that on a regular basis you are likely to have to transport things with the tailgate down: i.e., my race bike. That renders the back-up camera and hence the surround-view completely useless.

If and when a truck company mounts the camera in such a way, either on a pivot, or perhaps with a second one in the top of the tailgate that kicks in then the tailgate is down, that truck company will pick up a lot of new truck drivers. 

And before any of you say “a real truck driver doesn’t need a camera” – you’re right. But new truck drivers, who are the folk Nissan is going after here, often live in smaller places with tight parking and for those of us in that boat, we absolutely benefit from having a camera back there.

I will give points to Nissan for it's simple but effective bed-step design, that kicks up and away when not in use and is easy to use. It's not as robust as Ford's man-ladder set up, but it's not as complicated either. 

There is one major reason I couldn’t buy the Titan, and it's the lack of a long box in four-seat mode. You can get it on the Titan XD, but even then it’s only a 6.5’ box (an 8’ box is available with single and king cabs). I’d like the option of a 6’ box on the half-ton Titan with four doors. Sure, it’s a bit more overhang, but this chassis is stiff and strong enough to take it I think.

Nissan knows that it is a newcomer to a difficult-to-enter segment of the marketplace. Its claimed best-in-class five-year/160,000 km warranty will help to convince some to take the gamble, but in the meantime it’s going to take a bit of work to coax people away from the other half-ton offerings on the market.

As the sales numbers show, growth is occurring, but there’s a long gap to gaining the sort of market share commanded by the big three. Those established players ought not rest on their laurels. Even with a few small tweaks possible the Titan is rapidly becoming a serious contender.  

2017 Nissan Titan Pro-4X
Engine Displacement: 5.6L
Engine Cylinders: V8
Peak Horsepower: 390 @ 5,800 rpm
Peak Torque: 394 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Fuel Economy: 15.7/11.2 L/100 km cty/hwy
Cargo Space: 5.5" Box
2017 Nissan Titan Pro-4X
Base Price $57,100
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,795
Price as Tested $65,895
Optional Equipment Pro-4X luxury package - $6,400, two-tone paint - $200, three-coat paint - $300
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.6
8 Styling
8 Powertrain
8 Quality
8 Comfort
8 Practicality
8 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
6 Fuel Economy
8 Features
6 Value