Nissan officials admit it took a grueling 10-year development program to launch their second-generation Titan, but those waiting for the new truck simply groan and call it “late.” Even as the company trickled out teaser information ahead of the 2016 model’s debut at the 2015 North American International Auto Show, many among the Titan fan bases remained skeptical.
“Also in the news, Big Foot was spotted riding on the back of the Loch Ness monster,” retorted one on Titantalk.com.
So when Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn unveiled the new Titan at the Detroit show, he also was showing his company’s determination to stay in the full-size pickup game. The original Titan, launched for the 2004 model year, was the Japanese OEM’s first shot at breaking into the U.S. market’s most lucrative and competitive segment. But the incumbent truck has been nearly invisible on U.S. roads outside of its production base in Canton, MS. To add to Nissan’s frustration, development of the successor suffered false starts and delays, according to engineers involved with the program.
For their second-gen effort, Nissan is betting that bold product planning and clever engineering and systems integration will help turn the tide. For 2016 there are Titan and Titan XD models, the latter offering the compelling combination of an optional Cummins 5.0-L V8 turbodiesel and a robust chassis that stretches the gross-vehicle-weight rating to above 8500 lb (3855 kg). Presto, a light-duty platform that can deliver heavy-duty levels of towing (over 12,000 lb/5443 kg) and payload capacity (2000 lb/907 kg) with diesel muscle.
Peak torque of the Cummins V8 is SAE rated at 555 lb·ft (752 N·m) at 1600 rpm, and fuel economy is projected to be up to 20% greater than that of Nissan’s current 5.6-L gasoline V8 (EPA ratings for the Cummins engine are still pending). To meet SAE J2807 towing standards, the Titan’s cooling system capacity was increased more than 25% vs. the previous vehicle.
“The positioning is unique—we’re the first to offer a V8 turbodiesel in a light-duty pickup, and in terms of capability we fit between the light- and heavy-duty territories,” asserted Rich Miller, Nissan North America’s Product Planning Director. “'Light-duty-plus' probably speaks best to what the new Titan really is,” he said.
There are three cab configurations (single, crew, and king), three bed lengths, and five trim levels. For the first time Nissan will offer a gasoline V6 in addition to a gas V8 and the Cummins; all engines will be coupled to an Aisin AS69RC 6-speed automatic and American Axle drive axles. 4x4 models get a new transfer case, the supplier of which has not been announced.
The Titan program is North American to the core. Design/styling was led by Nissan’s La Jolla, CA, design team under the direction of Diane Allen, who also headed the first Titan’s styling. The Farmington Hills, MI, technical center led vehicle engineering, with nearly 50 staff from the original (A60) Titan team involved. The turbodiesel came from Cummins’ Indiana HQ and initial vehicle testing was handled at Nissan’s Arizona proving ground.
Underpinning the Titan and Titan XD (tailgates wear an ‘NP 1500’ badge) is a modified F-Alpha platform that is shared with the Nissan NV commercial van and the Nissan Armada and Infiniti QX56 SUVs. The fully boxed steel ladder frame, supplied by Tower Automotive, is laterally and longitudinally stiffened for pickup duty and comes in two wheelbases: 151.6-in (3850-mm) for the XD, about 20-in (508-mm) longer than the non-XD Titan.
Other basic dimensions of the XD model available at the NAIAS debut: 242.9 in (6329 mm) overall length; 80.6 in (2047 mm) overall width; 78.7 in (1999 mm) overall height (4x4). Minimum ground clearance at the bottom of the rear axle housing is 9.3 in (236 mm). Claimed angle of approach is 21.4°; angle of departure is 22.8°.
Front suspension in both 2WD and 4WD models retains the upper-and-lower control arm layout with stabilizer bar; rear suspension is by leaf springs and twin-tube shocks. Tuning is entirely revamped for improved ride quality. “Rear coil springs were never part of the program,” explained Gary Schoenborn, Vehicle Performance Manager at the Nissan Tech Center. “We feel we achieved excellent ride quality and hit our payload targets with the leaf springs.”
The AAM rear axle features a 13-in (330-mm) ring gear and uses 3.5-in-diameter (89-mm) axle tubes—robust indeed for a light-duty application. An electronic locking rear diff is optional. The front differential on 4x4 Titans measures 9.25 in (235-mm). Titan’s four-wheel-disc foundation brakes also could be mistaken for HD equipment, with 14.2 x 1.5-in (361-mm) front and 14.4 x 1.2-in (366-mm) rear ventilated rotors.
Titan’s steering system remains the NV’s hydraulic recirculating-ball type, which puts the new Nissan a generation behind the electric systems of Ford, GM, and Ram.
As one Nissan engineer observed to Automotive Engineering, “If the Great Recession hadn’t happened, the Titan program might look a lot different. But we also learned about collaboration in the process.” That’s because Nissan had planned to partner with Chrysler to co-develop the second-gen Titan on the Ram 1500 platform scheduled for 2012—and assemble it at Chrysler’s Saltillo, Mex., plant. That plan was understandably axed by new Chrysler owner Fiat.
