It seems that we can’t get enough of titanic pick-ups from the States. If sales of the RAM 1500 and interest in the Chevrolet Silverado are anything to go by, there’s no such thing as a pick-up that’s too big for the Australia market. All of which makes it an opportunity that other manufacturers are now looking to exploit.
While they might not be quite so endowed with chrome plating and logos featuring steer horns, the Toyota Tundra and the Nissan Titan are nevertheless right up there with the Yank behemoths when it comes to grunt and grip.
The Tundra’s been a stalwart in the US market for two decades now. For the first ten years of its life it was built in Toyota’s Princeton, Indiana plant before production switched to San Antonio in Texas in 2009. Throughout that 20 year period there have really only been two generations. The XK30/XK40 models lasted from 2000-2006 and since 2007 we’ve had ever more developed versions of the XK50 truck.
In its first year on sale, the XK50 Tundra shifted around 196,000 units in the US, nearly putting the San Antonio plant at capacity. Now, it sells around 120,000 units per year, making it the seventh best-selling truck in the States.
A massive $A573 million investment to upgrade its San Antonio production facility has seen speculation grow that Toyota is set to introduce a right-hand drive export market Tundra.
What’s more a spokesman for Toyota Australia has admitted that vehicle is under study for this market, but where the right-hand drive production is conducted is an issue.
“Our preference would be to get something from the factory,” is the official line.
By contrast, the Nissan Titan sells less than half of the Toyota. Like the Tundra, it has been built in two specific generations, the A60 from 2003 through 2015 and the H61 from 2016 to present. A 2020 update is on the way, Nissan reportedly planning to ditch the regular cab models of the Titan from the line at Canton, Mississippi.
Nissan Australia is keen to see the Titan sold here. Nissan Australia MD Stephen Lester is doing his best to get vehicles here as soon as possible.
"There are definitely plans to expand. Even within Navara we’ve seen the development of special versions support the growth of that car, and we’ll see that continue for sure," Lester said.
"But I also believe a vehicle like Titan would make perfect sense for Australia. We’ve been hard at it with the global team to push for this, and we’ll stay hard at it, because I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
The Titan is most likely to be re-engineered to right-hand drive here in Australia.
If these two monster trucks are on their way to Australia in right-hand drive form, what can buyers expect?
The Titan is offered in two sizes, Titan and even heftier Titan XD. It’s unlikely that the larger version will be imported, but the ‘little’ one is still a hefty slab of truck.
The Titan Crew Cab version that we’re likely to get is 5794mm long, 2019mm wide and 1930mm high, with a wheelbase of 3551mm.
By contrast, the Tundra CrewMax is a bit larger again at 5809mm long, 2029mm wide, 1925mm high with a wheelbase of 3700mm.
How does that compare with one of our regular dual cabs like the Ford Ranger? They’re a fair bit bigger, but not the 20-25 percent bigger than many imagine. A Titan is 8.2 percent longer, 9.1 percent wider and 0.2 percent higher than a dual cab Ford Ranger. It still makes it a big old unit, but it shouldn’t prove unmanageable on Aussie roads.
This is where the big trucks exercise a key advantage over our regular dual cabs. The reason why RAMs are flying out of the Clayton plant is because the 1500 can be optioned with a short final drive ratio that gives it a 4500kg towing capacity – although gross vehicle weight restrictions come into play when you’re really teasing at the edge of the towing limits.
The Nissan Titan Crew Cab with a 5.6-litre petrol V8 has a maximum towing capacity of 4190kg and a maximum payload of 735kg, although obviously not both at the same time.
Go for the Toyota Tundra CrewMax and you get 690kg of payload and 3992kg of towing capacity if you opt for the all-wheel drive version or 735kg of payload and 4264kg of towing capacity with the rear-drive variant.
That’s usefully better than the best dual-cabs on the market at the moment. The V6 Mercedes-Benz X350d can lug 3500kg, the same as the most powerful VW Amarok V6. So if you’re getting near the limit of your current ute’s towing ability, the Tundra and – especially – the Titan may well appeal.
Both are offered with either a 6.5 or a 5.5-foot bed.
The current Titan gets a choice of a 5.6-litre V8 petrol engine, generating 290kW at 5800rpm and 534Nm at 4000rpm or a 5.0-litre diesel V8 that produces 231kW and 752Nm, mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Word is that the 2020 Titan could get rid of the Cummins-sourced diesel, an engine that seems a natural fit for our market.
Against that, Toyota comes armed with a 5.7-litre aluminium 32-valve petrol V8 good for 280kW at 5600rpm while torque is rated at 544Nm at 3600rpm, so there’s really not a lot to choose between the two. The Toyota unit is smoother and has a modest advantage on torque, whereas the tough Nissan V8 makes 10kW more, but needs a few more revs on the board to do so. The Toyota’s six-speed automatic is down a ratio on the Nissan’s 7-speed unit.
Pricing is very much contingent on whether the Tundra and Titan are offered from factory in right-hand drive guise or converted here in Australia. A handful of private importers will already sell you a converted right-hook Titan Platinum Crew Cab and ask $145,000 for the privilege.
In the US, the Titan CrewCab 4x4 starts at USD$39,830 for a typical Californian buyer. That will buy you an S trim, rising to $57,490 for the aforementioned Platinum Crew Cab. Given that Australians like their trucks with all the bells and whistles that would be the spec we’d be likeliest to get.
Go Toyota and a CrewMax 4x4 opens at USD $42,345 in SR5 trim, ranging up to $53,270 for the Tundra Platinum.
Read next: Ford Ranger sales are struggling in the US
There’s no getting away from the fact that the current Toyota Tundra is ancient. The interior design is a long way behind the curve and the infotainment system lacks the CarPlay/Android slickness of the Nissan. The Tundra counters with some great driver assistance systems that the Nissan lacks. The Tundra has earned a solid reputation for reliability in the States, where the Titan has yet to earn those spurs and is often available at a decent dealer discount. Were such discounts available to us, it might well swing a verdict in Nissan’s favour. As it stands, it’s a really close run thing.
Granted, we’ve yet to get the vehicles into the Wheels office for a test drive, but as soon as we can, we will. And in the meantime, tell us which of the two you’d go for or whether you’d rather have a proper ‘chrome on the range’ Yankee truck instead.