2012 Nissan NV | Haulers

Since its debut 10 years ago, Mercedes Benz’s high-roofed Sprinter (imported to the U.S. by Dodge and Freightliner) has been a lust-object for motorcyclists fed up with squatting and head-banging in traditional vans. The Sprinter has such ample headroom that many racers have built lofts for bunking above their motorcycles.

The diesel-powered Sprinter was a revelation in every regard except its premium price tag, which runs north of $40,000 if you check all the option boxes. This wasn’t lost on Nissan’s product planners, who jumped on the opportunity to build something that meets or beats the Sprinter in many vital areas, but is priced closer to Ford’s, Chevy’s and GM’s offerings. The result is the 2012 NV, built at Nissan’s Mississippi factory, which retails for $24,590 to $32,190 depending on trim level and optional equipment.

And a thoughtfully designed bike hauler it is. The NV—short for Nissan Van—features rugged body-on-frame construction and either a 4.0-liter V6 or 5.4-liter V8 gasoline engine. Three trim levels—NV 1500, NV 2500 HD and NV 3500 HD—share a 146-inch wheelbase and 241-inch overall length. The 2500 and 3500 models offer a choice of 84-inch standard roofline or the High Roof option. While the latter’s 105-inch roof height won’t fit inside most garages or the drive-thru, it’s the one to have for serious bike transport.

As our NV 2500 HD test vehicle proved, persons up to 6-foot-3 can stand upright inside the cavernous cargo area. It’s a breeze to walk your bike up the loading ramp and into position. Like the Sprinter, the NV’s rear doors feature trick hinge mechanisms that allow them to swing back nearly parallel to the van’s body, where magnets hold them secure in windy conditions. Its flat, commendably low floor is just 19.4 inches from ground level at the rear, and slightly higher at the right-side sliding door. Opening the rear doors reveals 61.6 inches of bike-gobbling space between the jambs, and a 122-inch-long bed.

Nissan’s engineering team peppered the NV’s cargo hold with plenty of strong tie-down points. There are six floor-mounted D-rings, in addition to 12 cargo-area floor mounting points, and 24 mounting points on the bulkheads and interior walls.

With an ’07 Triumph Bonneville and a vintage Honda tiddler on board, considerable cargo volume remained for at least one other machine plus a gear bag, ice chest, toolbox, etc. The driver’s compartment adds a handy overhead shelf, deep center console and drawers under both seats. The SV package on our test vehicle included an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, MP3-compat-ible four-speaker audio system, power windows, doors and locks, plus various 12-volt outlets and USB ports.

On the road, the NV is a comfortable vehicle for racking up miles between racetracks, bike shows and swap meets. For optimum fuel economy the V6 is the choice, but our V8 still averaged 17 miles per gallon (somewhat less efficient than a Sprinter, though diesel fuel costs more than gasoline at the moment) in mostly freeway driving. Even with approximately 700 lbs. of motorcycles, gear and my 150-lb. son as payload, there was enough V8 torque to tackle any highway. The NV’s big-box size makes it a handful to park in tight spots, but a rear-view video-monitoring screen and rear parking sensors provide useful assistance.

All in all, the Nissan NV is a superb choice for a bike hauler, and the only real alternative to a Sprinter.

tech Spec

Price (as tested) $30,490 ($29,590 with V6)
Engine type 5.6-liter V8
Valve train DOHC 32v
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Claimed horsepower 317 bhp @ 5200 rpm
Claimed torque 385 lb.-ft. @ 3400 rpm
Front suspension Double-wishbone with twin-tube coil-over shocks
Rear suspension Multi-leaf with solid axle, twin-tube shocks
Front brakes 14.2-in. discs
Rear brakes 14.4-in. discs w/ABS
Tires 245/70R-17 Firestone All-Season
Payload 2755 lbs.
Cargo volume 323 cu.-ft.
Even when it’s full, it’s not really full. Though the Nissan NV isn’t as swoopy as the Mercedes Benz Sprinter it emulates, it offers many of the same features for thousands of dollars less.