2005 Nissan Titan Review

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Marc K. Stengel Marc K. Stengel Editor
October 17, 2004

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Nissan is on a roll, with well-selling vehicles in every major category, from econocars and sporty roadsters to plush touring sedans and gnarly SUVs. Clearly, Nissan wants it all; and a scant ten months ago — in December 2003 — Nissan rolled out its interpretation of the automotive world’s “killer app.”

The Nissan Titan is the company’s first full-size pickup and, arguably, the first truck from foreign shores ever to kick sand in the faces of those hulking muscle men from Detroit: the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra and Dodge Ram pickups. Granted, Toyota may have kicked first with its V-8-powered Tundra, but the Big Three were unimpressed. “Come back when you get bigger and stronger,” they chuckled amongst themselves.

Then Titan strode upon the scene. It’s vastly big. It’s heroically powerful. The Big Three aren’t chuckling now. Instead, they’re eyeing Nissan’s interloper with a combination of wariness and awe.

That’s because Nissan has managed to combine style with brawn and convenience with innovation. The result is a new rendition of “truckness” that’s messing up the status quo of the Big Three’s sandbox.

Titanic power

Appropriately enough for a vehicle meant to haul and pull things, the Titan phenomenon comes initially to life underhood. A 5.6-liter, twin-cam V-8 lurks there, bristling with 32 valves and sporting a tattoo that says “Endurance.” It makes monster horsepower — 305 hp, in fact. Pulling torque is even more impressive: 379 lb-ft of torque. Unladen, the Titan is capable of sports-car sprints from zero-to-60 in the neighborhood of 7.5 seconds.

But that’s not what counts in a truck. It’s much better to crow about a tow rating of 9400 lb for the “King Cab” rear-wheel-drive Titan evaluated here. Payload capacity is 1500 lb — fairly typical for a so-called “half-ton” pickup. And yet Nissan seems to understand what must never have dawned upon anyone else before: every payload is different. Accordingly, this curious intuition has led to a six-and-a-half-foot truck bed that’s the most versatile on the road.

For starters, there’s a cushy, grabby, rubberized coating on the inner surfaces of the box that protects items from sliding and scuffing. Then, a pair of aircraft-style slotted rails runs longitudinally along the floor, to which heavy-duty cleat-hooks are attached in a variety of positions for securing all manner of ungainly cargo. Twin outdoor lamps amply illuminate the bed for night work; and a 12-volt socket provides outdoor power for tools or playthings. For accessories such as ropes, bungees and work gloves, Nissan has thoughtfully located a locking cubbie within the inner panel of one of the bed walls.

Whereas the Titan’s cargo box is a well-equipped workspace, its cabin is a virtual command center. Nissan makes two different versions of its four-door pickup. The Crew Cab offers luxuriant rear seating at the expense of a cargo bed one-foot shorter than the King Cab. Both, however, are six- or five-occupant vehicles depending upon the front seat configuration selected; and the 60/40-split rear bench seat in both models folds up and out of the way to maximize interior storage. Because the rear doors open almost completely flat against the flanks of the cargo box, moreover, loading bulky items into the rear of the cabin is uncommonly easy.

From the front-seat perspective, the Titan is curiously sedan-like, and this particular strategy of Nissan’s can cut both ways. For hobby cowboys and gentlemen farmers, I suppose, being surrounded by consoles and cubbies is a sign of sophisticated comfort. There are gadget bins overhead and a CD player in the dash. Air conditioning and power locks and windows are standard.


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2004 Ford F-150
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Tool-totin’ roughnecks with scabby concrete on their Wranglers and mud flaking off their steel-toed Chippewas, on the other hand, may wonder instead whether they’re in Kansas anymore. This isn’t so much a complaint about the Titan’s sumptuous interior as it is a subtle reminder that Nissan’s pick-’em-up truck is the newbie in town. As a result, there is not yet the full panoply of trim and equipment levels catering to every budget and demographic preference. Ford, GM, and Dodge trucks, on the other hand, do offer what is sometimes a confusing array of mix-and-match interior trim levels.

That goes, ditto-plus, for truck-bed and cabin-size pairings. It’s taken virtually as an article of faith that U.S. truck makers mean to bewilder customers with a complexity of possible combinations of bed length, powertrain, and seating capacity. Short or long bed; supercab, crew cab, quad cab; two-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive, “dually” rear wheels; big motor, small motor, diesel — the permutations are seemingly endless. Yes, there’s probably the perfect Big Three truck layout for any given owner. No, it isn’t generally easy to attain that perfection.

So Nissan is saying, basically, take it or leave it. There is the aforementioned pair of cab designs for the Titan, each with its own fixed bed length. And there are rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive powertrains. That’s it. One mighty motor powers them all; one basic platform undergirds them all. Nissan is attempting to lure buyers not with a proliferation of features but with an elegant simplicity.

It’s a creditable tactic. A Titan’s feature-per-dollar ratio is compelling. The rear-drive King Cab in SE trim that I evaluated included all the elements discussed above for a base price of just $24,400 plus $900 for the rail-and-cleat cargo system. An off-road package ($950) and audio/power seating upgrade ($1,200) ratcheted the total up to $27,450. These are some scary numbers for the domestic Big Three, because they emphasize just how much truck for the money Nissan is dangling in front of the very buyers Ford, GM, and Dodge thought they could keep strictly — and perpetually — for themselves.

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GET Kelley Blue Book Pricing for this vehicle

2005 Nissan Titan King Cab SE 4x2
Base price:
$24,400; as tested, $27,450
Engine: 5.6-liter V-8, 305 hp/378 lb-ft
Transmission: Five-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Length by width by height: 224.2 x 78.8 x 75.0 (4x2) or 76.6 (4x4) in
Wheelbase: 139.8 inches
Curb weight: 4808 lb (4x2); 5038 lb (4x4)
EPA City/Hwy: 14/19 mpg (4x2); 14/18 mpg (4x4)
Safety equipment: Dual front airbags (optional side airbags for front seat, and head curtain), seatbelt pretensioners, anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Force Distribution
Major standard equipment: Power door locks and windows, cruise control, keyless entry, security system with vehicle immobilizer, tire-pressure warning system, 17-inch wheels, AM/FM/CD with eight speakers, auto-dim rear mirror
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles

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