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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    First Drive: 2017 Nissan Armada, Pathfinder, and Titan

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      We spend some time with Nissan's 2017 trucks and SUVs

    Last week, I spent the morning with Nissan to check out the redesigned Armada SUV, refreshed Pathfinder crossover, and the all-new Titan half-ton pickup. Nissan says this year is the year of the truck. Considering last year was the year of the sedan and the mixed reaction we had to it, we’re somewhat worried how this ‘year of the truck’ would land.

    A brief note before we dive into our impressions of the three vehicles. I only got about 30 minutes with each vehicle, so I can’t give you a definitive opinion. What I can do is give my first thoughts on them. Let’s dive in.

    2017 Nissan Pathfinder

    • Nissan worked on making the 2017 Pathfinder look a bit more SUV-like. The front end gets a new hood and bumper to make it look somewhat wider. Around back, the tailgate and taillights have been reshaped.
    • Here is the thing, you’ll have to look closely to spot the changes. If you were to park a 2016 and 2017 Pathfinder next to each other and ask someone to point out the differences, the only thing they would likely spot is the new grille.
    • The Pathfinder’s interior hasn’t changed much and that isn’t a bad thing. Materials used in the Platinum are for the most part very good for the class. There is plenty of soft-touch materials on the door panels and console. 
    • But Nissan loses some points for the materials used for the dashboard and the surround for center stack. It might look like something soft. But it is hard when pressed. This would be ok if it was the SL and lower trims, not in the top Platinum trim.
    • The center stack is very easy to understand thanks to a simple layout and the use of buttons and knobs.
    • Glad to see Nissan has added their latest version of NissanConnect to the Pathfinder. I really liked this system when I drove the Murano and Maxima last year with a modern interface and being very easy to use.
    • Second-row seating is towards the top of the class with a large amount of head and legroom. Also, the second-row seat is very flexible. The seat can tip forward to allow for easy access to the third row. If you’re wondering, the third row is best reserved for small kids.
    • The 3.5L V6 has been tweaked to produce 284 horsepower (up 24) and 259 pound-feet of torque (up 19). The improvements in power do make a big difference. Compared to the last Pathfinder I drove back in 2013, the updated V6 feels a bit more energetic to get up to speed. Although, the V6 does sound somewhat unrefined when you step on it.
    • Nissan made some changes to the chassis to improve body control and ride. Such changes include revised spring rates, stiffer shocks, and improved steering system. The changes make the Pathfinder feel more stable on stable on the road, especially in corners.
    • At the event, Nissan announced pricing for the 2017 Pathfinder. The base S two-wheel drive begins at $30,890 and climbs to $44,460 for the Platinum 4WD. (Prices include a $900 destination charge)
    • Nissan has made some noticeable improvements for the Pathfinder. But even with these improvements, I can’t think of a reason of why I would pick the Pathfinder over the Kia Sorento, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, and Mazda CX-9. The Pathfinder is good, but competitors at the moment do it better.

    2017 Nissan Armada

    • There isn’t really much difference between the new Nissan Armada and Infiniti QX80 aside from different front ends. Both are very polarizing in terms of their overall looks, but I would say the Armada is slightly more tasteful.
    • The interior is a huge improvement over the old Armada. A new dashboard, noticeable improvements in terms of materials, and bits of style strewed about make for a pleasant experience. Yes, there are a fair amount of interior bits from the QX80 in the Armada’s interior, but it doesn’t feel out of place.
    • Most Armadas will feature seating for eight people. The Platinum which was the model I drove features seating for seven (captain chairs in the second row). Sitting in the second row is quite comfortable with a large amount of head and legroom. The Platinum’s second row also features a removable center console that adds more storage. The third-row seat is best left for small kids. Adults will complain that they don’t have any legroom.
    • The standard equipment list is quite generous with all models featuring push-button start, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and navigation. 
    • Speaking about the navigation, I think Nissan made a massive oversight. Unlike the Pathfinder which boasts the latest generation of Nissan Connect, the Armada features a system from the late-oughts. The graphics look quite dated and it doesn’t feature any of Nissan’s latest technologies such as the NissanConnect telematic services.
    • Power comes from a new 5.6L Endurance V8 with 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission. The V8 has more than enough grunt to leave a stop light in decent time and makes a passing a breeze. It doesn’t hurt the V8 has a nice growl during acceleration. The automatic seems quite smart with shift points and gear changes are very smooth.
    • One item we’ll be looking at closely whenever we get in an Armada for testing is fuel economy. The Armada Platinum AWD is rated at 13 City/18 Highway/15 Combined. The last Armada we drove in 2014 only got an average of 12 mpg.
    • The ride is very pleasant with bumps being smothered. This is impressive when you consider the Platinum is riding on 20-inch wheels. Nissan also worked on the Armada very quiet. On the freeway, barely any wind noise came in. Some road noise made its way inside, but that is likely due to the large wheels.
    • Somewhat surprising is how the Armada felt in the corners. There was little body roll which is impressive for a seven-seat SUV. Not so impressive is the steering; it feels quite light when turning and there isn’t any feel. 
    • The Armada starts at $45,395 for the base SV 2WD and climbs to $60,985 for the Platinum AWD
    • Think of the 2017 Nissan Armada as an Infiniti QX80 with a significant price cut. There are a lot of improvements for this SUV that might make it an interesting alternative to the Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon and Ford Expedition.

