It’s big — really big. Nissan took forceful steps to convey that message of ample dimensions while introducing its first full-size pickup truck at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show in January 2003. Carlos Ghosn, president and chief executive officer of Nissan Motor Co., even stood in the cargo bed during the Titan’s debut to point out the abundant dimensions of the new truck; it was first shown in the King Cab body style. Camera angles used by company photographers during the initial presentation made the Titan look even more massive than it is in reality.
The Titan will compete against the domestically built trucks from Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and GMC, which have virtually owned the full-size segment for decades. The only serious import-brand rival is the Toyota Tundra, which has a smaller cab than domestic models and a more limited selection of configurations. “We have done our homework,” Ghosn said. “We know what big-truck buyers want.”
Nissan is installing a powerful 5.6-liter Endurance V-8 engine that cranks out 305 horsepower and 379 pounds-feet of torque — that’s more than the new Dodge Hemi V-8 and Ford’s V-8. “Another area of need is over-the-top power — the power to pull, tug, push and pulverize,” said Chief Product Specialist Larry Dominique. Teamed with a five-speed-automatic transmission, the new engine was specifically designed for truck applications.
The Titan will be available in King Cab and Crew Cab forms and with either two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive (4WD). No regular-cab version is planned. The Crew Cab body was unveiled at the New York International Auto Show in April 2003. Three trim levels will be offered: the XE, the SE and the top-of-the-line LE.
All of the trucks will be manufactured at Nissan’s new plant in Canton, Miss., while the V-8 engines hail from Tennessee. Sales of the Titan begin on Dec. 1, 2003. Nissan faces tough competition because full-size truck buyers are known to be especially loyal to their favorite brand, so the Titan will be targeted at a younger audience and promoted as a lifestyle vehicle.
Wide front fenders and blistered cargo-box sides help to convey the sensation of bigness. At 224.2 inches long overall and sporting a 6.5-foot cargo bed, the Titan King Cab is 3.8 inches shorter than the extended-cab 2004 Ford F-150 pickup equipped with a bed of the same length.
The rear King Cab doors open nearly 180 degrees — twice as far as usual — for easy access to the interior. The high-utility cargo bed features an industry first — a factory-applied spray in the bed liner; it will be offered on upper-end trim levels. In contrast to the usual tie-down anchors, Nissan’s new Utili-track bed channel system uses C-channel rails on the cargo-box floor, side rails and front panel. Cleats can be locked anywhere along the channel and accept many aftermarket accessory racks. An integrated, lockable bedside compartment, a bed-mounted 12-volt power point and tailgate illumination are also included.
The Titan will have standard 17-inch tires, and 18-inch tires on aluminum-alloy wheels will also be available. An optional offroad package will include a lower-ratio rear axle, a driver-selectable locking rear differential, Rancho shock absorbers and skid plates.
Buyers can choose from two King Cab interior layouts. A front bench seat provides three-across seating, and a column-mounted gearshift for the driver will be included. Titan models equipped with bucket seats get a large console and a gated gearshift that promises improved towing control; this gearshift is a first for this segment.
Nissan’s Endurance 5.6-liter dual-overhead-cam V-8 engine produces 305 hp and 379 pounds-feet of torque. A five-speed-automatic transmission is standard. The Titan can tow as much as 9,500 pounds. Optional part-time shift-on-the-fly 4WD uses an electronically controlled dual-range transfer case.
Four-wheel all-disc antilock brakes and side-impact airbags are standard. Side curtain-type airbags and Nissan’s electronic stability system, called Vehicle Dynamic Control, will be optional.
Consumers searching for solid construction in big pickups need to look no further than Nissan. The Titan reaches beyond its imposing size and delivers confident handling both on- and off-road. Expect superior maneuverability through twisting narrow roads, whether they’re paved or not.
The Titan’s performance is strong, but it’s not superb. After brief initial sluggishness, the Titan accelerates from a standstill with authority. Response is strong at midrange speeds, but acceleration is accompanied by considerable engine noise.
Occupants may feel quite a bit of body motion on rougher surfaces and when the bed is empty, but a loaded Titan rides quite nicely; it provides a secure and stable ride with only a touch of body roll as the rather stiff suspension absorbs road imperfections. Except on seriously broken-up terrain, the Titan even rides passably well off-road.
In contrast to most pickups, the Titan emits a distinctive exhaust note that’s not trucklike. Auxiliary tilt-down mirrors that are mounted below the regular units enhance rearward visibility. The seats provide good back support and feature especially long bottoms and soft cushions.