Pickup truck buyers have given the Nissan Titan a lukewarm response since its introduction in late 2003, in part because of the limited model range: The Titan offered no V-6 engine or single-cab configuration, and its bed maxed out at just 6.5 feet long. For 2008, buyers finally have the option of an 8-foot bed, which most other pickups offer. Unfortunately, a V-6 and single cab version are still MIA, which means the cheapest trim level costs some $8,000 more than a base Chevy Silverado or Ford F-150. Throw in a spotty reliability record, and the Titan doesn't seem headed for widespread appeal anytime soon.
In ascending order, trims include the XE, SE, PRO-4X and LE (see a side-by-side comparison with the 2007 model to see what's different this year). All Titans have a standard V-8 engine and automatic transmission, and the only cab styles available are an extended King Cab and a four-door Crew Cab. The interior comes in five- or six-seat layouts, and beds range from 5.6 to 8.2 feet. Most trims can have rear- or four-wheel drive; the offroad PRO-4X comes only with four-wheel drive.
I drove a four-wheel-drive, six-seat King Cab LE.
Going & Stopping
Nissan's stout 5.6-liter V-8 makes 317 horsepower and 385 pounds-feet of torque, and E85 compatibility is a no-charge option. Peak torque comes at just 3,400 rpm, giving the Titan lusty acceleration off the line. I didn't have a chance to drive with a fully loaded bed, but with one passenger and some 200 pounds of lumber in back, the drivetrain still made easy work of uphill onramps. It lacks the outright thunder of a 5.7-liter Toyota Tundra — probably the pickup with the most pick-up — but it feels about as quick as a 6.0-liter Silverado.
The five-speed automatic lags a bit in kick-down response, and its shifts are on the slow side. Fortunately there's enough power that the laziness rarely detracts from the driving experience. Without any downshifts, I was able to comfortably pass on the highway, scooting from 60 to 70 mph in fifth gear at just 1,900 rpm. Note that hilly terrain or heavy loads might make the transmission's slow reactions a bigger factor.
With proper equipment, the Titan can tow up to 9,500 pounds. That beats the Dodge Ram 1500 (9,100 pounds) but falls short of other full-size pickups.
|Pickup Capacities Compared|
|Nissan Titan||Ford F-150||Chevrolet Silverado 1500||Toyota Tundra|
|Price range*||$24,390 - $38,530||$17,345 - $33,195||$17,220 - $38,245||$22,290 - $42,070|
|Available body styles||2||3||3||3|
|Maximum towing (lbs.)||9,500||11,000||10,500||10,800|
|Maximum payload (lbs.)||2,062||3,080||2,160||2,065|
|Bed lengths (ft.)||5.6 - 8.2||5.6 - 8.1||5.8 - 8.1||5.6 - 8.1|
|Available engines||5.6L V-8||4.2L V-6, 4.6L V-8, 5.4L V-8||4.3L V-6, 4.8L V-8, 5.3L V-8, 6.0L V-8||4.0L V-6, 4.7L V-8, 5.7L V-8|
|*Prices for 2008 models exclude destination charge and options or accessories.|
Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are standard, and the front discs have increased from 12.6 to 13.8 inches for 2008. The brakes are among the Titan's high points: They're powerful but easy to modulate for smooth stops. The Tundra's discs feel even stronger, but as full-size pickups go — or stop, I should say — the Titan feels remarkably sure-footed.
The four-wheel-drive system employs a part-time transfer case with separate high and low gears. I didn't have a chance to blaze any trails, but the system switched seamlessly from one setting to the next. PRO-4X models add an electronically locking rear differential, which ensures equal speeds for each rear wheel in low-traction situations.
Ride & Handling
Like most large pickups, the Titan's ladder frame rides an independent front and non-independent rear suspension. That bodes well for off-roading and heavy-duty wear, but not so well for bumpy roads, where the rear wheels dance around a bit. As pickups go, the Titan actually does an admirable job of keeping its footing. Potholes and speed bumps illicit some reverberations, but the suspension regains its composure after a moment or two. Throw some weight in the pickup bed, and the ride quality becomes SUV-like.
The highway ride is not as impressive. On smooth pavement, I cruised in near-silence, with little road noise and none of the unsettling creaks that characterize some body-on-frame trucks. Rougher patches bring out the Titan's roots, however. On one stretch of Chicago expressway, the dashboard and headliner rattled incessantly, and the suspension settled into a turbulent rhythm.
Like many trucks, the Titan exhibits noticeable body roll, and the suspension dives forward a bit under heavy braking. The steering wheel has less power assistance than I would expect in a pickup, so tight parking-lot maneuvers require a bit of effort. The payoff comes on curvy roads, where the wheel preserves a feeling of connection with the road that's rare in this class.