    2017 Nissan Titan

    • Finally! Nissan has brought out the half-ton Titan. There isn’t any difference in terms of looks between the standard Titan and the Titan XD. The only real difference comes in size: Titan is about 14.7 inches shorter in terms of overall length and its wheelbase is about a foot shorter.
    • Still looks like an older F-150 to me in the front. Everywhere else, the Titan does have some unique touches such black and silver wheels for the Pro-4X, and a large chrome bar on the tailgate of the top Platinum Reserve.
    • The Titan will be offered in regular and king (Nissan-speak for extended) cabs. Sadly, Nissan didn’t have a regular cab Titan to look at in person.
    • The interior might not be anything special in terms of looks, but build and material quality are excellent.
    • Dash layout is a bit button-heavy, but most controls are arranged in a logical fashion.
    • All Titans feature a touchscreen infotainment system, either 5 or 7-inches. The trucks available for us to drive came with a larger 7-inch screen. I’m not a fan of the NissanConnect system used in the Titan and Titan XD for a number of reasons: the interface is looking somewhat old despite being one of the newer systems on the market and having issues with devices plugged in via USB.
    • One area that the Titan shares with the XD is comfort. The front bucket seats provide excellent levels of comfort and support. The backseat is quite spacious with plenty of head and legroom for most passengers. 
    • A storage bin under the back seats provides a handy space for storing tool and other random bits. A clever trick that the bins offer is the ability for the lid to flip out and provide a flat surface for carrying large items in the back.
    • Powering the Titan for the time-being is a 5.6L Endurance V8 with 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission. A V6 is coming, but Nissan isn’t talking details about it at the moment.
    • The V8 moves the Titan with authority, although it takes a moment for the throttle to realize that your foot is on the gas before anything happens. Provides a nice growl during acceleration and doesn’t show any signs of harshness. The seven-speed automatic provides smooth gear changes, although it does take its sweet time to downshift in certain maneuvers such as passing.
    • During the short drive loop, the Titan provided a smooth and relaxing ride. One area that Nissan might want to do some more work is in noise isolation. I found a fair amount of road noise coming into the cabin.
    • Handling is quite surprising for a truck. The Titan felt planted around corners and showed no sign of body roll. Steering is where the Titan really shined as it felt connected to the road and had the right amount of heft. This is due to Nissan using a rack-and-pinion setup, not a recirculating ball steering system in the XD.
    • Pricing for the Titan starts at $35,975 for the base S 2WD Crew to $56,595 for the Platinum Reserve 4WD. Prices for the crew cabs are on the high side and that is making us wonder how much the regular and king cabs will start at.
    • Nissan is making progress with the 2017 Titan in a number of key areas. But we have to wonder if the slow rollout that Nissan is doing with the Titan is actually hurting them. Consider that when other truck manufacturers launch a pickup, they have a number of cab and bed variants ready to go, along with a range of engines. The Titan only has one cab, bed, and engine at the moment. The regular cab goes on sale this fall, but the King Cab and V6 aren’t due till later. This could put Nissan and the Titan in a difficult spot.

