We’ve spent the last few days reacquainting ourselves with the full-size Nissan Titan pickup that recently joined the Roadfly long-term fleet. At-first-glance impressions and technical specs are covered elsewhere on this site, so we won’t spend much time on them here. Instead, we’re approaching this as sort of an “open ownership experience,” as if we’ve actually just plunked $37,440 down at a dealership for a Titan of our own. The “open” part relates to our overarching goal as journalists–bringing the truth to our readers. As we go about our year as proto-Titan-owners, we’ll be updating you on every detail, every observation (good or bad), and of course, any expenses, problems and so on that pop up.
mosimageWhat we’ve got here is an SE model, which sits squarely in the middle of the Titan line. Shared with all Titans–as well as the Pathfinder Armada and Infiniti QX56–is the excellent 5.6-liter DOHC V8, rated at 305 horsepower and 379 lb.-ft. of torque. This powerplant is gutsy enough to get all 5,300 lbs. of Nissan to 60 mph in a sports-car-like 7.2 seconds, according to our stopwatch.
That kind of acceleration puts the Titan ahead of the average for the class; fuel economy is less stellar. EPA ratings of 14/18 mpg city/highway deem the Titan less frugal the competing pickups from Chevy, Dodge, Ford and Toyota–so long as you’re looking at the base-model V8s. Power-up the competition’s trucks, and the average EPA-rated mileage goes down as displacement increases. Observant readers will recall that our actual mileage never even comes close to the EPA estimates, however–we’re looking forward to seeing how the Titan truly performs, economically as well as athletically, through the coming year.
Already obvious is the smooth and confident character of this “Endurance” engine. 90 percent of the class-leading 379 lb.-ft. of torque are available at a subterranean 2500 rpm, which imparts a sense of swiftness unusual in such a sizeable vehicle. Also unexpected is the precision of the throttle feel; perfect modulation is so easy to attain that it’s already become second nature. A sturdy 5-speed automatic is paired to this powerhouse, and the t work together as if they’ve been a team for years. A “Tow/Haul” mode holds each gear deep into the rev range, making the most of the already prodigious pulling power.
Trucks in this class are pretty much as tough as civilian/non-commercial vehicles get, and so far we’ve seen no reason to doubt the Titan’s resilience. Memories of climbing near-sheer dirt cliffs and conquering cavernous chasms at the Nissan Off-Road Experience, along with recollections of the hard-core hardware gracing every four-by-four Titan that we learned about there, have endowed us with great confidence in the Titan’s ruggedness. Still, we’ve been surprised before by seemingly-strong vehicles falling apart under pressure, so to speak–especially when project-car parts runs, or kids, are involved.
One feature we expect to come in handy often is the damped ‘easy-gate.’ Lifting the Nissan’s tailgate is no longer a two-hand (or bicep-straining one-hand) proposition, thanks to the assist mechanism. We’ve also already had occasion to use the “Utilitrak” bed-rail tie-down system, when hauling XXX (CHARLIE?)–and found it to be as useful as it is intuitive.
As car guys, we’ve got more than our share of “project cars” taking up space in our varied garages, driveways and yards–much to the chagrin of certain family members and significant others. Conveniently, our Titan can tow up to 9,400 pounds–an ability we’re sure to take advantage of (in the interests of objective assessment, of course) often. We also anticipate activating the shift-on-the-fly, part-time four-wheel-drive system, as opportunities to play in the mud (again, for purely scientific reasons) arise.
Yup, we’ll be using this truck hard–just as God intended.
Still, we’re certain to log plenty of serene freeway miles and countless commuting hours in this Nissan, and for every report on its performance in extreme conditions, expect equally exhaustive accounts of the Titan’s day-to-day drivability. Our offhand observations are optimistic–we’re as satisfied so far with the sharp handling as we are with this truck’s overall speediness. Nissan’s sporty heritage shows through here; the Titan takes on corners with skill and self-assurance. Rolling stock consists of 265/70-series rubber on 18-inch alloys; they offer great grip on asphalt without sacrificing off-road control. At the risk of professional ridicule, we’d go so far as to dub the Titan’s driving dynamics best-in-class right now–no matter how premature that presumption may appear. (We’ve been accused of being premature in other areas–several, in fact–but those allegations, we can handle.)
Of course, the one aspect any automobile owner interacts with more than any other is the interior. No matter how well the Titan drives, hauls, or holds up, we couldn’t recommend it if it didn’t have a comfortable cockpit. Fortunately, this Nissan is as capacious inside as out, with vast expanses of stretching room for every appendage. Captain’s chairs up front are soothing and supportive, while the rear bench has sufficient space to sit three–and the fact that every seat but the driver’s folds down hints at Nissan’s efforts to match the Titan’s volume with versatility. Step-in height, at 22 inches, is steep for some, but grab-bars at every exit aid ingress as well as passenger stability in high-speed maneuvers.
In our inaugural hours with the Titan, we have had occasion to haul a brood or two of editor’s offspring around–and have thus already found reason to appreciate the overhead DVD player. We’re also already grateful for the six cupholders and two oversize bottle-holders. And perhaps most of all, we’re thankful for the Titan’s top-line stereo system–a 350-watt Rockford Fosgate unit with Sirius Satellite radio and a six-disc CD changer. Solo excursions have allowed us to assess this unit’s upper limits; audio quality and tonal reproduction are excellent to the edge of ear-exploding raucousness. Lamentably, our SE lacks Nissan’s navigation system, along with the available XM NavTraffic. Otherwise, it seems unlikely that we’ll experience much disappointment with the Titan’s high-tech apparatus.
Another aspect that we probably won’t have much to say about in upcoming accounts–knock on wood–is safety. Nissan provided plenty of peace-of-mind for Titan pilots, though, starting with fully-boxed frame rails, “Zone Body Construction” with crumple zones front and rear, and side-impact protection. Electronics run to rollover protection, tire-pressure monitoring, and four-channel ABS, which work with the four-wheel discs to provide superb stopping power. Airbags in the front, side and curtain (optional) areas cushion the blow should an accident occur anyway, and up-front seatbelts feature pretensioners, too.
A lot can happen over the course of a year (and at the Roadfly offices, it often does). Our preliminary experiences with the Nissan Titan have left a agreeable taste in our collective mouths–but first impressions don’t always tell the whole story. There’s much left to discover about this truck, and a year’s time will reveal just about all there is to know, good and bad. The fact that it’s been predominantly positive so far is no guarantee over the long haul, of course. We can only hope the Titan continues to perform up to par. For Nissan’s sake, as well as our own.
Base Price: $31,100
Price As Tested: $37,440
Date Available: On sale since Dec. 2003
Body Style: 4 Door Crew Cab
Engine & Torque: 5.6L DOHC 32-Valve Endurance V8 – 305-hp/379 lb-ft
Transmission: 5-Speed Automatic Transmission w/ Tow/Haul Mode, 4X4
Wheels & Tires: P265/70R18 on 18″x8″ Alloy Wheels (plus full size spare)
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles
Towing Capacity: 9400-lb towing capacity
Fuel Economy: 14/18
0 – 60 MPH: 7.2 sec
Top Speed: n/a