Nissan's Titan Engineer Is Ready to Make a Splash

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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

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Comments

@HEMI V8 - I was working at a Chrysler Plymouth Dodge Jeep Eagle dealer in '87 and we couldn't give Dodge trucks away. Fleet buyers barely wanted them. GM trucks were just redone completely and Fords were on their 1st major update of the 1980 redesign.

Dodge trucks were on their way to being killed off. Then came the Cummins turbo diesel and we couldn't keep them on the lot. The demo trucks were going nonstop with customers were lined up and waiting for a turn.

Back then, turbos on diesel pickups were strictly aftermarket mods.

The '94 redesign was like much needed icing on the cake, but there probably wouldn't have been anything to redesign, if it wasn't for the Cummins.

its funny to read all of these posts. I was recently in the truck market back in Feb. and after researching everything, I bought a 2014 Nissan Titan Pro-4X loaded. Why? Because, they didnt want to charge me for every little creature comfort. I paid under $40K. I avg 16 mpg. I'll give up the extra 4 mpg and saved over $7,500. Toyota thinks theyre selling gold and their MPG is not much better. I would not buy GM simply because of reliability and recalls. Ford was has a great array, but they too were too expensive and has no styling so that leaves RAM...the only truck I would have considered because of styling and options. Just my opinion. I think the new nissan will not be a market leader but rather a market stealer. Will Ford, GM and RAM still be top three..yes but their marketshare will be considerably less. The new nissan will not fail it will find its niche and place among the half tons. Plus, once you factor out all of the ford fleet and stripped f-150's...they are not that far ahead. same goes for GM

The biggest thing that attracted me to the Titan back in '05 was the class leading powertrain they offered as standard equipment. There were no option games like crappy mid level engines and transmissions to navigate through to get to the "good" engine. You got the "good" engine as standard equipment. I didn't need the fluff features people have become accustomed to in the current PU market. In my mind, they were just more things that would break down over the years and those things were not high on my priority list. I just wanted the best value for my dollar and the Titan gave you that in spades. The Titan, even the base billy bob XE model, gave you the important things that mattered like carpeted floors, floor mats, bedliner (well mine at least had it), locking tailgate, tailgate assist, cruise control, center console storage, state of the art styling (IMO) and a powertrain package that left everyone else in the dust back then.

I don't think the second gen Titan will offer that kind of value since there have been reports of the next gen having a smaller, less powerful powertrain for the base models. What they desperately need to do is to get an updated 7-speed automatic behind an updated Endurance. They already have that in the Q70 flagship so it should just be a simple plug and play. Then, perhaps a small mid level gas engine for the base model to up the CAFE averages and the 5.0L Cummins powerhouse should fill out the powertrain option list very nicely. However, a regular cab model would be a waste of development since regular cabs command but a tiny portion of market sales these days. What Nissan needs to concentrate on is improving the MPG figures and keeping the bean counting to a minimum. With the way the leaking axles, cracking exhaust manifolds and busted radiators have been major issues for first gen Titan owners, Nissan better make sure those long term problems are finally resolved on the next gen model.

In 04 Titan was relevant competitive and in some respects groundbreaking and since then there has been almost nothing...

You cant do that with any vehicle in any segment and expect to do better than break even. Yea there were plans with Chyrsler that fell through but the bottom line is NEGLECT and ultimately failure.

Luckily for Nissan (like Toyota) they dont even need a successful full size truck in order to avoid needing a government funded bail out.

While i think its way to soon to call the coming Titan a failure. I dont even expect GM to automatically fail and look at their track record. I do have reservations and concerns.

Cummins Cummins Cummins, yea ive heard it like 1,000,000 times the new Titan will have a big (for a half ton) cummins. Im sure it will cost an arm and a leg, make great power, and probably be dissappointing in the mileage department because it is so big and powerful. I think Rams approach to a ligther duty smaller mileage maker diesel is probably smarter in a half ton.

The new Titan needs ALOT more than a world class HD for a half ton engine to be successful. It needs a modern (DOHC/Vari timing/DI) world class V6 (not the same 4.0L in the Frontier that makes good power but no mileage). Will there be aluminum body panels? any innovation in the rear suspension? any news on the tranny? maybe the first HD CVT?

If a cummins engine and new styling (interior and exterior) are all the cards new Titan holds it will become irrellavant within a year or two of its realease.

