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Review: 2012 Nissan NV2500 HD

 

Nissan sells its new  NV2500 HD High Roof Edition van for $91.24 per cubic foot of cargo space.

Sound like a good deal?

Not sure, but the automaker is hoping that it does as it attempts to crack the tough full-size van market in the United States.

The NV, also available in a standard flat-top version, is based on the ladder frame chassis of Nissan’s Titan pickup truck and built alongside it in Canton, Mississippi.

Pricing starts at $25,930 for a base NV1500 and $29,480 for the least-expensive High Roof Edition, which is the NV2500 HD that I spent my Christmas vacation tooling around Nashville in. An even more capable NV3500 HD tops the lineup.

The NV’s unique Cyrano de Bergerac look is thanks in part to its pickup roots, but Nissan touts the long hood as offering easier access to the engine compartment while keeping the motor housing from intruding into the cabin, as is often the case with snub-nosed vans. The standard engine found under it is a 260 hp 4.0-liter V6, but a honking 317 hp 5.6-liter V8 is available for an extra $900. In either case, a five-speed automatic transmission sends the power to the rear wheels.

Nissan’s Vice President of Commercial Vehicles and Fleet, Joe Castelli, says the NV was designed with the small business owner-operator in mind, and offers many of the comforts of the office, if not home. To that end, it has cushy bucket seats with reinforced bolsters to help them hold up to years of entries and exits; storage drawers underneath them; a passenger seat that folds forward to be used as a workspace; and an enormous center console can that double as a hanging folder filing cabinet. Four jumbo-size cupholders service the two hardworking people on board, because, you know, America.

Nissan’s very-good-but-getting-old navigation and infotainment system is a $950 option, but its 5-inch screen looks pretty dinky in the capacious NV. It is very welcome as a backup camera, however, and combined with the rear sonar system that is included on the upscale SV trim level, works well to make parking the big box a breeze. Assuming that you can find a space that’s long enough to fit in – the NV is a solid 20 feet from tip to tail.

Similarly, the top of the High Roof Edition is over eight and a half feet off the ground, and six-foot three-inch Jeremy Lin could stand up inside. This is a big selling point for Nissan as neither Ford nor General Motors builds their own tall boy van, and the cheapest high roof Mercedes-Benz Sprinter costs about ten grand more than the NV. It also means that if the Knicks gig doesn’t work out, Lin could always do commercials for his local Nissan dealer.

“’Here’s a deal you can drive to the hole!..that you’re digging. Because you’re a contractor. Get it?’ Ugh. When does that check clear?”

There are literally dozens of built-in mounting points in the 323.1 cubic foot space back there for racks, ladders and the like, along with six D-ring tie downs for loose cargo. The floor is both large enough to accommodate the requisite 8’ x 4’ dry wall sheets that all commercial vehicles worth their union dues are measured by, as well as 10-foot long pipes.

I don’t claim to have a lot of (read: any) experience working in trades that require such things, but I have been to U-Haul a couple of times, and not just for the bubble wrap. While still not exactly a Maxima, or even an Armada, the NV has a surprisingly bounce-free ride, and the potent V8 makes me wonder if there’s such a thing as short track van racing.

It’s also an impressive sight to see. The flightless Super Guppy drew many envious looks from the plumbers and delivery drivers I passed while cruising around Music City with my slightly appalled wife in search of a classy Hot Chicken lunch. It took her a while to realize that in truck country, so close to Nissan’s U.S. HQ in Franklin, Tennessee, we were without question the coolest couple in town.

(Keith and Nicole can eat our dust.)

Truck is the key word, according to Nissan, because that kind of construction allows the NV3500HD to carry a maximum payload of 3925 lbs and tow up to 9,500 lbs. More important, Ford is about to replace its king of the hill E-Series with the next generation of its European Transit van, which is built on a unibody chassis. Ford doesn’t seem to be sweating it, some of its customers have been buying Econolines for literally decades and that kind of inertia is hard to resist, but folks that actually sweat for a living aren’t always the easiest to convince that some fancy Euro-van can handle their hard days’ work.

Opportunity is knocking for Nissan, and the NV is ready to hop off the bench and fill in for anyone with an open position. It even has a passenger version of the NV coming later this year that seats 12.

The coach will just have to slum it in an Infiniti.

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2012 Nissan NV2500 HD

Base Price: $29,480

Type: 2-passenger cargo van

Engine: 5.6L V8

Power: 317 hp, 383 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 5-speed automatic

MPG: NA