Jalopnik ReviewsAll of our test drives in one convenient place.  

The 2018 Nissan Titan may be one of the most clever pickups I’ve ever driven. Between the numerous bins inside to the integrated tie-downs in the bed, the truck actually makes good use of its enormous size.

[Full disclosure: We asked Nissan if we could test the new Titan, so they dropped one off at my house with a full tank of gas to use for a week, and one of their reps even met for lunch to talk trucks before I left, picking up the tab in the process.]

We’ve been waiting over a decade for a new Titan after the first one was rolled out all the way back in 2003. There were plans to do a new version based heavily on the Dodge Ram back in 2008, but those fell through. So, Nissan kept on truckin’ with its first-gen Titan until 2016, when we finally got the redesign that it needed.

I won’t say the redesign was worth the wait because no vehicle deserves to sit stagnant for that long, but what Nissan came up with is a genuinely clever truck that’s decent to drive with storage solutions galore.

I expected the Midnight Edition’s blacked-out trim to look pre-bro’d-out, but this actually looks pretty classy.
Photo: Stef Schrader

My job for the Titan was to move some of Dad’s stuff home. I had to haul away a large antique desk, and I also wanted to pick up some of the extra tools around the house that I could definitely use in putting my one true garbage automotive son—the 411—back together.

Advertisement

The Titan’s built-in tie down system and cavernous cabin made all of this so easy that even I could do it.

Excuse me while I live the stereotype or a moment. Thanks.
Photo: Stef Schrader

What Is It?

The Nissan Titan is a half-ton truck, putting it in the same class as a Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, Ram 1500 or Toyota Tundra.

Definitely not a cramped rear seat.
Photo: Stef Schrader

The standard Titan is a bit smaller than the Titan XD, which is sort of a “five-eighths-ton truck” that fits between the usual half-ton and three-quarters-ton classes.

This 4x4 Crew Cab SL Midnight Edition has an attractive appearance package which makes most of the usual chrome trim bits black or body color, plus four doors and a back seat that is most definitely usable by full-size adults. If you’re annoyed that pickups come with more chrome than a boomer car show now, this is the truck for you.

Advertisement

Photo: Stef Schrader

Specs That Matter

This Titan had Nissan’s 5.6-liter “Endurance” gasoline V8, which is definitely not named for the company’s recent Le Mans effort. (Sorry! Low-hanging fruit!) It is, however, an adequate engine that pumps out a claimed 390 horsepower and 394 lb-ft of torque. I was never left wanting for power.

The 4WD fun-having knob.
Photo: Stef Schrader

If the Endurance V8 sounds familiar, that’s because the previous generation of this engine was in the Titan before, with the exact same engine displacement. The engine got significant tweaks with the facelift, however, with 73 more horsepower and 9 more lb-ft of torque than the old one. The engine’s compression ratio was bumped from 9.8:1 to 11.2:1 using a new piston design. Nissan claims that the use of direct injection improved the engine’s fuel economy and wide-open throttle performance, along with reducing its emissions, all because the engine can more precisely control how much gas it’s getting.

The revised engine also uses Nissan’s Variable Valve Event and Lift tech, which directly controls the intake valve to regulate airflow into the engine in place of a throttle body, all in the name of better throttle response. (Engineering Explained breaks it down really well in more detail here if you’re really curious.)

Power goes to the wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission. A knob on the console lets you shift the two-speed transfer case on the fly to enable four-wheel-drive. There’s low range too, if you find yourself very stuck.

Advertisement

The entire package rides on 20-inch black wheels with 275/60R20 tires, special for the Midnight Edition. Four-wheel disc brakes bring it all to a halt.

Everything you need to tow, including the two commonly used plug sockets next to the license plate.
Photo: Stef Schrader
The platform under the rear seats also doubles as a lockable box for valuables.
Photo: Stef Schrader

Underneath the body is a steel ladder frame with a double-wishbone front suspension and leaf springs in the rear. That’s nothing out of the ordinary for a large truck, but I was surprised at how well it drove on some of Texas’ twistier backroads.

While I didn’t tow with the Titan this time, it’s set up well for that purpose, too. A Class IV integrated receiver hitch and connectors for both four-pin and seven-pin trailer electrical plugs is enough to pull most cars and boats. Nissan claims this model can tow up to 9,230 pounds, or approximately 3.55 Spec Porsche 944s. Maximum payload capacity—as in, all the stuff you’re putting in the truck itself and not a trailer—is 1,610 pounds.

It’s also clearly geared towards haulin’ stuff, whether you actually use the truck to carry large work supplies or if you end up buying something bigger than you probably need to handle that mythical once-a-year trip to buy furniture. You know, just in case.

Advertisement

A full sheet of plywood will fit between the two side “Titan Boxes” in the bed, according to a Nissan representative. Bedliner is applied from the factory as standard with this trim, with Nissan’s Utili-Track channels built in that allow you to use its movable anchors as tie-downs. There’s even a fold-out platform under the rear seats that flattens out the rear floor, all while allowing you to slide more stuff underneath the platform. All good, useful things.

Nothing’s too fancy, but it works.
Photo: Stef Schrader

What’s Great

Nissan concentrated most of its effort for the Titan on useful stuff that’s proven and works, which makes it an exceptionally easy truck to live with.

It may not have a dazzling huge new infotainment screen like some of its competitors, but its seven-inch color screen is easy to use without having to resort to a large manual to figure out. Most of the vital functions (air conditioning and radio) can be controlled with real buttons.

Photo: Stef Schrader

There are more cupholders than you could ever have in bladder capacity. One per side in the center for each row. Two more in the fold-down part of the rear bench. Two per door. What is this, a Subaru? The door bins are also wide enough to cram extra cups in should you forget to take your empties out.

