Nissan has been full of little surprises in the utility-vehicle realm lately—the Rogue, the Cube, the Juke—and here’s another, although the word “little” doesn’t apply in the case of the NV cargo van. Not when the subject vehicle stands 105 inches tall, with a cargo hold capable of swallowing a couple of basketball teams—or maybe three or four juvenile giraffes—standing at full height.
The surprises here are multiple: first, that Nissan chose to play in this game at all. The full-size-van market amounts to about 300,000 units in most years (although it dipped sharply in 2008 and ’09), and it’s dominated by Ford (about 50 percent) and General Motors (around 45 percent). The Sprinter, which has been sold here wearing Mercedes-Benz, Dodge, and Freightliner badges, has hitherto been the only tall van in this segment and accounts for the other five percent. So, it’s a relatively small market that is 95-percent owned by domestic makes whose loyal customers are hard to seduce. Apparently, Nissan took that as a challenge.
Another surprise is that Nissan chose to create a dedicated chassis for its new van. Aside from one crossmember, the NV’s fully boxed ladder frame—it looks as if it could have been sectioned out of New York’s 59th Street Bridge—shares nothing with the Titan pickup. That’s a lot of investment for what figures to be a small slice of a modest market, although we do expect Nissan to utilize this frame for a heavy-duty Titan or the next generation of the regular-strength pickup.
* Simple, flexible layout designed to meet multiple customer requirements
* Ample legroom and foot room
* Comfortable, durable front seats with range of adjusts, available lumbar support
* Heavy-duty fabrics and materials, water repellent fabric on main seating surfaces and built in seat bolster durability patch to resist wear
* Fold-down passenger seatback with one-hand operation, serves as mobile worktable
* Available lockable center console with business card holder and room for mobile phone chargers, letter size files, laptop computer; laptop computer/mobile phone charger outlet inside center console; console lid slides forward to provide work surface for laptop or paperwork
* Available four cupholders, instrument panel storage compartments
* Available overhead console (High Roof models) with room for gloves, legal-size binder, system books, safety glasses
* Large door pockets with room for flashlights, legal-size binder, 1-liter bottle
* Large cargo floor, square-top wheelwells
* Standard upfitter pre-wiring
* Wide-coverage cargo area lighting
* Available power outlets, including available 3-prong 120V outlet in center console and D-pillar locations
* Multiple integrated reinforced attachment points for securing cargo customization equipment
* Recessed “D” tie-down rings
* Available Technology Package offering Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System, Navigation, USB interface and Rear View Monitor
* Body-on-frame construction
* Choice of Standard Roof or High Roof body
* Strong masculine styling with iconic Nissan signature front end design
* Long hood for easy engine compartment access and serviceability
* Large side panels for advertising or business signage
* Large, wide-opening front and rear doors, sliding passenger-side door
* Standard Roof models fit in most garages and fast food/bank drive-through lanes and car washes
* Integrated roof attachment points for durable installation of roof mounted ladder and utility racks
* High Roof models provide easy cargo area ingress and egress, comfortable walk-through and stand up capability
Although the underpinnings are new, the powertrains are familiar, as both are from the Nissan pickup inventory. The base van with the high or standard roof is propelled by a 4.0-liter V-6 (261 hp, 281 lb-ft of torque) from the mid-size Frontier. The optional engine is the Titan’s 5.6-liter V-8 (317 hp, 385 lb-ft), which is standard in the top-spec 3500 and powered the example tested here. Both engines transmit power to the rear wheels via a five-speed automatic transmission. There is no four-wheel-drive option.
At the test track, this powertrain plus a 6220-pound curb weight added up to a 0-to-60-mph time of 8.4 seconds—not exactly thrilling, but much quicker than the 11.6 seconds recorded by the last Sprinter we tested. The NV also trumped the Sprinter’s passing times: 4.2 and 5.9 seconds to accelerate from 30 mph to 50 and 50 to 70, respectively, compared with 5.7 and 9.0 seconds. There didn’t seem to be much degradation when we hooked up some 4500 pounds of trailer and race car and loaded a few hundred pounds of spares inside, either.
Engine performance, then, is pretty good for a vehicle in this size and weight class, and fuel economy is about what you’d expect. The EPA doesn’t require mpg ratings for vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) above 8500 pounds, and the NV tested here carries a 9100-pound GVWR. We logged 11 mpg during the van’s two-week stay—not impressive, but that did include almost 400 miles of towing to and from GingerMan Raceway in western Michigan.
* Dual-stage supplemental front air bags
* 3-point front seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters
* Available supplemental front seat-mounted side-impact air bags and roof-mounted supplemental curtain air bags
Models and Manufacturing
* Offered in three well-equipped models: NV1500, NV2500 HD, NV3500 HD
* Available in Standard Roof and High Roof body configurations (NV2500 HD, NV3500 HD series)
* Assembled by Nissan North America Manufacturing Canton, Mississippi Plant