Vans and cutaway van platforms are some of the hardest-working, most underappreciated vehicles on the market today. They serve everyone from your local electrician to EMTs, and are the basis for some of the most popular RVs on the market. Plus, they're often employed as 12- to 15-passenger transportation for families, church groups, and schools. Yet despite the importance of this category, it has mostly remained stagnant over the last several years. Nissan came to a similar conclusion: The company did extensive research on the van market, and learned that owners in this segment are the least satisfied with their vehicles, evidence that vans desperately need to be upgraded. Vans are so slow to change that it seems the product life cycle is at least double that of pickup trucks.

In response to what it sees as an opportunity, Nissan has introduced the first new vehicle to the van market in a decade. The NV line consists of the 1500 (standard roof, V-6 only), 2500 HD (standard or high roof, V-6 or V-8), and 3500 HD (standard or high roof, V-8 only). Nissan hopes there are plenty of small-fleet owners -- companies with fewer than 15 vehicles -- and individual buyers who are interested in big vans. All models are sold as S or topline SV. Wheelbase and overall length are the same for the three models. The big difference between the 2500 HD and 3500 HD is that the 3500 uses heavier-duty springs and a slightly different size tire, a 70 aspect ratio versus 75. Power comes from a 4.0-liter, 261-horse V-6 (the same as in the Frontier and Xterra) or the Titan's 317-horse, 5.6-liter V-8, both backed by a five-speed automatic. We figured with the partnership between Nissan and Renault and the numerous diesels both offer around the world that a diesel option in this van would be a no-brainer. At launch, there will be no diesel, but Nissan is considering it for the future. There are some concerns about pricing with a diesel option that have kept other automakers from offering one in half-ton pickups. We hope demand will encourage Nissan to change its mind and make a 50-state-legal diesel available. At this point, though, the NV is only one of two full-size vans without an available diesel. (The last year the E-Series had a diesel option was 2010.)