The only new half-ton truck that still comes standard with a big V8 engine isn’t an American truck. It’s the Nissan Titan.
Who’d a thunk it?
Some new half-tons – the new Toyota Tundra, for instance – don’t even offer V8s anymore.
On the other hand, if you want a regular cab – or an eight foot bed – the Titan doesn’t offer either. And its base price ($38,310) is much higher than that of the V6-only Tundra ($35,950) and the Ford F-150 ($29,990) which is available with a regular cab – and an eight foot bed – as well as a V8 engine (for just $1,995 more).
The Titan is Nissan’s half-ton/full-size pickup. It comes in King (two standard sized doors up front, two smaller doors for the back) and Crew (four full-size door) cab configurations.
The King cab comes standard with a 6.5 foot bed; the crew has a 5.5 foot bed.
All versions come standard with the same 5.6 liter V8 engine, paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. A part-time 4WD system with Low range gearing is available with all trims except the Pro-4X, which comes with it (plus a locking rear diff) standard.
The Crew Cab version starts at $40,080 for the S trim with 2WD and the shorter 5.5 foot bed. The Pro-4X version – which comes standard with 4WD as well as various off-road upgrades, such as heavy-duty Bilstein shocks, skid plates and tow hooks – lists for $51,200.
The luxury-trimmed Platinum Reserve Crew Cab comes 20 inch wheels, heated leather seats (including the rear seats) chromed running boards, two-tone paint schemes and a 12 speaker, 485 watt Fender audio system. This one is available with ($60,280) or without ($57,000) 4WD.
SV trims now come standard with a 9 inch LCD touchscreen, heated front seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The previously available SL trim has been dropped.
Big V8 is standard.
All trims tow at least 9,000 lbs.
Analog rather than LCD instrument cluster.
What’s Not So Good
Big truck – smallish bed.
No regular cab option.
Big V8 has big thirst.
Every Titan comes with the same 5.6 liter, 400 horsepower V8. It is the biggest – and strongest – standard engine in the half-ton class and not by a little bit. Rivals like the Ram 1500, Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado all come standard with V6 engines and the strongest of them – the 3.6 liter V6 that is standard equipment in the Ram – only makes 305 horsepower.
And nowhere near the Nissan V8’s 413 ft.-lbs. of torque.
This is why the Titan has the highest standard tow rating in the class – 9,050 lbs. and also the quickest standard 0-60 time (7.2 seconds).
One is the highest base price in the 1500 class. You can buy an F-150 for $29,990 to start; a Ram 1500 for $33,975; a new Silverado for $33,800 – and the brand-new Toyota Tundra for $35,950. These aren’t as powerful – at this price – as the Titan but they are more affordable. And they offer comparable or even more power when equipped with their optional engines. Including the turbo-hybrid V6 engine that’s available in the new Tundra. It makes 437 horsepower and an astounding 583 ft.-lbs. of torque – which is why it can pull about 12,000 lbs. when equipped with that engine.
The second thing is thirst – which has always been a thing with big V8s and an accepted thing in big trucks because that’s the price you paid to have the power (and torque) necessary to do the things people expect a full-size truck to be able to do, easily. It wasn’t a problem when gas was only about $2 per gallon, especially when you had a 26 gallon tank – as the Titan does – such that even if you only averaged about 17 MPG – as the Titan does – you still didn’t need to stop for gas more often than once every 450 miles or so.
But gas is now twice as much as that – and more so, for the premium gas the Titan’s big V8 needs to deliver on its 400 horsepower promise. At current (mi-April) Let’s Go Brandon prices for premium, it costs more than $100 to refill the Titan’s tank. This makes it a lot harder to afford the Titan – both the truck and the fuel.
The good news is the others aren’t a lot better. For example, the new V6/hybrid Tundra only manages 18 city, 23 highway (vs. 16 city, 21 highway for the V8 Titan). Similarly, the F-150’s top-dog 3.5 liter V6 with two turbos rates 18 city, 24 highway. It’s a difference with very little meaningful distinction, insofar as what you’re going to be paying to gas up any of these rigs.
The Titan’s big V8 is a big V8. It has big bearing surfaces. It has big pistons. These spread out the load when the engine is worked – and it doesn’t ever work under pressure, as turbocharged engines are often called upon to do. There is no electric motor or battery pack to supplement the engine’s power – because it doesn’t need supplementing, to make up for being small – which it’s not.
