Skoda smartens up its saloon and adds plug-in power
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Titan. What a great name for a truck. Isn’t it? We’re genuinely surprised nobody thought of it before Nissan, which released the first-generation Titan in 2004. This one was all-new in 2015, but because Nissan doesn’t sell it outside North America, only now are we having a go. In Morocco of all places, hence the sandy pictures. Didn’t think I’d seen one in my local Nissan dealer… Aye. You might have seen a Navara though, which is much smaller and far less brash than the mighty Titan. You can read about why the Navara is among the best pickup trucks on sale in Europe by clicking right here. ‘Full-size’, frame-based pickup trucks are a quintessentially North American thing. Like the Corvette, apple pies, cheerleaders and lawsuits. Even the ones that aren’t ostensibly American, like the Titan, are designed, engineered and built in the good ol’ US of A with few (if any) concessions to other markets.
As such there’s no suggestion of the Titan, or any other full-size pickup (think Ford F-150 – the market-leader) ever coming to Europe. And that’s just fine, because our little continent is too small for their gargantuan proportions and too poor to keep their gas tanks topped up. But we thought you’d want to read about it anyway, because… V8? Yep. V8. While Ford has expanded its F-150 range to include a V6 alongside the ubiquitous V8, Nissan has done no such thing. The only engine you can get in a Titan is the naturally-aspirated 5.6-litre petrol V8 it shares with the Patrol and Armada, as well as some of Nissan’s bigger trucks and vans. It makes 390bhp and 394lb ft of torque. Its 0-60mph time and top speed are immaterial. What matters is towing and hauling – the Titan can haul 676kg in the bed and tow trailers weighing up to 4,132kg. Or a small island to warmer seas. How does it drive? Switchable all-wheel drive, a seven-speed column-operated automatic gearbox with low-range and differential locks mean the leaf-sprung Titan will get a fair way off the beaten track. Its length, width and weight are always working against it, so it doesn’t scamper along trails (or up dunes) quite as happily as a Navara, but it’s really not bad. Especially this one, which is the off-road-ready PRO-4X model that gets Bilstein mono-tube off-road shocks and hill-descent control in addition to the standard spec. On-road it’s your typical, body-on-frame pickup truck – slow and comparatively ponderous, yes, but tremendously solid and reassuringly stable. Nissan stresses more and more people are swapping their luxury sedans and SUVs for pricey pick-ups costing upwards of $50,000, and using them as their everyday wheels. Which means this behemoth has to have a degree of refinement about it. And it does – wind- and tyre-noise aren’t too intrusive, and the engine and gearbox do their jobs quietly, smoothly and unobtrusively. Despite its size, big door mirrors, lots of cameras and easy steering make the Titan as easy to drive as any European SUV, providing the roads you’re driving it on are big enough to accommodate it, of course. The only real issue with the way the Titan drives is the ride – this is still a frame-based, leaf-sprung truck, and for all Nissan’s efforts, for the most part it still feels like one. No matter, it’s comfortable enough thanks to hydraulic cab mounts. You buy one of these and you know what you’re getting into, right? Looks pretty plush inside, for a truck… It’s not bad. That’s another consequence of the shift from regular cars and SUVs to posh trucks – buyers want the image and capability, but don’t want to compromise by sacrificing the comfort and tech they’ve got used to. This Titan isn’t even the pricey one, but you still get heated/cooled seats, sat-nav and a fair amount of leather. It’s all very solid and no doubt the fixtures and fittings will long outlast the car’s first couple of owners without falling off. The quality’s even decent, which is more than can be said for a lot of USDM cars and trucks. Full-size trucks are benchmarked as ruthlessly as Audi might the E-Class or 5 Series, when it’s developing a new A6. It’s as fiercely-fought a segment as you’ll find anywhere in the world, and more demanding than most. Why? In Europe, if you work all day in a van, you don’t then cart your family around in it, or take it camping at the weekends. In the US, on the other hand, it’s by no means uncommon for someone to work all-day with their truck, then clear it out, take it home and use it as their main family car. So the Titan has to work on all those levels. And it does – the storage bin in the centre console can swallow a 15in laptop, the rear seats flip up and have hooks on the bottom to hold things in place. Then out back, the tailgate is damped, and there’s a little step so you can climb up into the back easily. Oh, and it has 16 cup holders. Skoda Kodiaq, eat your heart out. Should I buy one? If you’re an American and you want a truck, then yes maybe. As American trucks go, yes, this is a good one. If you’re English and you want a truck, then no. Under no circumstances should you buy a Titan, or any US pickup truck for that matter, unless you are a diehard enthusiast of the culture, and are willing to put up with the compromises of running one of these things in a country built around cars the size of a Ford Anglia, not the USS Nimitz.