by Tod Mesirow

The word “truck” has entered the pantheon of iconic words, supercharged and turbocharged, it calls to mind instant images of Americana – cowboys, country songs, family farms, a dog next to the driver on the bench seat. Elevated to their well-earned status both by the actual utility of such a vehicle, along with untold billions of impressions from the multitude of commercials as well as their presence as characters in films ranging from “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray driving a 1972 Chevy C10 – “don’t drive angry” he says to Phil the gopher – to Patrick Swayze’s 1978 Chevrolet K10 Cheyenne in “Red Dawn”- and the 1985 Toyota SR5 from “Back to the Future.”

I’ve never owned a truck.  Driven one from time to time, but just for the special circumstances. Which made having a 2017 Nissan Titan XD Cummins V8 Turbo Diesel PRO-4x 4WD four door beast of a full-sized truck for a few days sound like a great idea. Base price for this model is $52,230.00. Several PRO-4X packages brings the ass-tested price to $60,250.00. EPA fuel economy ratings are not required for this vehicle; I hovered around an average 12 MPG combining city and highway driving over a three-day period.

The first thing I noticed about the Titan was that it was yellow. Or more accurately YELLOW. Which is a good thing, because it makes it easy for people to see it coming.  And the Premium Paint additional fee is only $395. The second thing that’s clear is that it’s BIG. The bottom of the door windows is as high as the top of a regular passenger car. It’s taller than I am. A full 6’6” tall. Taller than a Ford F150, by more than an inch. But big is part of the appeal. Not unlike a horse – remember we’re channeling cowboys when we step UP in to our trucks, like cowboys climb up on to their horses — or cowgirls of course. Meanin’ no disrespect, ma’am. And it’s long – 243 inches long, 12+ inches longer than the one Ford model, seven inches shorter than the longest Ford truck. What this says to me is that Nissan thinks size matters. Which when it comes to trucks, especially if they’re to be used for their original purpose, hauling stuff around, it actually does matter.

There is a swing-out step at the rear of the truck on the driver’s side that makes climbing up in to the truck bed easier. Along each side of the bed are locking compartments for storage. A sliding window allows access to the cab from the bed, or the other way around.

Climbing up and in, the first thing that happens is that you forget you’re in a truck. It has the look and feel of a nice SUV. Touch screen, full instrumentation on the panel with switchable data available to the driver, cup holders everywhere, and a really nice sound system – one of the extra packages. Turning on the truck, the engine roars to life, and like modern diesels, there’s no apparent rattle. Instead, the powerful turbo V8 sounds like a truck owner would want it to sound – powerful.  But the noise level was also reminiscent of an SUV, and not a truck. My wife’s Prius is noisier inside, actually.

Pulling away from the parking spot, the camera is available, with the simulated overhead view, which for once seemed really handy – figuring out where the front of the truck is, and the back of the truck is, helps immensely, even with all the beeps and boops of automatic systems warning about proximity. Actually seeing where one is provides for a bit of relieved stress about dinging the truck – or any other nearby smaller vehicle – which means almost everything else out there.

On the road, the ride is assured and smooth. No crazy zero to 60 speeds, but plenty of get-up-and-go. The Titan is set up for towing things, of course, and I can’t imagine anything short of Paul Allen’s 600’ plus ship being much of an issue. Visibility is great – especially sitting up so high. There’s a super steep street in Los Angeles, Baxter St., with a 32% grade, that makes top ten lists of steepest streets in America.  It’s the perfect test bed for the Titan, this model weighing in at 6,526 pounds. I turn the knob to low 4×4 and immediately I have power to all four wheels. Steep? We don’t need to worry about steep anymore. And heading down the other side of Baxter – which is just as steep – provides an opportunity to test the Hill Descent Control, designed to keep the beast from getting away from the driver. Though I know it’s engineering and science, these systems still feel a bit like magic.

It’s suggested that I use the truck as a truck and fill the bed with something like 2x4s or other building material, but instead I take a bunch of people for ice cream. The back seats are spacious, and include SUV comfort touches like individual temperature controls and cup holders of course. Three full grown adults fit easily in back.

When it’s time to return the truck to Nissan I am sorry to see it go. Riding high in a massively powerful and substantive vehicle – an icon – it’s easy to Walter Mitty my way through all sorts of scenarios that I didn’t come close to realizing. Some vehicles are pure utilitarian in nature – which is how the truck was and remained for many decades. Now however, in the modern age, the truck has entered the realm of emotional items, with its iconic status. These days a truck is almost always never just a truck. The 2017 Nissan Titan XD is certainly much more than just a truck.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Tod Mesirow.