The offroad suspension in the PRO-4X increases ground clearance to 10.7 inches (other trim levels have between 10.2 and 10.6 inches), which could make for a slightly tipsier on-road ride. Other PRO-4X changes include Rancho shock absorbers, additional skid plates and larger tires.
Styling & Utility
The Titan's massive grille is getting familiar these days; in Nissan's lineup, it adorns one other truck and three SUVs. Close observers will notice some changes for 2008 in the Titan's headlights and grille framework, but the differences are slight. Some truck shoppers have reportedly mistaken the Titan's styling for that of a midsize truck, like Nissan's smaller Frontier, but I think the association will stop when you see it in person. It looks just as commanding as a Silverado or Tundra.
Most Titans have 18-inch steel or alloy wheels, while the LE upgrades to 20-inch alloys. Crew Cab beds measure 5 feet, 7 inches or 7 feet, 3 inches; King Cab beds measure 6 feet, 7 inches or 8 feet, 3 inches. That puts the Titan a hair past other light-duty pickups, whose beds max out just slightly over 8 feet.
Cargo options include a spray-in bedliner, a lockable compartment behind the left rear fender, a 12-volt power outlet in the bed and a tie-down system with C-channel rails along the floor and walls. The rails carry movable tie-down cleats, each rated to hold 200 pounds. The cleats have sturdy metal construction, which is more than I can say for the cleats in some pickups.
The cabin in my test truck had a lot of typical big-pickup fixtures — hefty door handles, a big armrest and no shortage of overhead storage bins — but enough rich textures to avoid the austerity commonly associated with pickup interiors. The front seats are wide and comfortable, though the adjustment range of the power driver's seat in my truck was limited. The rear doors swing nearly 180 degrees to access the rear seats, but they also anchor the front seat belts, so people in front have to unbuckle if someone in back needs to get out. Legroom is limited back there, but I have yet to find an extended cab pickup where it isn't.
Nissan redesigned the center controls this year. The chrome-ringed dials are attractive, but they might prove difficult to use if you're wearing gloves — especially since the fan settings are now arranged in seven or eight separate buttons instead of a single knob, as they used to be. (The Silverado's automatic climate control is even worse for glove-handed usability, while the Tundra's oversized dials are much better.)
Safety & Reliability
In crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Titan earned the highest score, Good, for front impacts. IIHS has not tested the Titan for side-impacts. Active head restraints for the front seats and four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are standard, and an electronic stability system is optional. Full-size pickups have trailed other segments in adopting stability systems, and as of 2008, the Tundra is the only major player to include one standard. They're unavailable on the F-150 and optional on the Silverado, Ram and GMC Sierra.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats are optional, as are side curtain airbags for both rows. Three-point seat belts for all three rear seats are standard, but the three-seat bench up front has an old-school lap belt in the center. That's still the norm for most extended and crew cab pickups, though the Tundra now provides a three-point belt for the position.
The Titan's reliability is disappointing. Consumer Reports has given the truck poor marks in recent years, citing trouble spots with squeaks and rattles, braking hardware and power accessories. For 2008, the publication rated the two-wheel-drive Titan "Worse Than Average" for predicted reliability, while the four-wheel-drive Titan rated "Much Worse Than Average." Full-size pickups aren't the most reliable bunch — certain versions of the Tundra have proved especially disappointing — but as reliability scores go, the F-150 seems to be a better all-around bet.
Features & Pricing
A two-wheel-drive King Cab XE starts at $24,390. Standard features include a six-speaker CD stereo, cruise control and air conditioning. The SE ($26,650) adds alloy wheels, remote keyless entry and power windows, door locks and mirrors. PRO-4X models ($31,980) have various offroad enhancements. The LE ($32,620) loses most of the offroad hardware but gets 20-inch wheels, leather upholstery, heated power seats and more. A navigation system, a moonroof, rear parking sensors and a backseat DVD entertainment system are optional.
Moving from the King Cab to the Crew Cab runs around $2,500, while four-wheel drive adds nearly the same amount. Upgrading to the long bed adds about $500. With a full range of options, the Titan LE tops out around $46,000.
Titan in the Market
The Titan might be a solid choice for some, but if Nissan wants to broaden its appeal, it needs to improve the truck's reliability and lower its base price — that means single cabs, V-6 engines and manual transmissions. There have been reports that Nissan may add a V-6 somewhere down the road, and possibly a diesel engine too. Future possibilities mean little right now, though, and in a competitive segment with at least three entrenched leaders, the Titan of today still falls short.
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