Advertisement

There’s also a full 120-volt electrical plug on the back of the interior console should you need it, and another 120-volt outlet is reachable through a concealed panel in the Titan Box.

Those lockable Titan Boxes are particularly neat because they look more like natural pop-ins for the wheel well, instead of the usual obvious toolboxes. They’re also waterproof.

The clever touches extend to the inside of the truck as well. When it decided to rain the day I had to haul a 100-year old desk, I simply folded up the rear bench seats and used the clever fold-downs that flatten out the rear floor so it would sit evenly back there without moving around. The entire desk—desktop and all—fit in the back seat of the Titan.

I wrapped everything for the desk in old blankets and tied a piece of foam board to the front of the drawers to make sure they wouldn’t open en route.
Photo: Stef Schrader

While I had to move the passenger seat up to fit it all in, I was also able to fit my luggage for a week’s stay and a number of other items mom wanted to give me along with the desk in the interior, which was pretty impressive. All that stuff fit in without obstructing my view out the rear window.

Advertisement

Putting the bed’s tie-down system to good use with a heavy box that didn’t budge an inch.
Photo: Stef Schrader
The fold-out step gets pretty dusty tucked under the truck, but it does the job.
Photo: Stef Schrader

The backup camera even gives you a line down the center that helps you aim back towards a trailer hitch.

Soft-open struts prevent the tailgate from slamming down when you open it. There’s even a fold-down step that helps you reach the bed.

If you’re short, it even backs the power-adjustable seat away from the steering wheel when the truck is turned off to allow you more room to get out. It’s all the little, functional touches that make this truck good.

The wheels were the one visual touch that was almost too bro to handle.
Photo: Stef Schrader

Advertisement

What’s Weak

The engine may be refined, but it still doesn’t feel optimized. Nissan rates it at 18 mpg combined (15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway), but I only saw 16.9 mpg during my time with it, despite the fact that most of my driving was on the open highway. The numbers it’s rated for aren’t bad when compared to similar half-ton trucks, but they also weren’t what I saw when I actually drove the thing.

While the leather seats were awfully plush, I did find the lumbar support to be a bit lacking on the long haul, despite having it adjusted all the way out.

Lastly, a few of the interior materials felt a little cheap for a truck that retails for $54,775. I’m fine with scratchy-feeling plastic components in no-nonsense cars geared towards budget buyers, work trucks or even the elusive Track Day Bro. But nearly $55,000 is enough to buy a new BMW 5 Series nowadays, and for that much cash, I expect more dedication to the luxo-truck experience.

Photo: Stef Schrader

Casual Driving

You won’t forget that this is a big truck while driving it in town, but numerous parking sensors and a backup camera certainly help manage it. There’s even an optional four-camera setup available that shows you a full 360-degree overhead view of the truck if you’d like, although my tester didn’t have it.

What the Titan lacks in fuel economy, it seems to make up for in comfort. While I couldn’t stay comfy while traveling across the state, those overstuffed sofa front bucket seats are pretty comfortable for shorter distances, or for people who don’t love a ton of lumbar support. They’re squishy, plush and even heated, should you need instant back relief. The air conditioning also blows ice cold, with two zones for the driver and passenger side.

Advertisement

The truck’s 12-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system was also solid, producing more than enough bass to clue in the neighbors as to your specific questionable musical tastes.

Gauge pod with a selectable center view.
Photo: Stef Schrader

Aggressive Driving

This feels like a bizarre thing to rave about for a full-size pickup, but I got the chance to open the Titan up on a few good farm roads by my mom’s house and it’s one of the better handling half-ton pickups I’ve driven. It leaned smoothly and predictably into turns as opposed to just feeling like a nose-heavy boat anchor with wheels.

The steering rack is pretty slow like that of an old non-performance-model Subaru, which is great for rock crawling but not so fun everywhere else. It felt pretty direct, though, once I got used to the greater amount of movement I’d need to turn in everywhere.

Another good bin for stuff which could accommodate an enormous Double Gulp if you’re a masochist.
Photo: Stef Schrader

Value

The Titan Crew Cab starts at $35,930 for the base 4x2 Crew Cab S trim, and even cheaper if you get the two-seater, all-business base Single Cab S ($30,030). The base truck price for a crew cab undercuts the base crew cab F-150 and Silverado by over $1,000, but the value proposition gets tricky when you start adding on upgraded trim lines and options.

Advertisement

A Crew Cab SL 4x4 before options rings up at $50,360, and as tested, ours was $54,775, with the Midnight Edition package and its optional matching floormats, rear bumper step, Titan Box, and an electronic tailgate lock added into the price. At that price point, you’ve got more off-road-focused options like the Silverado LTZ Z71 and cushier ones like the 1794 Edition Tundras.

So, if you appreciate all those bins and tie-down solutions aimed at working smarter—not harder—with cargo, you’ll probably want to go in with your best haggling face to the dealership to get the best deal.

Photo: Stef Schrader

Verdict

This version of the Nissan Titan seems like a solid option for someone who just needs to get stuff done with their truck. It’s even a truck that you can drive enthusiastically without hating your life, should you find the right open road to do so.

We’ve been waiting a decade for this update, and while some bits like the infotainment screen still feel old, it’s all very usable and practical. As someone who just wants the infotainment unit to be easy to use instead of dazzling, the Titan’s relatively simple, button-heavy interior was a actually major plus.

Clearly, practicality was Nissan’s focus in the Titan’s long-awaited redesign with the truck’s seemingly infinite seating and storage configurations. If you don’t need the latest gizmos inside but want something with a lot of clever storage solutions, the Titan may be what you need.

Advertisement