The Nissan Titan is a full-size pickup with lots of power, ample capabilities and a level of refinement for price that adds to its appeal.
Originally launched as a 2004 model, Titan got a new interior, an expanded model lineup, and a long list of detail improvements for 2008, while more safety equipment was made standard for 2010. Changes since then have been minor. The most significant change for the 2012 Titan is a new Sport Appearance Package, which combines functional upgrades with a lot of unique appearance items, including 20-inch wheels.
There are two body styles: The King Cab has rearward-opening rear doors. The Crew Cab is a conventional four-door configuration and offers a choice of short or long cargo beds. The only engine is a very powerful 5.6-liter V8 that makes 317 horsepower, which is matched to a 5-speed automatic transmission. The Titan is available with two-wheel or four-wheel drive and has a maximum towing capacity of 9,500 pounds.
On the outside, the Titan has a rugged, purposeful look. Inside, you'll find an attractive, user-friendly interior. There's room for a family of five or four burly fishermen. Titans range from utilitarian models with crank windows to leather-lined cabs befitting a luxury SUV.
The strong V8 engine gets the job done. Fuel economy is EPA-rated at 13/18 mpg City/Highway with two-wheel drive. The Titan has the robustness and ability to deal with tough jobs and heavy loads, such as pulling a toy hauler full of dirt bikes and sand buggies.
If you need a full-size pickup with power to perform and deal with heavy loads, and with plenty of room inside, and you'd also like the comfort and convenience of the Titan's level of refinement, then it definitely should be on your shopping list.
Nissan Titan S King Cab 2WD ($27,710); S King Cab 4WD ($30,560); SV King Cab 2WD ($29,710); SV King Cab 4WD ($32,560); PRO-4X King Cab ($35,440); S Crew Cab 2WD ($30,260); S Crew Cab 4WD ($33,110); SV Crew Cab 2WD (short bed $31,910/long bed $32,360); SV Crew Cab 4WD (short bed $34,760/long bed $35,240); PRO-4X Crew Cab ($37,640); SL Crew Cab 2WD ($37,810); SL Crew Cab 4WD ($40,510)
Everything about the appearance of the Nissan Titan is big and bold, from the expanse of chrome on the bumper and grille to the creased fenders. It fills up its space on the road and you won't mistake it for something else. This is a big, brawny pickup and looks it.
The Titan delivers a high level of function. Maximum payload tops 2,000 pounds on certain versions. Properly equipped Titans are rated to tow up to 9,500 pounds. The King Cab 2WD is rated for 7,400 pounds. Available towing features include extendable dual-element mirrors, a transmission temperature gauge, lower axle ratio, and other items. Also available is a cargo track retention system (bed sides and floor). An innovative storage box in the rear fender is ideal for wet tow straps, chains or tie-down straps. The locking tailgate is damped and assisted for easy open and close. This truck has been built for work.
King Cab versions have a cargo bed that measures 79.1 inches long (almost seven feet). Crew Cab models offer a shorter cargo bed, due to their longer body length, of 67.3 inches, which is a little less than six feet. The Crew Cab SV trim level is the only one available with a choice of a longer cargo bed that measures 87.0 inches, which is slightly over seven feet. However, the longer cargo bed comes with a wheelbase that is also about 20 inches longer, at 159.5 inches compared to 139.8 inches for the Crew Cab with the shorter bed, and that longer wheelbase could definitely hinder maneuverability in tighter spots.
The grille and the mid-section of the front bumper can be body-color or chrome, depending on trim level and option packages. With the new Sport Appearance package, the bumpers remain body color but the grille is finished in Dark Hyper Silver, a tone we've heard hot rodders call (more accurately, we think) “black chrome.” The 20-inch wheels (shod with P275/60R20 black-sidewall tires) are finished similarly. A dark gray stripe at the top of the pickup box provides visual balance (it's kinda the same color, too), while tubular black side steps underline the whole ensemble. In all, it's a very successful look.
The cabin serves very well for truck duty yet with comfort and convenience. It's refined and is in every way a nice place to be for traveling, whether it's to the job site or towing the boat to the lake.