The tumult ensured that a clay freeze on the second-gen Titan, and the truck’s production timetable, would be delayed. But an upside emerged: Nissan hired Ram’s hard-charging CEO, Fred Diaz, away from Chrysler in spring 2013, and Diaz is said to have quickly pushed through an iteration of the Cummins ISV5.0 V8. A diesel engine was not in the original product plan, and Diaz believed one would help differentiate Titan and ignite sales. Nissan and Renault diesels were initially discussed, but the Cummins brand resonates in the U.S. Fortuitously for Cummins its new 5.0-L V8, developed to serve both the light-duty pickup and commercial-vehicle segments, was itself struggling to find a customer.
Chrysler Powertrain had investigated the ISV5.0 for Ram use but determined it unlikely to meet fuel economy targets (above 25 mpg) levels, according to Ram Chief Engineer Mike Cairns. But Nissan and Cummins already had close ties: the ATLAS (Advanced Technology Light Automotive Systems) program. Launched in 2010 with the U.S. Dept. of Energy as a research partner, ATLAS aimed to develop an advanced 2.8-L four-cylinder diesel for use in future light trucks. Two prototype engines were installed in a pair of Titans to serve as testbeds for new technologies (including cooled EGR, close-coupled aftertreatment, and turbocharger innovations). According to Dave Goggin, Cummins’ Pickup Markets Director, the ATLAS work paved the way for the V8 diesel in the 2016 Titan.
Cummins’ technologies for mpg, low emissions
The 2016 truck retains many customer-delight features of its predecessor—including rear doors that swing open 168° on Multimatic hinges, Utili-track flexible bed storage system, and spray-on factory bedliner. The cargo compartments integrated into the rear bodysides have been replaced by removable locking storage bins that fit within the bed over the wheel arches.
The new truck also adds hydraulic cab mounts on the XD model as part of an enhanced NVH-abatement package. “In our NVH benchmarking, the Chevrolet Silverado blew us away on interior quiet—they really stepped it up in that area. We’ll be better,” Schoenborn promised at a pre-NAIAS media backgrounder on the truck.
The thick underhood noise blanket on XD models points to the integration of the Cummins V8 into the Titan architecture. But this is a diesel designed to reduce NVH at its sources. The V8 Turbo Diesel (not to be confused with the ISV5.0 from which it was derived) features significant production firsts for Cummins. It marks the first use of a compacted-graphite iron cylinder block, paired with aluminum-alloy DOHC cylinder heads and composite camshaft covers. The V8, rated by SAE at 310 hp (231 kW), is also the first application of Cummins’ new M2 two-stage turbo system with Rotary Turbine Control (RTC).
Developed by Holset, Cummins’ U.K.-based turbocharger group, the M2 packages two turbochargers, one larger than the other and operating in series (not to be confused with a twin-turbo arrangement). The M2 system has four main operating modes: high-pressure two-stage; low-pressure single-stage; wastegate, and regen—the latter works to optimize operating conditions for the diesel-oxidation catalyst, SCR, and particulate filter (DPF).
Holset’s new RTC is actually an electrically controlled rotary valve that directs the exhaust flow to either of the two turbochargers or to a wastegate depending on load. At low engine speeds the valve vectors 100% of the exhaust gas through the smaller turbine. As airflow increases with engine speed and load, the valve rotates toward the larger turbocharger (while allowing some gas flow to spin the small low-pressure turbo). The RTC can perform like a throttle to increase backpressure, thus serving as an exhaust brake and also raising exhaust temperatures to help to burn off ash that is collected in the DPF. It can also help to regulate boost pressure by routing excess gas around the turbines.
The V8 also features cooled EGR, a Bosch high-pressure common rail injection system and Bosch ceramic glow plugs.
NASA “zero gravity” seats standard
In the all-new cab, the design team focused on improving ease-of-use and utility, as well as driver and passenger comfort. Front storage was increased 33% and rear storage 28%, the engineers said, compared with the previous truck. All switches are now grouped by function type and their location is based on frequency of use. The transmission shifter was moved to a lever on the steering column; this opened up considerable storage space in the center console that can now hold a 15-in laptop. The Titan’s IP has a 5.0-in color display, unique diesel monitoring and maintenance displays, and 7.0-in NissanConnectSM with Navigation, Mobile Apps, and Services color monitor.
Titan also adopts as standard Nissan’s “zero gravity” seats that are claimed to have been inspired by NASA. The seats, with optional heating and cooling, debuted on the 2013 Altima. The shape of their seatbacks and their patented structure provide varying levels of support in the lumbar, midback, and shoulder regions to position the occupant’s spine in its natural position. For more on the seats, see http://articles.sae.org/11073/. Details of Nissan’s early seat investigations can be found in these SAE Technical Papers: 2006-01-1302 and 2007-01-0348.
A comprehensive suite of electronic features help improve Titan’s safety and dynamic performance with and without a trailer. They include Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist, and Brake Limited-Slip Differential (BLSD); Integrated Trailer Brake Controller, Trailer Sway Control (TSC), Tow/Haul Mode with Downhill Speed Control, and a Trailer Light Check system that allows hook-up by one person, plus checking turn signals, brake lights, and running/clearance lights from inside the cab.
The trailering package includes available RearView Monitor with Trailer Guides, and an Around View Monitor (AVM); the latter provides a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area from front, rear, and side cameras to help with parking and pulling in and out of tight spaces. The system also includes moving-object detection, which helps the driver detect moving objects such as vehicles, shopping carts, or other large objects when reversing via an on-screen notification and warning chime.