2008.5 Nissan Titan Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Even more power for titanic trucking.
Is the strong-but-sensitive type currently in or out of fashion? We're asking, because the Nissan Titan definitely fits the description.
Titan is a big truck. It excels at roominess, with lots of headroom up front, while the back seats of Crew Cab models offer plenty of legroom. It's a dazzling performer, with even more power and torque this year from its mighty 5.6-liter V8. (That's the standard engine; there is no base V6.) Properly equipped, Titan can tow 9,500 pounds. Four-wheel-drive models boast high ground clearances and generous approach angles. Titan's handling is equally responsive, making it among the most enjoyable of the full-size pickups to drive. Brakes, suspension, and drivetrain work together for quick response.
So Titan is a serious truck, but one that also pleases the senses. It offers more emotional appeal than other trucks. That appeal begins with its expressive styling and extends to clever innovations and options that include a factory-applied spray-in bedliner, a C-channel tie-down system for securing cargo and accessories, and a stash box integrated into the driver's-side rear fender for storing a tow hitch or other small items. The rear doors on the King Cab open nearly 180 degrees for quick access. A dampened assist reduces effort when opening and closing the tailgate. The Crew Cab has a power retractable rear window with privacy glass and an electric defroster.
Not surprisingly, Titan earned top honors in the Large Pickup segment of the J.D. Power and Associates Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) study for 2006. The study measures owner delight with design, content, layout and performance.
And with all that going for it, Titan is also an American truck. Yes, it's the first full-size pickup ever from a company whose world headquarters are located outside of North America. (We're not counting the 1999-06 Toyota Tundra, which was only about 7/8ths full-size.) But Titan was designed in California, and is assembled near Jackson, Mississippi, using engines shipped from Nissan's plant near Nashville, Tennessee. With some Big Three-branded trucks now assembled in Mexico, the relative meanings of 'domestic' and 'import' become complicated.
Changes for 2007 are minimal. In some Midwestern and Southern states, Titan is now a Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV), meaning it can run on gasoline or various blends of gasoline and ethanol. In other states it still runs on gasoline only. But all prices are the same either way. Nor does FFV capability affect power and torque, both of which are increased for '07, from 305 to 317 horsepower, and 379 to 385 pound-feet, respectively.
Trim enhancements include new chrome packages for LE and SE. The Utility Bed is now optional on SE; and the Texas Titan package has been extended to include LE Crew Cabs as well as SE King and Crew Cabs.
The Nissan Titan is available in two body styles: an extended King Cab with auxiliary rear doors and a 6-foot, 7-inch bed; and a Crew Cab with a larger cabin, four conventional doors and a 5-foot, 7-inch bed. All Titans are powered by Nissan's 5.6-liter V8 engine and five-speed automatic transmission. All models are available in 2WD and 4WD.
Three trim levels are offered: XE, SE, and LE. All come with a high level of standard equipment including a tire-pressure monitor, cruise control, tilt steering and a CD stereo.
The most basic XE King Cab 2WD ($23,700) and 4WD ($26,900) come with wind-up windows, manual door locks, cloth upholstery, a split front bench seat that has a fold-down armrest storage bin, a split pop-up rear seat, and 17-inch steel wheels. A Preferred Package ($700) adds an upgraded stereo with MP3 capability, an overhead console, a tinted and sliding rear cab window, and tinted rear door glass.
SE King Cab 2WD ($25,850) and 4WD ($29,050) add captain's chairs with a better grade of cloth, 18-inch aluminum wheels, power everything, and host of other features, including an audio package that can play MP3-formatted CDs. Various Popular Packages ($1100-1750) nearly bridge the equipment gap between the SE and LE (below); but leather upholstery is not available.
Other SE options include a Utility Bed Package ($950), which combines a clever channel system in the bed for flexible tie-down configurations to fit a wide range of cargo; a lockable storage system in the outside of the bed; tailgate lighting; a power point at the rear; and the factory-applied spray-in bedliner.
LE King Cab 2WD ($30,650) and 4WD ($33,700) get exclusive leather seats in front, Rockford-Fosgate audio, fog lights, power adjustable pedals, tubular running boards and all the trick bed features in the Utility Bed Package. A DVD-based navigation system ($1,800) is optional on LE only.