Dash and door panels are easy to wipe off plastic yet do not give the impression of cost-cutting in materials. The instrument layout provides complete information and has a coherent, sophisticated look. On PRO-4X models the gauges are white-faced and sporty. SL models have enough wood-like acreage to fit in a luxury utility. The Titan can be equipped with a six-person bench seat interior or with captain's chairs in front for a five-seat capacity. Our only complaint, and it's a little one, is the tilt-and-telescoping steering column adjustment that is spring-loaded and requires you to tilt-and-telescope the wheel with one hand while the other holds the release.
Sport Appearance models share the power-adjustable, embroidered-upholstery captain's chairs and white-faced gauges of the PRO-4X, a
You sit high and comfortable in the Titan, not squeezed but not loosely floating about. Visibility is excellent to all corners, although shorter drivers may not like the large base on the windshield pillar. The view rearward is very good, especially with the tow mirrors. An optional rearview camera is available and we found it eased trailer hitching.
The center dash section has controls for audio, climate, navigation, and switching duty (tow mode, VDC-off, differential lock, etc.) with an integrated look. It looks good and easily provides plenty of space for things like the dual-zone climate control on SL models.
All controls are logical and sensibly arranged, although traditional pickup truck buyers who go for six seats will have to adapt to wipers and shifter on the same side of the wheel. With deep bins in the center console and smaller ones along the sides, big door and seatback pockets, and generous cup holders, you'll find a place to put virtually anything.
Entry and exit is simple. Running boards are available if you value deportment above ground clearance, but we often find running boards more in the way than helpful.
The rear doors on King Cabs swing almost 170 degrees for easy access and there's room back there for six-footers on short-to-moderate-length trips. Crew Cab rear seats are downright spacious and eclipsed only by the Toyota Tundra CrewMax.
You won't see any of the noise-reduction materials inside (unless you're under the dash installing a brake controller with the tow-package pigtail), but if you've been in an early (pre-2008) Titan you will notice the current models are much quieter and smoother.
The Nissan Titan has been recognized for its stout drivetrain. It comes standard with a 5.6-liter V8 and 5-speed automatic transmission. Although it doesn't have as much horsepower as some of the competing trucks with larger V8 choices or Dodge's Hemi, it's great on torque. We think a Titan will outrun many pickups and deliver competitive mileage to similar configurations. Only Toyota's 5.7-liter/6-speed automatic, Ford's 6.2 or twin-turbo 3.5/6-speed automatic and GM's 6.2-liter/6-speed automatic combinations challenge it. Titan's exhaust keeps the V8 rumble so adored by truck buyers while eliminating the drone that could wear on long highway trips. It sounds terrific.
Fuel economy is not great, but it's generally within one mpg of the competition and your driving style is easily responsible for three times that amount. The EPA ratings are 13 mpg City, 18 mpg Highway with two-wheel drive and 12/17 mpg with four-wheel drive. If you want a vehicle with this level of capability, it will deliver this level of fuel economy.
We found the transmission responds smoothly and crisply as conditions dictate. A proper gated floor shift allows direct access to any gear without pressing any buttons, and a comfortable grip and good location adjacent to the driver's leg encourages one to use it.
Four-wheel drive and low range are electrically shifted by a rotary dash knob. The electric-locking rear differential (PRO-4X only) is more effective in severe terrain than the all-wheel electronic traction control of regular 4WD Titans and most competitors. There is no automatic 4WD setting for on-road use, but if the electronic traction aids and common sense aren't enough perhaps you should be in 4WD high range.
Pickup trucks aren't held in high regard for ride comfort or handling prowess yet they have made strides in both. The longer wheelbase only betters cruising comfort but even the short-wheelbase Titans will generate no complaints, at least not from anyone who knows what a ton of payload means. Off-road biased suspension tuning with lots of travel, Rancho shocks built specifically for it, and large tires on the PRO-4X contribute to ride softness without giving up control, while the 20-inch wheel/tire combo on SL and Sport Appearance models offers crisper turn-in for cornering but transmits bumps more.
The brakes have significant swept area, a prime indicator of braking capacity, and the Titan has performed well in braking performance tests.
The Nissan Titan boasts a robust powertrain with responsive acceleration, good brakes, a comfortable cabin and plenty of feature choices. But pickups are all about carrying or towing stuff and the Titan will get those jobs done, with payload ratings that reach above 2,000 pounds, and good towing performance.
G.R. Whale filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from Minneapolis.