2009 Nissan Titan Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Major revisions improve this full-size pickup.
The 2009 Nissan Titan gets minor upgrades and equipment repackaging. Titan was redesigned for 2008 and delivers truck capability and tough-guy truck image with enough refinement to appeal to a broad range of drivers and occupants.
Among the changes for 2009 are a matte-finish grille and body-colored bumper for the Titan XE, automatic locking on all models with power door locks, standard 18-inch wheels, and a Max-Utility package that combines much of the previous utility and towing packages into one.
Short- and long-bed models are offered, the latter among the largest half-tons with good bed space, cabin room, and towing and fuel capacity.
Inside, the 2008 redesign gave the Nissan Titan an attractive, user-friendly interior. There's plenty of room for a growing family of five or four big outdoorsmen out for weekend recreation. Titans range from utilitarian models with crank windows to leather-lined cabs befitting a luxurious sport-utility.
Titan's proven and powerful V8 and automatic is a stout engine raced at more than twice its street-legal 317 horsepower. Nothing like this gets good gas mileage and if you have no plans to haul stuff around or tow anything, the Titan will be overkill. When you do haul or tow, you'll find the Titan a highly capable half-ton pickup with features useful for towing and hauling.
In part because of the engine, the Titan leans to the sporty and heavy-user ends of the pickup truck spectrum. Obviously it can be used on a daily basis and perhaps on an overcast day it might just blend in, but the Titan is more outgoing than that and would prefer a home with an adventurous family, busy independent contractor or landscaper, hard-core four wheeler towing a buggy, or on the job site tending to fickle foremen and agitated architects: At least on the weekdays.
If you need a full-size pickup with power to perform and plenty of room, the Nissan Titan should be on your shopping list.
The 2009 Nissan Titan offers more than 25 variants. Choose from two cabs (King Cab, Crew Cab), two wheelbases (short or long bed), two- and four-wheel drive, and four trim levels (XE, SE, Pro-4X, LE) in virtually any combination with these exceptions: Pro-4X models are 4WD only, and the King Cab Pro-4X is short wheelbase only. Four-wheel drive adds about $3000; a long wheelbase adds about $400, and figure $2500-$3000 to move up from King Cab to Crew Cab.
Titan XE is focused on function and includes cloth seating for six, active front head restraints, full instrumentation, cruise control, split fold-up rear seats, 18-inch wheels, and on Crew Cabs, power windows and door locks.
Titan SE models add alloy wheels, chrome bumpers, upholstery upgrades, a CD changer, heated power mirrors, tailgate assist, and conveniences such as remote keyless entry and illuminated visor mirrors.
Titan Pro-4X is a 4WD SE with larger, more aggressive tires, off-road suspension tuning, 3.36:1 gears, electronic locking rear differential, skid plates, two-tone cloth upholstery, body-color bumpers, unique upholstery and instruments, and double sun visors.
Titan LE is the luxury model, with 20-inch wheels, fog lamps, leather power seats, a 350-watt Rockford Fosgate sound system with XM radio, dual-zone climate control, power adjustable pedals, woodgrain trim, Bluetooth, double overhead consoles on Crew Cab, traction package, and chrome power folding heated mirrors.
Options include a navigation system, spray-in bed liner, moonroof, DVD entertainment.
Safety features include frontal airbags. Side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags are optional A roll-sensing electronic stability control system is optional.
The long-wheelbase Nissan Titan offers a bed length of almost 8 feet, 3 inches on King Cabs, and 7 feet, 3 inches on Crew Cabs. That's about the biggest box on a half-ton crew cab pickup. Those models also have the largest fuel tank at 37 gallons.
Subtle changes introduced for 2008 to the grille, lamps, bumpers and wheels soften the edges a bit but Titan maintains its in-your-face attitude.
Titan offers a high level of function. Maximum payload tops 2,000 pounds on certain versions. Vehicles with tow or Max-Utility packages can be rated to tow up to 9500 pounds. Towing features include extendable dual-element mirrors, a transmission temperature gauge. 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 or chains or tie-down straps. The locking tailgate is damped and assisted for easy open and close.
The Nissan Titan cabin serves well for truck duty. The redesigned version introduced for 2008 is fairly refined, lacking harsh edginess, eliminating one of the few gripes regarding the original Titan.
Dash and door panels are easy to wipe off plastic yet no longer give the impression of cost-cutting in materials. The instrument layout provides complete information but has a more coherent, sophisticated look than the previous-generation. On Pro-4X models the gauges are white-faced, and LE models have enough wood-like acreage to fit in a luxury utility.
Titans can be equipped with a six-person bench seat interior or with captain's chairs in front for a five-seat capacity.
Our Pro-4X had the bucket seats with heaters, power adjustments, and two-position driver memory system to complement the adjustable pedals. The only nuisance in fit 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.
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 rear-view camera is available and we found it eased trailer hitching.
A center dash section updated for 2008 handles audio, climate, navigation, and switching duty (tow mode, VDC off, diff lock, etc.) with a slightly more integrated look. It looks better than the previous setup and more easily handles extras like the dual-zone climate control on LE 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 find running boards more in the way than helpful.
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, which doesn't offer the bed capacity of a long-bed Titan.
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 ever been in an earlier (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 the big V8 and a five-speed automatic transmission. Although it doesn't have as much horsepower as GM's larger V8 choices or Dodge's Hemi, it betters most on torque. We think a Titan will outrun many pickups and deliver competitive mileage to similar configurations; only the Tundra's 5.7-liter/six-speed automatic and GM's 6.2/six-speed automatic combinations challenge it. The exhaust keeps the V8 rumble so adored by truck buyers while eliminating the drone that could wear on long highway trips.
On paper, the fuel economy dropped for 2009, but in reality it's the same as before; the EPA has changed its test procedures, which yields results much closer to the fuel economy most drivers will obtain. Every potent pickup runs in the 12-13 mpg zone EPA City cycle.
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 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 4x4 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. The rear axle was strengthened considerably to accommodate the towing and load ratings.
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, 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 LE models offers crisper turn-in but transmits bumps more.
The brakes were upgraded for the 2008 model: In specification they are not quite as large in diameter as the Tundra's discs but they have greater swept area, usually a better indicator of braking capacity. The Titan has performed well in braking performance tests, though durability has been a question. The current setup should offer greater durability than the brakes on earlier Titans.
The 2009 Nissan Titan tan boasts a robust powertrain with responsive acceleration, good brakes, comfortable cabin and plenty of feature choices. But pickups are all about carrying or towing stuff and Titan has the longest beds in the segment, with payload ratings that reach above 2000 pounds, and good towing performance.
G.R. Whale filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from Minneapolis.
Nissan Titan XE King Cab 4x2 short bed ($25,960); XE Crew Cab 4x4 short bed ($31,360); Pro-4X Crew Cab 4x4 short bed ($35,690); LE King Cab 4x4 short bed ($36,360); LE Crew Cab 4x4 long bed ($39,160).
Options As Tested
Pro-4X driver's convenience package ($2750); side airbag/VDC package ($900); Max-Utility package ($750).
Nissan Titan Crew Cab Pro-4X Short Bed ($35,690).
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