Front bench seats are available as a credit option on SE (-$150) and LE (-$400).
The Crew Cab 2WD XE ($26,550), SE ($28,350), and LE ($33,150); and 4WD XE ($29,750), SE ($31,550), and LE ($36,200) are similarly equipped. Most of the same option packages are offered.
An off-road package ($1,050) for 4WD models consists of a unique lower-ratio (3.357:1) Dana axle; switch-on-demand electronically activated locking rear differential; Rancho performance gas shock absorbers; beefyP285/70R17 all-terrain tires; fog lights; and skid plates for the radiator, oil pan and transfer case. The Trac Package ($300) adds Active Brake Limited Slip (ALBS) and the locking differential to a 2WD XE or SE.
All models can be equipped with XM or Sirius Satellite Radio ($350). SE and LE Crew Cabs are available with DVD entertainment ($1450), or a sunroof ($900). SE and LE King and Crew Cabs offer a safety package ($1200) that includes front-seat side-impact airbags, air curtains, and Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC).
New for 2007 is a Chrome Package for SE ($2,500) and LE ($1,050) that adds 18-inch chrome wheels and chrome step rails. The identically priced Texas Titan Package includes chrome 18-inch wheels and step rails, plus fog lamps, factory spray-on bed liner, floor mats with the Texas Star, and Texas Titan identification. Offered only on SE Kings and Crews last year, the Lone Star look is now available on LE Crew Cabs as well. Tow packages) are also available, as are other options.
Safety features that come standard include dual-stage front air bags with seat belt sensors and a front-passenger occupant classification sensor. Titan's front seat belts feature pretensioners and load limiters and adjustable upper anchors; seat belts are your most important line of defense in a crash, so be sure to wear them. In the rear are three-point outboard passenger seat belts and the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tether for CHildren) child seat anchor system. Active front head restraints come standard on all models.
The Nissan Titan is boldly styled. Its blocky head-on view, with its twin sloping chrome bars angling down across a bee-comb radiator presents an intimidating appearance in rear-view mirrors, a look that's simple and direct. The rest of the Nissan Titan fulfills that impression: direct and shaped by function, a true truck. Big fender flares give it a look of rugged sportiness. Lots of chrome up front adds to the boldness, heightened when combined with dark paint colors.
It's more angular and, to our eyes, more handsome than the new, 2007 Toyota Tundra, and in some ways it looks sportier than the other trucks.
The King Cab's unique door design is a real light-bulb innovation. Like most extended-cab pickups, the Titan King Cab has a conventional front door hinged at the front, with a rear-hinged back door; and you must open the front door before you can open the rear door. But the Titan's rear door opens not just to the near 90 degrees that's expected; it swings farther yet, yawning 168 degrees, which is nearly flat against the truck's body. Wide-Open Nissan calls it, and it is. On both sides, too. It's surprising how often this feature becomes useful. At the grocery store, it makes it much easier to maneuver a cart closely into position for unloading. Next to a curbside tree, you can open the main door just wide enough to get out, open the rear door its full 168 degrees, close the main door, and you have unencumbered access to the cargo area behind the seats. Doing the same thing on the driver's side means you can unload cargo without having a big door open into traffic. King Cab models come with 6 1/2-foot beds.
Crew Cab models feature four full-sized doors, adding greatly to comfort and convenience. Crew Cabs have 5 1/2-foot beds, trading a foot of bed space for roomy rear seats and more interior cargo room.
With their tailgates lowered, both bed sizes can accommodate 4x8-foot sheets of building material between their wheel housings. Four big eyelets are bolted to the insides of the bed for tying things down. Like the Ford and Dodge trucks, the load height (the distance from the bed to the ground) is high on 4WD Titans, measuring approximately 37 inches to the open tailgate by our tape measure. On 2WD Titans the load height is about 34 inches, a big difference when loading heavy cargo. Higher may be better for displaying machismo, but lower is better when there's work to be done.
