The New Kid Looks To Eat Motown's Lunch
As one of the most anticipated new pickup truck models of recent years, the fullsize Nissan Titan goes on sale next month for the 2004 model year. Available in both King Cab and Crew Cab configurations, the 139.8-inch-wheelbase Titan looks beyond the midsize pickup segment that's typically been the province of import truckmakers (though the Titan's assembled in Canton, Mississippi) and towards the fullsize niche that's been dominated by Detroit for decades. In short, the Titan aims for Real Truck status, and judging by what we've seen (and driven), it has earned it.
The Titan sits on an all-new hydroformed fully boxed steel chassis with nine (count 'em) crossmembers for added rigidity. Suspension chores are handled by an IFS/coilover setup in front (Rancho 5000s are a factory option) and dual-rate leaf springs (with negative-arch single overload) out back. Axles are Dana 44s at both ends with a rear antilock-brake, limited-slip system for added traction. Ground clearance is 10.3 inches at the rear diff, rated towing capacity is 9,400 pounds, and there's a Class IV hitch with a seven-pin connector and trailer brake wiring with the optional towing package. Hey, we said it's a real truck.
With real power too. The Titan's 5.6L "Endurance" V-8 delivers 305 peak horsepower at 4,900 rpm and 379 lb-ft of torque at 3,600. The 32-valve aluminum powerplant is backed by a standard five-speed automatic trans and a part-time two-speed transfer box with 2.596:1 low-range. The Titan's 33.35:1 crawl ratio isn't spectacular, but basically in the ballpark with those of other 11/42-ton trucks.
For our ride-and-drive, we met Nissan engineers in Vancouver, British Columbia, for two days of canyon carving through the snow-capped Cascades. Along the way, we got to 'wheel some forest roads deep in the hills, with a little mudding and rockcrawling thrown in. For good measure, we got to test the Titan's towing performance as well. On all counts, we were impressed.
On the tarmac, the V-8 showed near-instant response from 800-rpm idle to well beyond 4,000, and the closed-ratio five-speed proved a smooth and seamless slushbox. We had some difficulty testing the Titan at quasi-legal highway speeds-laid-back that they are, Canadians drive real slow-but when we got a chance to pass 'em on twisty mountain two-lanes, there was plenty of power underhood for the task. Directional stability is good, thanks to the ultra-stiff chassis, and while we experienced a bit of wallow in corners, it was due to the trail-tuned suspension-nothing untoward for an unladen fullsize. At higher speeds we did encounter some wind noise leaking into the cab, likely caused by the Nissan's big fold-out side mirrors, but otherwise the truck delivers a reasonably quiet and civilized ride. (Not too civilized-the engine's got a sweet low exhaust note that reminds you it's a V-8, in and out of the cab.)
Off-road, the Titan's stiff-frame/soft-spring combo exhibits good compliance, articulating gently over rocks and through deep ruts while retaining a high degree of stability with nice, light return-to-center steering. In some off-camber, wheel-in-the-air situations, we got a chance to test the new antilock-brake, limited-slip system, and it worked without fail; the tire on terra firma gets chunked a bit, but it keeps the vehicle moving. The Titan's optional 285/75R17 (32.7-inch) BFGoodrich Rugged Trails gave us plenty of traction, even at street pressures-plus, they're well-mannered and quiet on pavement too.