I have owned 4 titan and put three of them through hell and back I.E. on the pipeline all performed well, as for fuel consumption if I wanted that I would have bought a smart car. This idea that you Need a diesel to compete is crap ( a diesel cost more to buy & maintain, it is heavy, and it cost more to run daily ).
Nissan has the power-train they need right now to produce a 2015 titan to level to playing field and it is in the Q56, it is a direct fuel injected mated with a 7 speed trany.
Now take the best features of Gmc Ford Dodge and Toyota.
Make adaptive headlights, infrared cameras for night driving and dynamic braking, hill descent and body roll is options. Now you have a truck

still driving my 2004, only thing I have done to it is replace the camshaft sensor. I think we could wait until we can actually see/touch it before we praise it or dog it. will be interesting to see the new style and diesel.

hello can you tell me if Nissan is showing the new titan next year.
when will the new titan diesel be in the market for consumers.
Brian

Being a former Titan owner myself, I can't really say anything bad about the '08 I drove for many years. I will say I always felt jealous when I saw a Tundra on the road. I just felt they were superior to the Titan but I didn't want to spend what it would have taken to being home a Tundra. That said I always thought I would eventually come back around to a new Titan if and when the rumored diesel became a reality. I'm not a farmer, a plumber, or contractor who "needs" a truck to pull 20K pounds. I'd like to think I'm what the industry would find to be their target market for a 1/2 truck. As a homeowner and owner of toys to trailer the big Cummins seems overkill. If I'm not mistaken this engine was originally designed for Dodge who refused to use it because it failed to meet Dodges mpg requirements. Now at the risk of offending Sodge owners; if it wasn't good enough for them it sure as heck isn't good enough for Nissan. I hope the company proves us all wrong and releases a truck that's a industry class leader; but I won't hold my breath.

They will sell plenty of trucks to younger crowd if they offer manual transmission

Having been a Titan owner since 2005 (4x4 KC BT OR purchased new 3/05, still going strong at 256k miles), I'm certainly excited to see what Nissan does. Sure, mileage sucks. But that damn thing has NEVER left me stranded, never failed to start, and done everything I've asked of it for over 9 years, and I know it would give me 9 more! Highway driving, off-road, camping, towing the toys, daily driver, pulling people out of the ditch - everything that I need a truck for, and why I own a truck.

Would I like to get 20mpg in a truck? Hell yeah! Does 550 lb/ft of TQ sound awesome? You bet! Do I NEED to be able to tow 12k? No, but if the truck can tow 12k then the 7k I pull won't even seem like it's there.....and the mileage should be better than what I get now.

You know what I want? OPTIONS. Let ME decide what I want in my truck. Let ME choose a MT. Or a manual transfer case. Or a quad-cab AND an 8 foot bed, not a 5 foot, completely USELESS bed. Make a truck that is reliable, durable, and can be used as a truck! If I want car-like features, I'll buy a damn car!!!

I am very happy with my truck, but would consider a new one if there was reason to ditch what I have now. The only thing I see in the new trucks that makes them appealing is, well, they are NEW. Sure they have fancy interiors; get slightly better mileage; touch screens and blue tooth, blah blah blah. They also cost a small fortune; my current truck is PAID FOR.

And don't price it at $45,000+!!! Too bad the Government mandates most of the safety crap that drives the prices thru the roof - 8 friggin' airbags, TPMS, lane departure warning, etc. - I don't NEED or WANT that crap. I spent my years actually LEARNING how to drive safely. Maybe these youngins should do the same.

Nissan, give me the truck I want, and I'll buy it. No one else has done it yet - so I'll hang on to my Titan until someone does....luckily, I know my truck will last as long as I need it to if I have to hold out for a while!

I hope they have much better brakes than the original Titan! Mine is barely adequate, and has had a spongy pedal since it was new. After many trips back to the dealer, I have just lived with it. The trucks is a long bed crew cab, weighs 6600 empty. The brake rotors on my wife's GMC Envoy XL are bigger than the Titan's. Nissan doesn't have a clue what it takes to build a real truck.

Titans are great trucks, they were over engineered enough in 2003 to last 10 years and still be better than the Big 3 junk that has been quietly ripping off Titan features for 10 years. The only downside to Titans has been limited body styles, option packages and powertrains and now they will offer a HD Cummins model to address that.



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