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Nissan Titan 4x4 SE Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)


A Truck for the Manly Man

By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Nissan

Another testament to the ability of Japanese automobile manufacturers to compete in segments formerly dominated by US makers is the Nissan Titan full-size pickup. Right out of the box Nissan was up to speed when the truck was introduced in January of 2003. And, “up to speed” is an apt metaphor. The Titan is big, fast, powerful, luxurious and mighty handy.

Our test truck is the 2005 Titan 4X4 SE Crew Cab. The base price for this model is $30,650 and includes AC, 8-speaker audio system with 6-disc in-dash CD changer, power windows, locks and back glass along with all the basic convenience stuff we might want. Loaded with options, including Nissan’s Mobile Theatre System with DVD player, 7-inch monitor and wireless headphones, towing package, off-road package, and extra air bags, the sticker on this one shows a total price of $38,760. The only options absent, I think, are leather and heated seats. This one even has the novel sliding bed extender. More on that later.

Nissan claims to have the largest interior of any -ton pickup. Running the numbers with’s vehicle comparison system we find not much difference in interior dimensions so perhaps they are right. Sort of like comparing politicians, that is, finding a difference without a distinction. Let’s just say the inside is roomy, very well appointed, comfortable and attractive. But it sure takes a big step to get up into the thing. My pretty (but short) blonde nearly fell back out the first time she tried to get in.

Styling, as well, is quite distinctive, both inside and out. Notice the muscular shape and stance, the large, simple door handles, the bold “Titan V8” badge, the massive and masculine grille and the big, deeply jeweled headlight housings. This truck is certainly an eye-catcher, particularly in the rich dark red of our test truck. We took a nice back road fall drive to Hidden Lake Gardens about 60 miles from home. As we pulled up to the gate the middle-aged women taking tickets gasped, “Nice truck!” She turned away to record our payment, then turned back and said, “Really nice truck!” We could see the lust in her eyes. She must be a real truck gal.

Though we were unable to test it loaded or off-road we did get considerable time behind the wheel on the open road and around town. The 5.6-litre V8 churns out 305 horsepower and 379 lb.-ft. of torque (80% of which is available at 1,000 rpm) making for zero to 60 times around 7 seconds. That would be respectable for most sports cars. While testing that awesome acceleration I didn’t see the gas gauge move noticeably either. Rated at 14-city and 18-highway it has a 28-gallon tank, painful to fill up but it lasts reasonably well. We averaged about 15.5 mpg during our hard-driving test week.

Driving dynamics we found to be first-rate, as well. The 5-speed automatic transmission, with gated floor-mounted shifter allows for bumping up or down a gear when towing or just having some fun. Nissan’s four-wheel-drive system allows shifting on the fly up to 60 mph and has a 4-weel-drive low range for tough off-road conditions. Two or 4-wheel limited slip (ABLS) system applies braking force to a wheel that’s losing traction while directing power to a wheel that’s losing traction.

Titan’s frame is a steel ladder affair with full-length box section rails and eight welded cross members. This sturdy frame along with the stiff, but not too harsh, suspension makes for a confident feel on the road – particularly the really rough road. Rear suspension features a solid rear axle with variable rate shocks and long wide leaf springs allowing for a good balance between hauling competence and unloaded comfort.

To go well is one thing – to stop well is quite another. Titan has huge 12.6-inch Bosch disc brakes with 4-wheel ABS. Electronic brake force distribution (EBD) will favor the rear brakes when it senses more weight in the rear, whether it’s only a full tank of fuel or a full load of horse manure.

For those who may be planning to use their truck like a truck Titan offers some innovative utility. Standard spray-on bed liner with non-skid surface protects the bed. Lighting, fore and aft in the bed and a 12-volt power outlet near the tailgate adds to functionality. The “Ultra-track ™ Channel System” is comprised of five C-channel rails on the floor, sides and header of the 6 foot bed. Tie-down cleats can be positioned anywhere along the rails to facilitate anchoring nearly any kind of load. Other optional bed accessories include a sliding tool box, sliding bed dividers, sliding overhead racks and a bed extender that slides over the lowered tailgate adding a foot-and-a-half to the cargo length. And, by the way, the lightweight tailgate is gently dampened so it doesn’t slam down and is easy to lift up.

Maximum towing capacity is 7,400 lbs standard and 9,400 lbs with the optional towing package. Maximum payload for the 4X4 is 1,322 lbs. and 1,464 for the 4X2. Curb weight is a tad over 5,000 lbs.

Nissan’s warranty is 36-month/36,000 miles limited with 5-year/60,000-mile coverage on the drive train. Of course we can buy extended coverage from Nissan dealers as well.

Toyota, Nissan and now Honda are all in the fray along with GM, Dodge and Ford trying to grab a bigger share in one of the largest and most profitable segments of the automotive market – full-size pickups. Though I haven’t driven the Honda, I’ve driven the others, and they’re all damn good.

Which pickup will be on top in a few years is anyone’s guess. Personally I hope they’re all still around and providing me with test trucks. I’m going to need more manure for my flower gardens.