The next Nissan Titan has to be a home run. All of its competitors have significantly upgraded and improved their half-ton pickup trucks, with one going through two iterations since the Titan went on sale as a 2004 model. But a new Titan is close, and Nissan's design and engineering team is eager to show it off.
We recently spent some time with Nissan's lead Titan engineer, Rich Miller, as he reinvents the oldest half-ton pickup in the segment. We've known that the next-generation Titan is coming for quite a while, and we've even been told there will be a Cummins V-8 under the hood when it debuts at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit (announced by Andy Palmer, Nissan's chief planning officer, at the 2014 NAIAS).
The announcement of the Cummins engine was likely a hint that the next Titan will offer a heavy-duty model that can take advantage of the new Cummins' impressive technology and torque. A Titan heavy-duty could do a good job of separating itself from the other half-ton players, most of which already offer stronger three-quarter-ton options.
Miller is a truck guy, and he knows as well as anyone that the half-ton segment is ferociously competitive right now, so Nissan will need to focus like a laser beam in certain key areas to make inroads with the next Titan. During our interview in Arizona, Miller said that much of the next-gen Titan has been tested. As we traveled north on Interstate 17 traversing punishing and sweltering grades enroute to Flagstaff, Miller said some of Nissan's durability drives use the same route.In some cases, Nissan drivers even head into the Prescott National Forest, navigating the rutted, mountainous switchbacks to the higher-elevation towns to test out the four-wheel-drive systems.
Miller grew up in Arizona, so he knows about the history surrounding Phoenix, as well as what the best routes are for ferreting out any suspension or chassis weaknesses. So when the new Titan is revealed, the Arizona desert and mountains will bear some responsibility for its success or failure.
Regardless, it won't be because Nissan didn't do its research. Miller knows exactly where other truck guys congregate, so we stopped along our drive route several times to talk to truck owners about what they own and what they like or don't like about their trucks. Whether a truck stop, an off-road trailhead or someone's farm, Miller was not shy about discovering unmet needs and where the best opportunities for the next Titan might exist.
To shoot our video, we stopped at a farm that's been in Miller's family for generations and talked a little about the next Titan, the competition and where he thought the industry might be headed. We came away understanding that he's a very bright guy who completely understands that the challenge in front of him is a huge one, but one he insists will bear significant fruit for those looking for a credible half-ton pickup truck.
Cars.com images by Mark Williams