Titan a pickup powerhouse before and after Midnight

May 18, 2018 by
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

Nissan’s Midnight Edition of the Titan can come out to play in daylight, too.

By John Gilbert

     If you’re into large pickup trucks, what is your favorite feature?

    Is it the Cord F150‘s low-cut leading edge of the side window design that greatly enhances side vision, or its pull out and drop down little stepladder off the rear of the Ford F150 bed, with its neat little pull-up helping pole? Or Chevy’s little slotted grooves in the outside rear corners of the rear bumper to provide step-up access to the bed? Maybe it’s the soft-touch tailgate on the Toyota Tundra, or Ram’s wider bed sides, which open from the top and can store virtually anything. The Honda Ridgeline has its entire bed made out of the composite material you needn’t buy as a bedliner, with a deep, watertight trunk cut into it. Or Nissan’s own clever slotted strips on either side and the front edge of the Titan’s bed, allowing infinite anchoring locations for sliding tie-down cleats.

   How about “all of the above?”

   Nissan didn’t quite corral all the top features but did incorporate its version of most of them in the 2018 Midnight Edition of the Titan. The Midnight Edition package costs $1,250, and boosts the total of the Titan to $54,775. That is not outrageously steep these days, and I also found that our overall combined fuel economy was 18.1, which also was acceptable, based on where we’ve come in the large V8-power truck biz. 

Black finish, rich in highlights, makes the black-on-black trim stand out.

   Competition has driven the manufacturers to build extremely competitive pickups, so whatever you choose you know you’ll be getting great power output, heavy-duty towing and hauling capability, not much fuel economy, but interior accommodations that rival fine luxury sedans. So maybe the little extra touches can sway an undecided buyer.

   Nissan has shamelessly broken down all the competitive barriers in building the 2018 Titan Midnight Edition, catching many by surprise, because the Titan had been left out of a lot of comparisons because there really wasn’t anything new on the truck. Nissan, however, had accomplished all the engineering and design stuff it felt was required, so it turned to cosmetic touches to set off a new fleet of special-edition vehicles for its cars and SUVs, and the Midnight Edition gives the same striking appearance benefit to the new Titan.

   My test-drive Titan SL Midnight Edition came in a glossy black, which was more than just black when you got close enough to see the sun’s reflection reveal an amazing mixture of colorful highlights under the surface. The trick is to put black-on-black touches to every trim item, including the grille, the 20-inch alloy wheels, to the large Titan logo on the doors, and to every emblem all around.

Living quarters feature luxurious leather bucket seats and high-tech instruments and connectivity.

   It seems somewhat surprising that a company that has made its tremendous success on pragmatic but solid engineering and design would stoop to cosmetics, and, of course, it would be a mistake to accuse the Titan of making only cosmetic touches to create the Midnight Edition. The company has reached technical highs with things like its new variable compression ratio, even though it already has attained a high level of technology for its cars and trucks.

   At the Chicago Auto Show in February, Nissan rolled out specially monochromatic editions of its cars and smaller SUVs, so following the same principles for its full-size pickup was only logical. The Titan drives well, and is agile and maneuverable beyond expectations for such a large, lane-filling vehicle.

Performance is quick and translates well for towing and hauling.

   Nissan still has its muscular 5.6-liter V8 with 390 horsepower and 394 foot-pounds of torque, and a 7-speed automatic with 2-speed transfer case and shift-on-the-fly all-wheel drive, capable of towing 9,740 pounds. And it has all the safety and driver-assist features that all contemporary vehicles have, including blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts. And naturally it still has those best-in-class sliding “Utili-track” slots for adjustable tie-downs.

 

Titan bed features side storage bins, and familiar slides for adjustable tie-down cleats.

Door window design slopes for better idea of side vision.

  But Nissan also shamelessly — and wisely — incorporated virtually every impressive feature from all its competitors, making the new Titan Midnight Edition sort of a rolling all-star collection of all that is best in pickups. A few years from now, Titan owners will be sure Nissan invented all those features.

   The front doors are designed with a graceful slope to the front edge of the windows, creating a very useful and Ford-like extra scope when you glance at the outside mirrors and see a lot more ground than you expect. At the tailgate, the Titan looks pretty imposing to climb up and into, until you spot those neat little corner Silverado-ish steps.

    Once up and looking into the bed, you are impressed with the quality of the factory-installed bed-liner, and you notice both sides have neat little form-fitting vertical boxes, which are very Ram-like, and supply the same usefully concealed storage.

   Inside, leather-covered bucket captain’s chair front seats flank a large console that has assorted little cubbies ahead and around it. In the rear, comfortable seating for three includes a 60-40 flip-up design that has storage underneath and the capability of folding to make a flat floor.

Roomy interior, firm but not harsh highway manners enhance Midnight Edition looks.

   Also in the rear there are controls on the back of the front console, including a household electrical plug-in, which I used to charge up my iPad when we took the Titan on a Mother’s Day cruise up the North Shore to tour Split Rock Lighthouse, and then we descended the long wooden staircase to get to Lake Superior level, from where we could hike up through the woods and circle back to the lighthouse.

   After that hike, the presence of compact but useful running board rails helped us climb into the comfort of the seats, and the inviting touch of gave us the option of playing some choice CDs or satellite radio as well as the more modern digital gadgets to blast through the 12-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system.

  

Black grille, headlight and foglight surrounds, wheels contribute to Midnight look.

Our older son, Jack, had done a fabulous job of washing and polishing the Titan just because he knew it was great looking and didn’t want to have it appear without full-gloss shine.

   The black-on-black appearance makes the Midnight Edition something special, with subtleties such as dark interior outlines of the headlights, black finish on the foglight enclosures, black mirrors, black door handles, black front and rear bumpers and step rails, and even black interior trim.

   Every company seems to have evolved toward special editions of their full-sized pickups, and most of them are impressive. But it would be a mistake to overlook Nissan’s Titan, whose only fault may be that the Midnight Edition did sneak up on the marketplace.    

   

   

    

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