Nissan's sprayed-in bedliner looks terrific. The anti-skid surface keeps cargo from sliding around while driving and reduces noise. That same anti-skid surface can also make it harder to slide a box out, but this seems outweighed by the upsides. It prevents scratches and rust and, unlike plastic drop-in liners, it doesn't trap moisture underneath, again reducing the chance of rust. It's also covered by the truck's warranty. The coating is applied at a $2 million facility specifically built for this purpose at Nissan's modern truck factory in Mississippi.
The available C-channel tie-down system, part of the Utility Bed Package, is designed to accommodate a variety of scenarios. It features C-section rails mounted in the bed: two on the floor, and one each on the side and forward walls. Removable cleats slide into the channels and can be positioned anywhere along its length, thus permitting customized securing of cargo. Sliding cargo trays, a sliding tool box and other modular storage units are available for kayaks, bikes, and other needs. The bed channels feature protective caps that slide on to keep out debris when they're not being used. It appears to be a great system.
The storage compartment integrated into the left rear fender is convenient for storing a tow-hitch ball, work gloves, road flares, or a first aid kit. Measuring 11x15 inches, this small bedside compartment is double sealed to be weather and dust proof. Opening it is a little awkward because you must pry.
Inside, the Nissan Titan feels spacious yet snug at the same time. It's roomy when measured in cubic feet, but it's also organized, with handy storage bins and spaces to tuck stuff away.
Two interior configurations are available. Standard on XE is a front bench seat with column shifter to accommodate up to six passengers. SE and LE come with two front bucket seats (captain's chairs) and a gated floor shifter in a large center console. You can still get the bench seat as a credit option, upholstered in premium cloth in SE and in leather in LE.
The leather upholstery in the LE models is sporty, attractive and quite pleasing. The rear seats in the LE are covered in matching vinyl that most people will assume is leather. It's a good sleight of hand.
The bucket seats are firm and comfortable. The seat bottoms are relatively flat, making it easy to slide in and out, yet they offer good support and feel like they'd be comfortable on cross-country trips. We find them more comfortable than the cushy seats in the GM trucks or those we've seen in the new Ford F-150, which could use more side support. The Titan LE driver's seat and passenger's seat are power adjustable, with memory on the driver's side. Seat heaters are available.
The King Cab has 60/40 flip-up rear seats, and the nearly flat floor beneath makes loading and toting a wide mix of people and things a breeze. Three people can ride in the back seat, enjoying lots of legroom and headroom, but the upright seatbacks make anything longer than a trip to the restaurant or store feel like a journey. Bottle holders are provided in the rear doors for back-seat riders. Flip up the rear seat bottoms and the King Cab can carry a 160-pound dog in comfort. (We did this.) Hooks provided on the seat bottoms are useful for hanging grocery bags, tote bags, or gear bags so their contents don't end up scattered around the floor. The seatbacks also fold down, adding another cargo-carrying option. Add the benefits of the wide-opening rear doors and the King Cab offers real flexibility.
The Crew Cab is roomy and comfortable whether sitting in the front or rear seats. The Crew Cab offers more front legroom and rear legroom than most other full-size half-ton pickups. The rear seat is large and relaxing, with a full 24 degrees of seatback angle. The rear seats are split 60/40 with bottoms that flip up, revealing much more interior cargo space than what's available in the King Cab. The fold-up seat bottoms leave more usable space available than fold-and-tumble designs. Ample storage is available in the rear compartment, including door storage bins and rear door bottle holders in the armrests.
Titan's interior is smart in function and in looks. Large knobs, handles and grips are easy to operate, even when wearing heavy work gloves. Big knobs are used for the manual heating and air conditioning controls.
The top-line Rockford Fosgate audio system has a big volume knob and large station buttons that can be set simply by holding them down for a couple of seconds. Secondary audio functions are easy to access and operate. An auxiliary input is provided on the dash for plugging in an Apple iPod or other MP3 player.
Thoughtfulness in the design is evident everywhere, inside and out, making the Titan a singularly useful truck. The lid on the center console is flat, so you can set a clipboard there without having it slide off; the lid is indented and lined with rubber for small items. The center console on bench-seat models is large enough to accommodate laptops. The center console in bucket-seat models is designed to hold DVDs and CDs. Well-designed cup holders provide welcome homes for sleeved grande cappuccinos. Decent-size coat hooks are easily accessed for hanging a coat or a load of dry cleaning. The glove box is large, with a damped lid that doesn't slam open. Battery power points are provided for charging laptops.
