Gas For The Titans: The 2017 Nissan Titan Endurance V8 SL 4WD Crew Cab

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Nissan Titan Endurance V8 SL 4WD Crew Cab
The 2017 Nissan Titan Endurance V8 SL 4WD Crew Cab.
Give Nissan credit for doing everything counter to expectations with the new Titan pickup.  Where the big boys (Ford, Chevy, GMC and RAM) roll out their light-duty half-tons and then follow up with the Extra Duty/Super Duty/HD variants the following year, Nissan led with the big-brute diesel XD on launch this spring.

Now...right now, in fact...Nissan dealers are getting the first of the gas-powered models, the Endurance V8 series, which Nissan is branding as the "Every Duty Truck".

Rear 3/4 view of 2017 Nissan Titan Endurance V8 SL 4WD Crew Cab
2017 Nissan Titan Endurance V8 SL 4WD Crew Cab.
Time will tell if the strategy was a good one.  In August of this year, Nissan sold 20 fewer of the new Titan XDs than it sold of the old (in production with very few changes for 12 years) Titan.  Year to date, it's sold 47 more.  How few is that?  Enough to make it the worst-selling pickup truck in America.  Eleventh place in a field of 11. For calendar year 2016 (as of the end of August), even the perenially underperforming Toyota Tundra (the next lowest-volume fullsize pickup) moved 67,000 more units.

We've written several times, both here at TireKicker World Headquarters in Northern California and from our correspondent in the Phoenix Bureau, of our puzzlement over Toyota's inability to at least get close to the big boys in sales (the Ford F-150 outsells the Tundra 7.5 to 1, the Chevy Silverado sells about five and a half times as many,  third-place RAM quadruples the Tundra's sales numbers and number four GMC Sierra doubles them). So what chance does latecomer Nissan (the old Titan was a virtual non-entity, especially in the last half of its life-cycle) have?

Judging it strictly on its merits, it should be a fairly good one.  It's clear that Nissan's design folks spent a lot of time studying the F-150 and RAM and came up with a style that, while not terribly original, hits the sweet spot of what American truck buyers are buying...huge, imposing, macho and, in SL trim like our tester, dripping in brightwork,

The gasoline-powered 5.6-liter V8 makes 390 horsepower to the Tundra's 381 (from the up-level 5.7-liter...Toyota also has a lower-output 4.6-liter) and gives up a negligible seven pounds per foot of torque.  But where Titan pulls ahead is in its choice of transmission and the fuel economy that results. Nissan's seven-speed automatic allows the Titan to earn an EPA estimate of 15 city/21 highway.  The Tundra, with one fewer gear, is estimated at 13/17.

At the very least, the Titan should be able to send Toyota's folks back to the drawing boards for an extensive refresh or an all-new Tundra.

Interior view of 2017 Nissan Titan Endurance V8 SL 4WD Crew Cab
2017 Nissan Titan Endurance V8 SL 4WD Crew Cab interior.
And in the cab, Nissan again hits all the right notes, cribbing the best elements of layout, features and roominess from the major-league players in the fullsize pickup leagues.

At $49,680 base price, the Titan Endurance V8 SL 4WD Crew Cab comes with an encyclopedic list of standard features, including a killer 12-speaker Rockford Fosgate premium audio system.  Our tester had only one option, the SL Towing Convenience Package....Extendable, folding, heated tow mirrors with auto-dimming, a trailer brake controller and trailer light check function...for $360.

That brought the bottom line to $51,015, which puts it right in the zone for nicely-equipped full-size pickups these days.  In a week at the wheel, I never had a moment where I thought I'd be better off in an F-150, Silverado, RAM, Sierra or Tundra.   But, as we've noted before, the full-size pickup game seems to be a members-only club.  Toyota, despite a fine fullsize in the Tundra, hasn't been able to break through so far.  If the Titan can't, it's likely to be more about prejudice than performance.