    Author's Note: Cheers & Gears would like to thank Nissan for inviting us to this first drive event. 

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      Cargo volume
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    • By William Maley
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      Available Advanced Driver Assist (ADAS) Technology
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      When the NV lineup was launched in 2009, Nissan was hoping to steal away sales from the Detroit Three. At the time, Ford and GM had 97 percent of the large van segment. The NV was positioned as being a more modern option compared to the Ford E-Series and Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana. It was more comfortable with adjustable seats, taller ceiling for easier access to the cargo area, and pre-drilled holes in the body to allow owners to add interior racks easily. But Nissan wasn't able to make decent inroads into this market, only achieving around an eight percent share in the marketplace.
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      Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required), The Drive
      Pic Credit: William Maley for Cheers & Gears

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    • By William Maley
      Nearly a decade ago, Nissan launched an ambitious assault on the U.S. commercial van market with the launch of their NV vans. It started with the Titan-dervived, body-on-frame NV1500/2500/3500 vans. This was followed by the unibody NV200 van, which was for a time the "Taxi of Tommorow" in New York City. But Nissan is reportedly throwing in the towel.
      Automotive News has learned from a source that it will end production of their commercial vans. No time frame was given.
      "We don't want to go more in the business of vans in the U.S. We will exit," said the source.
      Nissan spokesman Brian Brockman declined to comment about the future of the commercial vans, only saying in a statement that the automaker " is considering a number of opportunities to streamline the product portfolio and drive efficiencies within our manufacturing operations."
      When the NV lineup was launched in 2009, Nissan was hoping to steal away sales from the Detroit Three. At the time, Ford and GM had 97 percent of the large van segment. The NV was positioned as being a more modern option compared to the Ford E-Series and Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana. It was more comfortable with adjustable seats, taller ceiling for easier access to the cargo area, and pre-drilled holes in the body to allow owners to add interior racks easily. But Nissan wasn't able to make decent inroads into this market, only achieving around an eight percent share in the marketplace.
      What was the NV's downfall?
      Brand Loyalty to the American brands Using a modified Titan platform for the larger vans comprised them in urban areas with their extended front nose, and cargo capacity. "A third of the vehicle is dedicated to the engine and passenger compartment instead of cargo. The van takes up more real estate for the same amount of cargo space," explained Sam Fiorani, vice president at AutoForecast Solutions. NV200 Taxis were dinged by taxi companies poor ride quality, difficulty entering/exiting the van for elderly passengers, and increasing maintenance costs. Proved to a be a difficult sale to fleet buyers due to the automaker lacking the numerous combinations of light-trucks that the Detroit three can offer. Trucks and vans work hand in hand to attract sales in the commercial market. "Chevrolet and Ford can be everything to everybody," said Tyler Slade, operating partner at Tim Dahle Nissan Southtowne in Salt Lake City. "When we went to some of these fleet companies, it didn't make sense for them to have trucks from Ford and vans from Nissan." Add in $2.8 billion in cuts that the company is planning to stay afloat and COVID-19, and the death knell was coming sooner than later for the NV family.
      If Nissan does go forward with dropping the NV family, this will be a major blow to about a forth of Nissan dealers in the U.S. They made various investments such as installing heavy-duty lifts capable of lifting fully-loaded vans and having a dedicated sales staff to handle specific fleet issues.
      "Dealers now have serious concerns about their investments in commercial vehicles," said Slade.
      There is also the question as to whether Nissan may try again. Automotive News notes that in the new business strategy outlined last month, Nissan is wanting more global cooperation with its alliance partner Renault. The French automaker already has a number of vans in its lineup and is quite successful in various markets. Nissan already sells a version of the Renault Traffic, called the NV300 in Europe.
      But getting a Renault van into the U.S. as a Nissan will be difficult and costly in terms of homologation. Also, Nissan would still need to figure out how to appeal to larger fleet buyers that go with Ford or GM.
      Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required), The Drive
      Pic Credit: William Maley for Cheers & Gears
    • By William Maley
      Nissan isn't quite ready to show off the next-generation Frontier, but they have decided to drop the new engine and transmission destined for the new model into the outgoing Frontier.
      Revealed on the eve of the Chicago Auto Show yesterday, the new 3.8L V6 produces 310 horsepower and 281 pound-feet of torque - an increase of 49 hp over the outgoing 4.0L V6, but torque remains the same. This is paired with a nine-speed automatic that is similar to the one used in the recently refreshed Titan. The introduction of this new powertain does mean the base 2.5L four-cylinder and manual transmission have been dropped for 2020.
      Why is Nissan releasing this new powertrain in a model that is destined to be replaced in a year's time? Most likely Nissan sees it as a way to get some real-world mileage before being dropped into the next-generation Frontier.
      Nissan is also giving all 2020 Frontiers push-button start, power windows and locks; and tilt-telescoping steering wheel. 
      Source: Nissan
      Press Release is on Page 2