Driving the 2007 Nissan Titan is a pleasure. For starters, it offers brilliant throttle response. Its powertrain is perhaps the most responsive among the full-size pickups with comparable engines. The Titan always feels alert and wide awake, like it started the morning with a double espresso. The V8 delivers quick acceleration performance whether launching off the line or pulling a quick pass at speed. It isn't a whisper-quiet engine, but has a deep exhaust note that sounds pleasing when accelerating.
Nissan's Endurance V8 is a modern design with double overhead-cams and 32 valves. Dimensional changes to the air cleaner and intake manifold boost power and torque for '07, from 305 to 317 horsepower, and from 379 to 385 pound-feet of torque. Better still, the Titan's engine delivers 90 percent of that peak torque across a wide band down to low rpm. Torque, that force that propels you from intersections and pulls heavy trailers up long grades, is particularly important when towing and hauling. Fuel economy remains nearly the same as last year, with both 2WD and 4WD models now rated 14/18 mpg. Regular unleaded is recommended.
The five-speed automatic transmission is equally responsive, quickly downshifting whenever needed. With five gears to choose from, it can always find an appropriate ratio for smooth, rather than abrupt, downshifts. The transmission features a Tow/Haul mode to reduce unnecessary shifting and heat buildup. Towing capacity is 9,500 pounds, which is more often seen in heavy-duty 3/4-ton trucks, not light-duty 1/2-ton trucks like the Titan
Handling is quick and agile. It's easy to drive the Titan smoothly or quickly or both at the same time. Ride quality is good in most situations, though we found a rippled, well-traveled section of I-405 in Los Angeles that generated an uncomfortable harmonic in a 4WD model. A 2WD Crew Cab we drove seemed to offer a better ride.
Braking is accomplished with four-wheel discs. It's easy to modulate the brakes for smooth stops in everyday driving. Anti-lock brakes come standard with electronic brake-force distribution and Brake Assist. (ABS helps the driver maintain steering control in a skid. EBD improves balance and stopping power by apportioning the braking force to whichever tires are getting the best grip. Brake Assist helps ensure full braking potential in a panic stop.)
4WD models offer shift-on-the-fly capability through an electronically controlled part-time transfer case. Simply turn a knob to shift from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive. This can be done while driving. To engage the 4WD low range, however, you must come to almost a full stop, and then push the knob in and turn it. The low creeper gear keeps steep descents in the comfort zone. An off-road package includes an electronically activated locking rear differential to help the Titan slog through the toughest conditions.
The 2007 Nissan Titan is a serious, full-size pickup boasting brilliant throttle response and agile handling. It can tow up to 9,500 pounds. Its cab is big and roomy. And it's loaded with innovations such as a spray-in bedliner and a track system for cargo and accessories. The King Cab boasts a clever door that opens nearly 180 degrees. The Crew Cab has super-roomy back seats. All of that puts Titan in the front row of a class of superb trucks.
Denise McCluggage filed the original report; with NewCarTestDrive.com correspondents Mitch McCullough and Greg Brown reporting from Los Angeles.
Nissan Titan King Cab XE 2WD ($23,700), SE 2WD ($25,850), LE 2WD ($30,650); Crew Cab XE 2WD ($26,650), SE 2WD ($28,350), LE 2WD ($33,150); King Cab XE 4WD ($26,900), SE 4WD ($29,050), LE 4WD ($33,700); Crew Cab XE 4WD ($29,750), SE 4WD ($31,550), LE 4WD ($36,200).
Options As Tested
Side-Airbag Package with VDC ($1,200) includes side-impact and curtain airbags, electronic stability control; Navigation Package ($1800); Tow Package ($450) includes receiver hitch, lower final gear ratio (3.357), 7-pin wiring harness plug, trailer brake pre-wiring on I/P, transmission oil temperature gauge, heated power extended chrome mirrors, heavy duty battery and cooling and limited slip differential.
Nissan Titan King Cab 4WD LE ($33,700).
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