Nissan’s 5.6 liter V8 has been in production for some 20 years now and has proved to be a sturdy, long-lived workhorse. Will the little turbo-hybridized engines being installed in other trucks prove equally so over the next 20?
But that’s an unknown. With the Titan, you’re buying the known.
On The Road
The current Titan is the oldest new truck you can still buy – and that’s a good thing. It was last updated back in 2016 – the Before Time – when trucks were still allowed to be trucks. When government pressure to convert them into “fuel efficient” and “green” machines hadn’t yet reached the current crescendo and so V8 power was expected and putting something like a turbo four in a half-ton truck (that’s you, GM) would have been most . . . unexpected.
The Titan feels like the truck it is from the moment you light up the big V8, which emits a healthy bark through the twin pipes out back. As you drive, there is that comforting down-low bass vibrato that only a big V8 makes.
It is a heavy thing – another good thing, for a truck. Body on frame and steel (not aluminum) body equals 5,594 pounds for the base King Cab 4×2. With 4×4, the curb weight rises to 5,711 pounds. This is several hundred pounds heavier than some of the alloy-bodied competition – a Ford F-150 regular cab 4×2 weighs just over 4,000 pounds. And it gives the Titan a heft that is lacking elsewhere.
Also, confidence – because you know that if a deer bounds out of the brush it’s not going to crumple most of the front end. That matter on the job site and off-road, too. Back into or bump into something with an aluminum-bodied truck and the results will be expensive. In a steel-bodied truck, less so – and so also the damage, steel being harder to bend than aluminum.
There is comfort, too – another thing provided by a heavy, body-on-frame vehicle. People are buying trucks just to drive them because the drive (and ride) the way cars used to, before government regulations all-but-eliminated body-on-frame construction in cars. This truck also comes with what Nissan styles “zero gravity” seats, first offered in cars like the Maxima and Altima. These are designed to keep you back and backside from getting sore on long road trips – and they do.
At The Curb
The Titan is – ironically, given its name – less visually so than some of its newer-design rivals, including the newest – Toyota’s just-redesigned Tundra. They have massive flat (and tall) “faces” that look almost cartoonishly angry.
It’s a bit much.
If you prefer a bit less, the Nissan has it.
What it lacks, however, is an eight-foot bed and that will be a deal-killer for people who want to be able to carry eight-foot-long loads with the tailgate closed. The longest bed you can get is 6.5 feet, with the King Cab. The Crew Cab comes with a 5.5 foot bed that’s great for carrying a dog.
Another thing you can’t get is a regular cab – which probably many would-be buyers would rather have than a 6.5 foot bed. Some would like a regular cab with an eight-foot bed but neither are available – separately or together.
This lack of configurability is the current Titan’s biggest weakness as a truck. It is probably the case that Ford and GM and Ram continue to dominate the truck market because – unlike the cars they market – their trucks are available in various cab/bed configurations to suit the needs and wants of practically any buyer.
Same as regards engines. The V8 is wonderful, but there’s no other option. Not everyone needs a V8 and having a V6 (and a lower price) would certainly result in more Titans on the road.
By the way, Nissan no longer offers the diesel V8 that used to be optional in the Titan XD – the heavier-duty version of the Titan meant to bridge the gap between a light-duty half-ton truck and a 2500 series truck. That one now comes with the same 5.6 V8 as found under the hood of the standard/1500 Titan – and only with the 6.5 foot bed.
On the upside, the Titan is not afflicted with the over-tech that plagues the newer trucks. There is a touchscreen, but it’s not a massive glowing distraction in the dash. The gauges in front of the driver remain analog. Most of the important everyday controls such as the AC/heat and radio controls are physical knobs rather than digital swipes.
Everything’s straightforward and easy-to-use, as it ought to be – in a truck.
There are also some welcome Before Time features, such as a 12V power point for powering older-type accessories such as radar detectors – and a standard three-across bench seat, too.
S trims comes standard with steel (18 inch) wheels, which are heavier than aluminum wheels but stronger and less apt to be bent by a deep pothole or ruined by a curb swipe.
A spray-in bedliner is available but costs extra; so also a 120V household-type power point in the bed.
It is probable that current Titan will be the last half-ton truck to come standard with a V8. When the next-generation Titan comes out – possibly next year – it will likely follow in the path of the others and use turbos to augment the power of sixes, which may be the only engine you’ll be able to get in a next-generation Titan.
The Bottom Line
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.
. . .
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