      2020 Nissan Frontier debuts with ‘heart of the next-generation Frontier’
      All-new 3.8-liter direct injection V6 engine, 9-speed transmission help set the stage for all-new truck to come next year CHICAGO – As one successful era ends, another is just beginning in the heart of the 2020 Nissan Frontier.
      At a media reception tonight, Nissan revealed the 2020 Frontier which features an all-new, powerful 3.8-liter direct injection V6 engine and all-new 9-speed automatic transmission – both of which will be key elements in the next-generation, all-new Frontier coming soon.
      The 2020 Frontier, which marks the last model year of the current generation, will feature best-in-class horsepower1 while also providing improved fuel economy and emissions performance. It will go on sale in spring 2020.
      Helping celebrate the transition to the next-generation Frontier was Brian Murphy and his 2007 Frontier, which just last week crossed the 1 million mile mark – a true testament to the durability and reliability of the Nissan Frontier.
      "The 2020 Frontier lays the groundwork for the exciting, next-generation Frontier – an all-new pickup truck slated to arrive soon," said Tiago Castro, director, Commercial Vehicle Business Unit, Nissan North America, Inc. "While looking ahead, we're also celebrating our strong heritage – including the innovations, versatility and reliability of past models, such as the 2007 Frontier that Chicago resident Brian Murphy has driven for more than one million miles."
      2020 Nissan Frontier
      The 2020 Frontier, with its standard 3.8-liter V6 and 9-speed automatic transmission, focuses on the needs and demands of truck owners in the U.S. Nissan's all-new engine is using 93 percent new or redesigned parts, and the powerplant underwent extensive testing in North America. The engine will be assembled at Nissan's advanced engine facility in Decherd, Tenn., next to the full-size TITAN pickup's 5.6-liter Endurance® V8.
      Along with the 49-horsepower improvement over the previous Frontier V6, fuel economy is expected to increase2. Also contributing to the 2020 Frontier's improved acceleration and fuel economy is the all-new 9-speed automatic transmission designed to maximize powertrain efficiency and provide an enhanced acceleration feel.
      "From its roots tracing back more than 60 years, to the current model, Frontier has had a lasting impact on the compact and mid-size truck segments in North America. As Nissan transitions to the next chapter, we celebrate both a proud past and a bright future with the heart of the next Frontier," added Castro.
      The "Million-Mile" 2007 Frontier
      Chicagoland delivery man Brian Murphy bought his two-wheel-drive, 4-cylinder 5-speed manual Frontier King Cab pickup in June 2007 with one goal: to put 1 million miles on it3. The red Frontier passed the million-mile mark on January 27, 2020.
      According to Murphy, the original clutch lasted 801,000 miles, the timing chain was replaced as a preventative measure at 700,000 miles, and the radiator and alternator lasted about 450,000 miles each. Even the driver's seat lasted a half-million miles but has also been replaced. 
      To celebrate Murphy's incredible accomplishment and loyalty, Nissan announced it would give Murphy a new Frontier once the 2020 model begins production later this year. 
      "I never imagined I'd be given a new truck, especially since my Frontier is still running strong. It will be a real treat to have an efficient V6 engine, but I guess I'll have to find another way to exercise now that I'll have an automatic transmission and power windows," said Murphy. 
      For regular maintenance, the truck has been serviced at M'Lady Nissan in Crystal Lake, Illinois, the same dealership where Murphy purchased the vehicle new in June 2007. Murphy insists on doing his own oil changes every 10,000 miles.

      View full article
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