Our long-term Titan came to us because we named it Pickup Truck of the Year for 2003, so we had high expectations of this newcomer. Just as the mighty Titan out-worked the competition during our weeklong PTOTY testing, we gave this heavy 1/2-ton the benefit of the doubt when it came time to getting one particular job done. But in our confidence and enthusiasm, we failed to read the owner's manual before hooking up our project Bronco on a tandem axle trailer bound for Moab. Had we done that, we might have learned the Dana 44 rear-end required a towing "break-in period" and we wouldn't have been left stranded on the side of the highway wondering where all that grey smoke was coming from.
Nissan told us that the first time a driver tows heavily with a Titan, the rear axle requires a careful break-in thermal cycle to prevent gear failure. The company recommends that for the first 500 miles of towing, speeds not exceed 50 mph. Yes, this is printed in the manual. Once that break-in and thermal cycle occurs-that is, it's heated under load for a while and allowed to cool-it's fine for towing use. Sorry, our bad.
The good news was that the Stephen Wade Auto Center Nissan dealership in St. George, Utah jumped through hoops to get us on the road again. With a new rear-axle assembly installed, our Titan was back on the road, and aside from a faulty serpentine belt tensioner that caused the engine to toss its accessory drive belt, we are happy to report 8,857 miles on the ticker. Thankfully, Nissan has shown a great deal of patience, considering the truck's initial problem was our own fault.
Nissan engineers did a good job of setting up the Titan for trail use. With 9.6 inches of ground clearance and 305 hp, this truck makes rutted hillclimbs look like child's play.
With plenty of torque and an elevated driving position, the Titan inspires confidence while battling it out in heavy traffic. And the robust rumble from the 5.6L V-8 sounds great.
Without a doubt, the Titan's engine and five-speed automatic transmission stand out in a class where all impress.
Miles to date: 8,857
Average mpg: 13
Best tank mpg: 14.8
Worst tank mpg: 9.6 (towing)
Oil consumed (qts.): 0
Stucks to date: Two, if you count pavement.
* Replaced rear axle, covered by warranty
* Replaced serpentine belt tensioner, covered by warranty
SIX WORDS DESCRIBING THE TITAN:
WHAT WE LIKE MOST:
The folks at Nissan came up with some pretty smart utility features in the bed. The optional track and cleat system makes tying down a load very easy. Additions such as tailgate jamb lighting, a 12-volt power source and a spray-on bedliner make the Titan's bed the most well thought-out design we've ever seen. We only wish it came in an 8-foot version.
WHAT WE DISLIKE MOST:
The dashboard looks as though it was developed by Fisher-Price engineers, showing little variation in texture, material and color. As with other long-term test vehicles, we question Nissan's intentions when equipping our Titan with running boards.
* "Love the power on tap."
* "Great sound system."