Nissan's half-ton hauler
The 2017 Nissan Titan Crew Cab 4x4 shows off its strong towing capabilities on a drive to cottage country
Nothing beats a truck on a construction site, a farm, or for hauling a boat to the cottage. And domestic auto makers – Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles – rule the road when it comes to Canada's truck market. But don't discount the Japanese; the Nissan Titan has deep roots in North America.
Engineered in Michigan, tested in Arizona, assembled in Mississippi and designed in California, the Titan also has a Canadian connection. Brampton, Ont.-native Stephen Moneypenny designed its interior, and Surrey, B.C.'s Randy Rodriguez penned the exterior design. However, Rodriguez is no longer at Nissan; he jumped ship last year to become Tesla's creative manager of design.
The Titan half-ton truck is new for 2017. Powered by a 390-horsepower 5.6-litre V-8 gas engine, it's ideal for towing a boat – the task at hand while driving from Mississauga to Lake Rosseau in Muskoka, about 200 kilometres north of Toronto. And several boats are up for grabs. Against my driving partner's wishes, I pick the biggest one to haul: a 2017 Legend Black Series Lounge Tri-Tube weighing nearly 4,000 pounds and stretching more than 23 feet in length. It shouldn't be an issue for the Titan half-ton crew cab 4x4, which has a maximum towing capacity of 9,220 pounds and a maximum payload of 1,620 pounds. Still, towing a $60,000 pontoon boat is intimidating.
First task – hooking up the boat trailer. Shift the Titan into reverse and back up slowly to position the trailer-hitch ball directly below the trailer's coupler – a rear-view monitor with trailer guides and Nissan's 360-degree around-view monitor aiding in the task. An expert from BOATSmart helps fasten the coupler and lock, attach the winch safety chain to the bow eye of the boat and ensure that the tie-down straps and safety chains are securely fastened.
Next step? Hooking the trailer's lighting harness to the Titan and checking the lights – a simple feat thanks to a trailer-light check system that allows you to inspect the lights remotely via the key fob. Hit the lock button twice on the fob and the lights come on, making it a cinch to check the turn signals, brake lights, and running/clearance lights on the truck and trailer. It works like a charm. All systems go. Shift into drive, engage the tow mode by touching a button at the end of the gear shifter stalk, and hit the road.
Towing a boat requires skill and patience. From a standstill, it takes time for the Titan to accelerate, but at cruising speeds, the V-8 engine doesn't feel burdened. Travelling at 80 km/h along bends, the Titan is composed, powerful, and easily tackles the twisty terrain. Extra caution is needed, especially when turning, where a wider radius is necessary so that the trailer doesn't hit anything. Unfortunately, the side-view mirrors don't extend out; it would be handy if they did to get a better view of the trailer.
Extra time is also needed to slow down and stop with a boat trailer in tow. When descending steep hills, downhill speed control helps maintain speed and brake pressure for a more controlled drive, while a trailer sway control system helps keep the load from, well, swaying. The systems work well together; at times, it feels like you're not even hauling a heavy trailer. The cabin is quiet and the ride is composed.
At Lake Rosseau, launching the boat takes even more precision, patience, and time. The marina slip is narrow compared to the pontoon. Another expert guides me as I reverse gingerly into the slip. It takes about 15 minutes and several attempts before the trailer is finally lined up to launch the boat. Nothing left to do now, except unhitch the trailer, ditch my wheels, and go for a cruise on the water.
- Base price: $45,150
- Engine: 5.6-litre V-8
- Transmission/Drive: Seven-speed automatic/Two-wheel, four-wheel-drive configurations
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): NA
- Alternatives: Ford F-150, Ram 1500, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Toyota Tundra, Honda Ridgeline
No-nonsense front end with a massive, menacing front grille that means business. Plastered with bold chrome Titan and V-8 badges across its body, it stands out from the competition.
It's modern and upscale with plenty of storage space – way more than the first-generation Titan. The shift lever is attached to the steering column, freeing up space in the centre console. All seats are roomy and comfy, and second-row under-seat storage is smart; you can lock it to secure valuables.
Excellent towing and payload capabilities. Without a load, the V-8 gas engine is powerful and strong. Add a trailer and it still performs like a workhorse. It can conquer the twists and turns of cottage country and cruise at highway speeds with ease and confidence, even with a boat trailer in tow.
No shortage of towing and driving aids, including a rear-view monitor with trailer guides, an around-view monitor with moving object detection, integrated trailer brake control, trailer sway control, a tow/haul mode with downhill speed control and a trailer-light check system.
There's plenty of cargo-carrying capability in the 1.67-metre (5.5-foot) bed. Extra cargo features include dual lockable, removable in-bed storage boxes that are watertight and drainable, cargo area/tailgate lamps and LED bed lighting, and a Utili-Track bed channel system with tie-down cleats that move along the walls, bed floor, and header tracks for different tie-down possibilities.
The Titan's price may be a little high, but this half-ton truck is a capable workhorse with North American roots that's just as tough and powerful as its domestic counterparts.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.