First Drive: 2017 Nissan Titan, Armada and PathfinderPosted on August 15th, 2016
New truck line-up appeals to buyers with active lifestyles
By Nina Russin
Nissan has redesigned its core truck models for 2017, including all new Titan and Armada plus a significant refresh for the Pathfinder. In each case the automaker responded to buyer demands for enhanced active safety technology and more capable off-road performance.
The 2017 Titan Crew Cab follows on the heels of the diesel-powered XD introduced earlier in the year: a slightly smaller more affordable offering with plenty of towing and payload capacity. There are five trim levels, including the off-road oriented PRO-4X.
The full-size Armada sport-utility vehicle remains the brand’s flagship, with seating for up to eight passengers. Active safety features include intelligent cruise control with forward emergency braking, lane departure warning, backup collision intervention and an around-view monitor. Pricing starts at $44,000 plus destination for the base SV 2X4 model. The new Armada rolls out this month.
The Pathfinder, produced at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee assembly plant, competes against the Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot. Changes to the 2017 model include a redesigned exterior, new powertrain featuring a 3.5-liter direct injection V-6 engine, enhanced towing capability and more responsive handling on paved roads.
Titan targets the heart of the full-size truck market
At a recent media event in Northern California I had the opportunity to drive all three vehicles on and off-road.
While the slightly larger Titan XD bridges the gap between light and heavy-duty full-size pickups, gasoline-powered Titans address the heart of that market: a work truck capable of towing and hauling that can double as a family vehicle.
As with its larger sibling, the new Titan crew cab handles serious off-road trails. A two-speed transfer case, locking rear differential and downhill descent control enable drivers to maintain directional control on steep grades or rock crawls with one or more wheels off the ground.
The around-view monitor is handy when ascending steep hills where the driver’s view is of the ground is obstructed. As the driver crests the summit, the camera shows him the area around the front wheels so he can avoid obstacles and safely steer onto the downhill segment.
Downhill descent control maintains a preset speed on severe grades, eliminating the need to pump the brakes.
On paved roads, the newest Titan handles very much like a full-size SUV. The new engine produces 394 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of peak torque for robust acceleration off the line. A seven-speed automatic transmission is standard, with large overdrive gears to maximize highway fuel economy. A new automatic transmission fluid warmer gets the drivetrain up to operating temperature faster for better efficiency.
To improve handling on paved roads, engineers made the frame stiffer and added new hydraulic body mounts to the back of the cab. Laminated front and side glass and a three-layer dashboard insulation blanket reduce noise intrusion inside the cab.
Engineers eliminated road chatter to reduce driver fatigue on long trips. While a body-on-frame vehicle lacks some of the smoothness of unibody construction, I found the truck quite comfortable on our two-hour test drive through the canyons east of Monterey.
Step-in height is a little lower than for the Titan XD: a boon for smaller drivers. A bed step makes it easier to load up the back. Lockable dry exterior storage holds items that won’t fit inside the cabin. LED bed rail lights improve visibility after dark.
Armada appeals to families on the go
At first glance, the newest Armada seems very much a road car, with a four-wheel independent suspension, quiet interior, enhanced infotainment and safety features. But it is surprisingly off-road capable as well.
Navigating through a challenging off-road course at Laguna Seca, the Armada was surprisingly stable through a series of dirt mounds with two wheels are off the ground. Unlike the Titan and Pathfinder, the Armada does not come with downhill descent control, so it takes more skill to control the vehicle down a steep grade.
Engineers improved torsional rigidity 20 percent over the outgoing model for better steering response and a smoother ride. The Armada is constructed on a fully boxed frame to enhance performance while towing.
On paved roads the engine provides plenty of power, although the vehicle mass is noticeable when accelerating off the line or onto a hill. Steering response is quite good with plenty of assist at low speeds and a pleasantly heavy feel on the highway. The four-wheel independent suspension delivers a comfortable but not overly soft ride, while four-wheel disc brakes stop the vehicle in firm, linear fashion.
Cyclists and campers who need to store large gear inside the vehicle will like the Armada’s fold-flat second and third-row seats.
Backup collision intervention is an important active safety feature for parents whose children might unknowingly wander behind the vehicle in the driveway. Other active safety features include an around-view monitor, lane departure warning and blind spot detection.
New Pathfinder features bolder exterior styling
Responding to customers who were turned off by the soft appearance of the current model, designers created a new Pathfinder exterior reminiscent of the early 4X4 models. The 2017 car features a new, raised hood, new headlamp, tail lamps and redesigned 18 or 20-inch wheels.
Active grille shutters and a revised front spoiler improve coefficient of drag. Engineers gave the new Pathfinder a sportier ride as well by reducing body pitch while cornering, adding a quicker steering ratio and stiffer spring rates.
Towing capacity is 6000 pounds.
Owners who need to load large gear in back will like the hands-free liftgate that opens up when the driver makes a kicking motion under the rear bumper.
Active safety technology includes intelligent cruise control with forward emergency braking and an around view monitor with moving object detection.
As a fan of the original off-road Pathfinder models, I found the new styling much more appealing than the current model.
While it lacks the extreme off-road capability of a truck-based sport-utility vehicle, the new Pathfinder can easily ascend and descend steep grades and maintain good traction in mud and sand. Body flex doesn’t seem to be an issue on bumpy roads.
On paved surfaces, performance is close to that of a passenger car, with plenty of engine power for acceleration off the line and when merging into high-speed traffic. The Pathfinder delivers appealing steering response on winding roads, with a firm but comfortable suspension. New tires improve traction on challenging roads.
Vehicle size seems to hit the sweet spot for growing families, with enough room to carry team members to weekend soccer games.
Nissan has not yet announced final pricing for the Pathfinder, but has said that the base model will start below $30,000.2017, Best Value Offroad, Luxury Offroad, News and Features 2017, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, Armada, auto review, Nissan, Pathfinder, performance, pricing, standard safety, Titan