Nissan has been making commercial vehicles around the world for 75 years, but had no full-size van for the U.S. market. Six years ago, when the company considered entering the commercial van market here, it looked at some of its world-market products. But because the vans are used differently in the States -- lots of straight-line commuting, the need for more power in a durable work truck, not as much stop-and-go, for example -- the other vans didn't quite translate for this market. So Nissan created the NV.

First glance suggests that the NV is just a van body on the Titan platform. And the original project started out that way, with the goal of building a van version of the Titan. By the time the engineers were done with the body-on-frame platform, though, the only things the NV line shared with the Titan were an engine, transmission, and a similar-looking snout. It even has a different rear axle. The NV2500 HD is longer than the comparable Sprinter, but the standard roof height is similar to that of the E-Series (see sidebar). The NVs are manufactured at the plant in Canton, Mississippi; moving production of the QX56 to Japan made room in the plant, which also underwent an $118 million renovation and expansion.

We briefly drove a preproduction 2500 HD high-roof with the V-8. This combination is expected to be the volume seller. Side and rear glass packages and a 12-passenger version will be coming in about a year, but our preproduction tester had no glass behind the B-pillar. Despite limited visibility caused by the lack of glass, maneuvering though traffic is fairly painless. The side mirrors are very helpful and come with a fisheye-type lower third. There are also optional towing mirrors for those who want a wider view.

While the V-8 feels almost like overkill in the Titan, in this van, the power is just about perfect. Acceleration is excellent, even when carrying a payload. Braking is linear and responsive, providing the same level of confidence. The ride is firm, but smoothes out with a load in back -- as it should in any vehicle designed to do hard work. And this van falls in that category. Aside from the 323.1 cubic feet of maximum cargo volume, the NV's maximum payload capacity is 3925 pounds, and it can tow up to 9500 pounds with the V-8.