Test Drive: 2018 Nissan Titan SV Midnight Edition

The pickup truck business is a tough gig. Not only do truck buyers tend to be fiercely loyal to a brand, but there are a lot of them out there, so the competition for market share is intense. Ford’s F-Series trucks – you may have heard of them? – they sell nearly a million units a year in the US and Canada combined. GM’s not far behind if you bunch the Silverado and Sierra together, and Ram’s moving well over a half-million units as well. Those are just the full-sizers, but sales of the mid-size truck group have been on the rise too.

Just as a workin’ truck should be.

Trucks are why the Big Three are the Big Three these days. This really begs the question, who the hell would want to compete against those juggernauts?

Well, both Toyota and Nissan, that’s who.

Toyota does alright, moving enough Tundras annually to climb into the six-digits.

On the other hand, Nissan’s Titan registers as a fly buzzing around the elephant’s head in terms of sales. For context, niche player Land Rover sold almost twice as many vehicles as Nissan sold Titans in Canada last year, and 2017 was by far a record year for the Titan.

Small sales numbers don’t reflect how good a truck the Titan is, and the big gains made last year are due to a major overhaul that happened to the model lineup. Nissan added more variations on the pickup theme with cab-size options, engine options, and even a new heavy-duty XD lineup, all of which made the rigs more competitive in the field.

For 2018, the Nissan Titan is essentially carried over, but with the addition of a new Midnight Edition package shown here. While hardly an original idea (it seems every second Ram truck is a “Blackout Edition”), it nevertheless suits the Titan and makes for a handsome, badass-looking truck.

The 20-inch wheels are especially striking – painted black of course – and complement the blacked-out badging, light surrounds, and grille. Curiously, to order a Midnight Edition, one must spec the optional “Magnetic Black” paint for an extra $135. Or “Gun Metallic” grey, also for $135. “Pearl White” paint is the only other option (presumably to celebrate Midnight Editions at the North Pole in June) and it costs $300.

Some of the Titan’s hard edges were softened and updated with the introduction of last year’s second generation; it serves to keep the truck looking contemporary, but at the same time, unmistakably part of the Nissan family. To my eye, the heavy-duty XD trucks always appear too nose-heavy, but the regular Titan looks just right.

Those softer edges translate to better aerodynamics, which, in turn, translate to improved efficiency and a quieter cabin. The latter surprised me, given how well Nissan has managed to keep road and wind noise suppressed in the big truck.

Pickups have grown ever more lavish and coddling, especially in recent years where they’re as much a status symbol as they are a tool for work. Call me old-fashioned, but I subscribe to the idea that a truck should be a utility vehicle first and foremost, and save the image-enhancement for the fancy-brand sedans and SUVs.

While certainly posher than trucks of yesteryear, the Titan reminds its driver that Nissan’s engineers seem to believe a pickup is a beast of burden, especially every time the engine is called upon for active duty. The 5.6-litre, 32-valve “Endurance” V8 provides 390 hp and 394 lb-ft of torque, and a fantastic, gruff engine note. In terms of power, the Titan is very competitive, though down on torque compared to Ford’s twin-turbo V6 “EcoBoost” engine.

The Titan is also 250 kg heavier than the Ford, so it’s not going to win any drag races there. Still, the Nissan has no trouble pulling its mass around with a fluid delivery of power through its smooth seven-speed automatic.

The government rates the Titan at a reasonable combined fuel consumption average of 13.4 L/100 km. I saw 13.1 after a week of mixed driving. Not bad for a big truck.

Nissan has given the Titan a towing capacity of 4,187 kg (and if you need more, the XD will haul up to 5,457 kg), which again, falls mid-pack in terms of capability. There are enough box-length and cabin-size configurations throughout the pickup truck world to suit anyone’s truckin’ needs, and the Titan’s is comparable to other trucks in its class, dimensionally.

The Midnight Edition comes with a factory-installed bed liner that seemed to be robust for work duties. My tester also had bed rails that allowed beefy-looking aluminum tie-down clamps to be slid into position and hold or tie down whatever might be in the box. I was also impressed with the Titan’s damped tailgate that feels feather-light when opening or closing. And the accessory, Nissan-branded tonneau cover was a clever bit of engineering with a series of aluminum slabs making up the cover’s structure beneath the vinyl top. This enabled the tonneau to quickly and easily roll completely out of the way and clip together if taller items were to be loaded in the box.

My SV-trim Midnight Edition wore water-resistant fabric seats. They’re heated, but not covered in fancy stitching and supple leather, just as a workin’ truck should be. The backseat space provides ample leg- and headroom for adults, plus it flips up and out of the way allowing for additional, in-cabin storage.

The rest of the interior offers plenty of storage space as well, with the centre console being designed to accommodate a standard-sized laptop computer. By locating the shift selector to the steering column (just like in the good ol’ days), Nissan has also freed up additional storage space beneath the cup holders. If you can’t find a spot for all your junk in here, you’ve simply got too much junk.

The SV trim is more purposeful than posh, yet in Midnight Edition, it has all the extra goodies one really needs in a work machine. Dual-zone climate control, a hitch receiver and wiring harness, trail brake controller (neat side note: the Titan lets you check all your trailer lights by pressing the key fob), blind-spot warning and a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation.

While the infotainment system is simple to use (and, like the rest of the ergonomics, features proper buttons and dials for control), the stereo system did struggle to play music from my iPhone, even when wired in with a USB cable – something I’ve not encountered elsewhere in recent memory. The sound quality is pretty decent.

All-in, the Titan, particularly in this stylish, mid-level SV Midnight Edition trim, remains a competitive choice in a brutally tough category. Ford has recently updated its F-150, adding a new diesel to the mix. Ram’s new 1500 is a technological wonder inside; and the new GM truck brothers are being unveiled as we speak – meaning the competition is only getting tougher and more advanced.

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But the Titan, in addition to being a good, rugged machine, has a couple of very important aces up its sleeve. First is value. While it is possible to spec most of the domestic trucks in nearly endless ways, the Titan’s price competes very well when shopped apples-to-apples. What’s more, this year Nissan has been pretty consistent with offering heady discounts on the Titan, with 25-percent-off stickers on the windshields of the rigs at my local dealership. That amounts to $12,000 off this particular truck, bringing the pre-tax tally to just over $48,000, including freight and fees.

Adding both further value and peace of mind, Nissan has given its trucks (and NV work vehicles) a class-leading five-year, 160,000 km comprehensive warranty. This isn’t just powertrain coverage – nearly everything, bumper-to-bumper, on the Mississippi-built Titan is guaranteed.

It’s not an easy game, but Nissan is definitely putting in the effort to make its Titan a serious player in the full-size pickup truck segment.

2018 Nissan Titan SV Midnight Edition
Engine Displacement: 5.6L
Engine Cylinders: V8
Peak Horsepower: 390 hp
Peak Torque: 394 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 15.2/11.1/13.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 1,702 mm (67") bed
2018 Nissan Titan SV Midnight Edition
Base Price $58,498
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,795
Price as Tested $60,528
Optional Equipment $135 – Metallic Paint $135
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.2
7 Styling
7 Powertrain
8 Quality
7 Comfort
8 Practicality
6 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
6 Fuel Economy
7 Features
8 Value