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First drive: RHD Nissan Titan chances grow

Nissan Titan full-size pick-up to be sold outside US, Canada and maybe in Australia

Nissan logo20 Nov 2018

By JUSTIN HILLIARD in MOROCCO

NISSAN Australia’s hopes of adding the Titan full-size pick-up to its model line-up have improved following the announcement that it will soon be offered outside of its native United States market, but the right-hand-drive business case still remains a challenge.
 
Speaking to Australian journalists at an international light-commercial vehicle drive event in Morocco, Nissan Motor Company frame-based SUVs and pick-ups chief product specialist Pedro de Anda said plans were already in place to start selling the Titan outside of North America.
 
“Titan is a US car developed for the US,” he said. “When you look at this segment globally, 99 per cent of the volume is in the US, so, of course, you have to put your focus there.
 
“Now we’re in the US and Canada, and the intention is to take Titan beyond those markets. I cannot tell you which ones (or) when, but … the Titan can grow beyond the North American market.”
 
When asked by GoAuto if these prospective new Titan markets would also be left-hand-drive, Mr de Anda left the door ajar for factory right-hand-drive sales, although the lack of support from European markets hurts Australia’s chances.
 
“It could be left, it could be right,” he said. “Right is more challenging, because there’s no way you can share this with Europe. In Europe, the roads are just too small, too narrow to have a Titan.”
 
While Mr de Anda did not reveal a specific volume that would make the business case for a right-hand-drive Titan viable, he indicated that it would be “more than” 10,000 units but “much less than” 100,000 vehicles.
 
Mr de Anda added that Australia and the Middle East have shown the most interest in the Titan outside of North America, but key right-hand-drive markets, such as Japan, were not pushing for production.
 
“You cannot go and sell the Titan in Japan – it’s simply impossible,” he said. “We don’t even sell Navaras (there), because it’s too large for Japan.”
 
Even though the second-generation Titan is already two years old, it is possible that a right-hand-drive version could become available during its lifecycle, according to Mr de Anda.
 
“It’s always more efficient if you do it from the beginning … but it’s not impossible to do it once the vehicle has started,” he said.
 
“The platform, the engine is common with Patrol, and Patrol is right-hand drive, so in that regard, there’s some components, some possibility that is there, but still it needs a lot of modification to make it appropriate.
 
“There’s no deadline, but the sooner you do it, the better. When you get too close to the end of the cycle, then it’s better to wait for the next one, because it’s more efficient.”
 
Mr de Anda was cautious about Nissan’s factory ever backing a third-party right-hand-drive conversion program, such as American Special Vehicles or Holden Special Vehicles, which both remanufacture the competing Ram and Chevrolet Silverado respectively from left-hand drive in Australia.
 
“The thing with these factory conversions is, in the end, the one selling the vehicle is Nissan, so Nissan has to make sure that whoever does it has to meet the Nissan standards, has to meet the regulations,” he said.
 
“It wouldn’t make it easier, I think, to do it with a third party … (but) if there’s some other benefit, because of local-market knowledge, logistics or something, then it could be.
 
“We know there are these companies that do it … (and) some of them have even approached us, but, at the moment, we don’t have any business with them.”
 
After we drove the Titan across various terrains in Morocco, it became clear that something about it just feels right. It is more vehicle than most people will ever need, but it sure does feel great to be behind the wheel.
 
In the metal, the Titan is imposing with its squared-off front end, large V-motion grille and overall size. There is no mistaking that this is a Nissan pick-up with serious purpose.
 
The Titan’s utility is highlighted by versatile tub, which features adjustable tie-down points and a rail system. In a practical move, the cargo area can be accessed via a fold-out step located underneath the rear bumper.
 
Impressively, the tailgate is dampened, meaning it does not crash when opened and required almost no force to close. This convenience is certainly appreciated.
 
We tested the Titan in off-road-focused Pro-4X crew-cab form, which falls short of one-tonne status with its 676kg payload but makes up for it with a whopping braked towing capacity of 4132kg. 
 
Inside, the Titan’s dimensions are even more prevalent, with the three-seat second row offering generous amounts of legroom. The rear bench can even be folded upwards to load larger items into the cabin or store small cargo under the seats.
 
Further forward, the cockpit is functional and efficient, with large buttons lining the centre console and Nissan’s familiar infotainment system projected onto a 7.0-inch touchscreen.
 
The central storage bin, which doubles as an extra-wide front-row armrest, is deep, capable of swallowing a 15-inch notebook with ease, while in true American fashion, 16 cupholders are scattered throughout the vehicle.
 
Premium touches are also found inside, with leather upholstery trimming the Pro-4X ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, door inserts and squeaky dashboard. Hard-wearing plastics are used elsewhere.
 
Build quality out of the US factory is questionable, though, as our test car’s dashboard constantly rattled and squeaked over rougher terrains, such as gravel and rocks.
 
Meanwhile, the Titan is light on advanced driver-assist systems, with autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep assist unavailable, although blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are offered alongside surround-view cameras.
 
Those lamenting the loss of V8 utes can rest easy, as the Titan accounts for their departure with its 5.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine shared with the Patrol upper-large SUV.
 
Punching out 291kW of power and 534Nm of torque, our Titan test car is matched to a seven-speed automatic transmission and an on-demand four-wheel-drive system.
 
This combination is a reliable one on Moroccan roads, with oodles of grunt, keen gear shifts and an enticing soundtrack making hard acceleration intoxicating.
 
The transmission’s Tow driving mode accentuates these characteristics by raising the shift points and sharpening the throttle response. All of this makes us quite happy.
 
While the Titan feels large on the road due to its 2050mm width, it is surprisingly easy to drive thanks to its light steering and comfortable ride on and off the beaten track.
 
The Titan is not the most dynamic vehicle, however, requiring extra finesse around tighter corners, although it is undoubtedly competent off-road, tackling any terrain with absolute confidence.
 
Time will tell if Nissan is brave enough to become the first brand to offer a full-size pick-up in factory right-hand drive Down Under, but if it does, we suspect there will be more than a few enthusiastic Titan customers.

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