2013 Nissan Titan

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2004 Nissan Titan

This 2004 review is representative of model years 2004 to 2014.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Domestic truck producers better keep their eyes on this one.
Pros:
  • Potent engine
  • Good handling
  • Roomy crew cab
Cons:
  • Very firm ride
  • Fuel-thirsty
  • Limited trim levels

Nissan has beaten other foreign automakers to the punch by offering the first full-size pickup truck that is fully competitive with big American pickups.

The lucrative full-size pickup market long has been dominated by domestic automakers. In fact, the three top-selling vehicles last year were big pickups from Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge, in that order.

The Titan can't match the wide variety of trim levels offered by big U.S. pickups, which means it initially can't approach their sales volumes.

Just give the Titan some time. It's from a $1.43 billion Mississippi plant that easily can increase production. Japanese automakers traditionally enter a market slowly with carefully developed products, then quickly pick up steam.

American-Style Pickup
The Titan was developed, styled and mostly engineered in this country. It's more "American" than Toyota's full-size Tundra pickup, even though the Tundra offers a roomier crew cab version for 2004.

The Tundra has a 240-horsepower V8, and that's not enough power to seriously compete in the full-size pickup market. Toyota's new concept FTX pickup hints at its larger, more powerful 2006 pickup. That one will be built at a major new Toyota plant in Texas with lots of production capacity. See what we mean about picking up steam?

Plenty of Power
There are no horsepower issues for the Titan. It has a strong 5.6-liter V8 that kicks out 305 horsepower and feels more powerful than that. The new large Ford F-150—best-selling pickup—has been introduced with a top rating of 300 horsepower, while the big Chevy and Dodge pickups offer V8s with up to 345 horsepower. (A hot rod Dodge pickup has a 500-horsepower V10, but it's a specialty item.)

Nevermind the higher U.S. horsepower ratings because the Titan's high-torque V8 lets it out-accelerate the American pickups and the Tundra in the 0-60 mph sprint, which is indicative of overall acceleration capabilities. That's largely because the Titan is much lighter than the leading three American pickups and isn't much heavier than the Tundra.

More proof needed of the Titan's might? It can tow up to 9,500 pounds and has a 1,640-pound payload capacity.

The sophisticated Titan V8 is hooked to a standard, responsive 5-speed automatic transmission with tow-haul modes.

Fuel economy is an estimated 14 mpg in the city and 18-19 on highways, which is OK for a powerful, full-size pickup.

Three Trim Levels
The Titan is sold in base XE, midrange SE and top-line LE trim levels. It shares its chassis and power train with Nissan's new Pathfinder Armada sport-utility vehicle, although the Armada has a better rear suspension for a smoother ride.

The quick steering has good road feel, and the wheel is adjustable. Handling is quite good for a full-size pickup, partly because the engine is set way back for better weight distribution. However, plenty of room is needed for maneuvering in tight quarters.

Firm Ride
The ride is firm, and the rigid rear axle hops in bumpy curves. Quick stops are provided by strong brakes, which have an assist feature for surer emergency stops.

Even the XE is fairly well equipped, although one must move up to the SE to get standard items such as power windows, mirrors and door locks with remote keyless entry. The LE adds features such as heated front seats and leather upholstery.

Macho Styling
The Titan's rugged styling should appeal to many truck buyers. It comes as the King Cab extended-cab version and in Crew Cab form, with a crew cab pickup's typically larger back seat area.

The extended cab version has rear-opening back doors without outside handles that won't open independently of the front doors. The rear doors are hinged to open flat against the body sides, making them handy in tight parking areas. The crew cab has four regular car-like doors with large outside handles that lead to a roomier rear seat area.

I drove both versions and found legroom in the King Cab is tight for a 6-footer behind a driver with his seat shoved roughly halfway back. The Crew Cab provides plenty of knee room for back-seat occupants and has rear windows that roll all the way down.

Cargo bed lengths are 78.9 inches for the King Cab and 67.1 inches for the Crew Cab. The XE standard front bench seat is optional for the SE and LE, which have more comfortable front bucket seats, console and a floor-mounted shifter.

Two Drive Systems
Both 2- and 4-wheel drive are offered. The 4-wheel-drive system must be disengaged on dry roads, but has low-range gearing for tough off-road driving.

Anti-lock brakes are standard. Traction control comes with 4-wheel drive and is optional for the rear-wheel-drive Titan.

Safety Items
Optional safety items include an anti-skid system. Also optional are front-seat side torso airbags and head-protecting side-curtain airbags for both rows of seats. Power-adjustable pedals cost extra for the SE, but are standard for the LE.

Titan "firsts" are a factory spray-in bed liner to prevent the bed paint from getting chipped by cargo, a locking storage cabinet in the left rear fender and adjustable cargo-bed tie-downs. There's also a fold-flat front passenger seat and a cargo area light with illumination for the tailgate, which is very heavy.

Helpful Running Boards
Helping occupants get in and out of this tall truck are good-sized running boards. The comfortable interior is rather plasticky looking but has a businesslike design, high seating, large door handles and lots of cupholders and storage areas. The cockpit is generally quiet, but exhaust rumble can be annoying.

The dashboard has easily reached controls, and gauges can be read at a glance. Audio system controls are small, but climate controls are large. Fold-up rear seats considerably increase the interior cargo area.

The Titan should be making American truck producers nervous. It offers more than some rivals for the money—another market entry practice of Japanese automakers—and is generally darn good.

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BB03 - 8/20/2014 1:53:37 PM