Lately, it seems Nissan is branching out into every automotive segment in existence. After venturing into the wild green EV yonder with the all-electric Leaf, and stepping into the realm of supercars just a few years ago with the GT-R, Nissan is now looking to try its hand in the commercial van arena. The Japanese automaker's range of NV cargo vans, introduced for the 2012 model year, is faced with the daunting challenge of penetrating a market made up of some already well-established players like the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Ford E-Series, Chevy Express, and, to a lesser extent, the car-based Ford Transit Connect, also a relative newcomer. Though the commercial van segment already has its stalwarts, none stand out as star players. This could give the NV a chance to shine in a class with relatively few offerings.
Our long-term 2012 NV2500 SV feels up to the task of shaking up the commercial van class, with its optional 5.6-liter V-8, producing 317 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque, pulled straight out of full-size platform-mates Titan and Armada. At that output, the V-8 in the NV produces more horsepower than the available Triton V-10 in the E-Series. Though, to be fair, that 6.8-liter V-10 makes more torque, at 420 lb-ft. The transmission in our long-termer is a five-speed automatic -- the only gearbox offered for the NV lineup. The steering column-mounted gear selector has a manual shift switch which, interestingly enough, has an auto rev-matched downshift function not unlike the one found on the sportier 370Z automatic.
So far, we've put the NV to work hauling photography and video equipment -- a task the NV will get to know well during its tenure in our fleet. We've appreciated the optional equipment it came with, especially the $950 Technology package, which adds a navigation system with five-inch touch screen, satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, and the all-important rear-view camera. As we didn't opt for the rear windows, a $190 option, having the rear cam has made backing up a much less dicey proposition. Another feature we didn't opt for is the high roof body style, which would have extended the roof by 21 inches, and increased cargo volume from 234.1 cubic feet to 323.1 cubic feet. We had a high roof model NV3500 in for testing a few months back, which served marvelously as a support vehicle during our Best Driver's Car Competition. Though the added cargo space was a godsend for that particular test, our parking needs dictated something with a bit more clearance up top.
In our tests, the NV has proven to be a pretty surprising performer. The NV2500 moves its 5996-lb bulk from zero to 60 mph in a respectable 8.8 seconds. That's still a couple seconds slower than its similarly sized and equally powerful platform-mate, the Nissan Armada. But for a commercial van, that's bookin' it. The NV also proved to be relatively stable in our figure-eight test. Testing director Kim Reynolds said the van never felt like it was going to topple over, and that it wasn't scary -- even when lifting the rear inner tire off the pavement.
Though it may not be the most glamorous ride in our fleet, it's certainly good at what it does. Is it a segment upset though? We'll know in roughly one year's time.