The fullsize truck market is about to grow by one. Nissan Motor Corp., manufacturer of the successful line of Hardbody and Frontier compact pickups, has just kicked open the door to the fullsize truck market by presenting the Titan pickup. Nissan's first attempt at building a fullsize pickup is based on one important idea: have the right foundation. "The formula for the Nissan Titan's success is simple. First, get the basics right. Give it a fullsize body, full power with real truck horsepower and torque, and then add in a lot of style and a lot of innovations." This came directly from Larry Dominique, chief product specialist for the Titan. The Titan was conceived from the start as a real fullsize truck and is built and equipped to be just what the American buyer is looking for. Judging by our initial road testing, Nissan has hit the mark, and it just might make converts out of many domestic pickup buyers.
For starters, the Titan was designed on a clean sheet of paper. All models of the truck, including both 2WD and 4x4 models, are built on the same box-section, steel ladder frame. The box-section design of the frame provides increased rigidity compared with the more traditional open, C-channel frames that some pickups are based on and also gives the Titan frame extra torsional strength. Additionally, there are no crossmembers or obstructions hanging below the framerails to hinder ground clearance, making the Titan an excellent off-road candidate.
Muscular Bulges, Sexy Styling
Another clean sheet of paper design is the Titan's body, which is available in King Cab and crew cab configurations. Beginning with the bold front-end design, the engineers at Nissan created a refined appearance by combining the bumper and lower valance into one unit. The front end is segregated into three distinct areas and fronted by a chromed center section. The bold look is further enhanced with circular driving lamps, which are recessed into the bumper, and openings in the center section for tow hooks. Perhaps the most aggressive-looking part of the Titan is the combination of composite headlamps, a slant-faced hood, and nearly flat-topped front fenders. This trio of stying cues forms a rakish profile that bestows a look of empowerment. The cab combines smooth exterior sheetmetal with a unique over-the-bed extension and a raked windshield for a modern take on the traditional pickup. We love the Titan's Wide-Open rear doors, which open with a two-stage 180-degree swing. The Wide-Open doors allow full access to the flat rear floor of the cab, which makes for an excellent cargo area inside of the cab. The bed continues this theme, with flared bedsides and perfect semicircular wheelwell openings. The most notable features of the bed, though, are the standard bedside storage compartment and the factory-installed spray-in bedliner. Both are industry firsts. The bedside storage compartment provides a sealed storage area for trailering accessories or anything else you desire to stow safely inside. The factory-applied spray-in bedliner is a nice departure from the traditional drop-in plastic liners of yesterday, and the liner works with the Titan's optional Utili-track bed channel system. The bed channel system comes with removable anodized aluminum and safety cleats that slide into special channels and provides an infinite number of cargo attachment points.
DOHC Heads, Big-Time Torque
Truck owner's love their V-8s, and Nissan took this love affair to heart, designing the new Endurance 5.6L DOHC V-8 engine to punish the dirt with 300-plus horsepower and 375-plus lb-ft of torque (exact numbers were not available at press time). Rather than rely on variable valve timing and other exotic power boosters, Nissan went with a large-displacement engine with stout internal components. The basic technology behind Nissan's powerplant is extremely impressive. The bottom end is surrounded by a lightweight aluminum engine block with cast-iron cylinder liners, providing a home for molybdenum-coated pistons. Six-bolt main bearing caps lock the micropolished forged steel crankshaft in place. For induction, Nissan developed a high-flow variable intake plenum to boost low-end torque. The 32-valve DOHC V-8's compression ratio checks-in at 9.8:1 and is low-grade, pump-gas friendly. Durable is the word for the bottom end of the Endurance V-8. A five-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode links the powerful engine to Nissan's shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system. One of the options we were truly excited about was the off-road package, which features a Dana 44 rear axle and an electronically controlled locking rear differential. The off-road package means that all of that V-8 grunt won't go to waste by uselessly spinning one rear wheel in the dirt.
Ruggedly Advanced Design
The Titan's front suspension system relies on the proven wishbone design for the frontend and dual-rate leaf springs for the rear. The leaf spring shackles are mounted alongside the framerails for maximum ground clearance. Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is standard, and we expected nothing less from Nissan's first entry into the fullsize pickup market. Four-wheel disc brakes come standard with Bosch's four-wheel antilock braking system. All of this upper echelon truck technology does not go to waste. The Titan is rated with a 9,400-pound towing capacity, which stands tall even among 3/4-ton pickups.
Equal Parts Form and Function
Behind the Wide-Open rear doors of the Titan lies an exceptional amount of cargo space. The rear bench seat folds vertically, revealing a flat floor that is wide enough to load extra-large packages from either side of the truck. The front passenger seat also folds forward to add even more cargo room. The interior is a tasteful mix of form and function. There is plenty of sporty looking trim for the upscale truck owner. The instrument panel contains six gauges and an available transmission temperature gauge. Also, for those who love to drive their trucks like a sports car, the shifter is mounted in the center console. Even will all the high-tech gadgetry found in the Titan (the audio controls for the stereo are located in the steering wheel), there are constant reminders that this truck is a workhorse. All of the primary knobs and controls are large in size, making operation easy, even if you're wearing work gloves. There are multiple 12-volt power adapters found in the dash and center console and a multitude of cup holders, dividers, pockets, and storage. Form never overpowers function within the confines of the Titan's cab.
Smooth, Powerful, Rugged
We seized the opportunity to flog the Titan through Nissan's Arizona Test Center beneath the 80-degree desert heat. While we were not able to take our steed off the pavement, this drive did offer a glimpse of what the Titan offered. The four-wheel disc brakes worked splendidly, and 90 mph to 40 mph braking showed the ABS did an adequate job of keeping tire lockup at bay. The pedal had a solid feel to it, and we didn't notice any extreme brake fade during our road course testing.
The new 5.6L Endurance V-8 was also an exciting development. Acceleration was crisp, and the Titan had no problem frying the rear tires without the need to power brake from the start. The Titan exhibited good low-end power, which continued on through the midrange and pulled right until the transmission shifted at 5,000 rpm. The five-speed automatic transmission shifted so smoothly that it was hardly noticeable. The shifts were quick and smooth, never jerking the truck, even at WOT. The combination of a spacious interior with maximum legroom and a console-mounted shifter made the Titan a pleasure to drive. The shifter made the hunt for the next gear quick and easy, unlike the column-mounted shifters in other trucks.
Over rough sections of pavement, the Titan exhibited excellent road manners. It had no problem soaking up potholes and simulated bridge crossings without having the rearend wash out in rough, off-camber cornering situations. The Titan's road manners were so very plush and refined that it makes us wonder how well it will tow a heavy load. Nissan is claiming a 9,400-pound towing capacity when the Titan is equipped with the Big Tow Package, and we'll have to wait to see how the truck rides with that package and no cargo load on the freeway. A plush ride and a good towing capacity are often impossible to have together; a truck usually has to give up one or the other, so it will be interesting to see how the Titan fares during more in-depth testing.
As if you couldn't already tell, we are excited about the introduction of another excellent truck to the fullsize pickup market. The increased competition will most certainly mean good news for the consumer. Stay tuned for a complete road test of Nissan's most interesting offering to date in an upcoming issue of OFF-ROAD!