2012 Nissan Titan Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
February 13, 2012

The 2012 Nissan Titan has held up well over a long lifespan, but its gas mileage, towing and hauling, and performance have fallen to the back of the full-size pickup truck pack.

The Nissan Titan hasn't changed much since it was introduced in the 2004 model year. And though it's the slowest-selling full-size pickup, the Titan still competes well enough with the likes of the Chevy Silverado and Toyota Tundra, with great towing and powertrain performance, with one of the most distinctive looks and sounds in the full-size segment.

Nissan took a chance with the Titan's bold exterior styling, and it's help up well over its nine model years, with just a few minor changes to trim pieces. Not everyone's a fan of the curved roofline and the very brawny front end, though. The Titan's one of the most aggressively styled trucks, and its upright appearance, big fender flares and bright metallic trim took the standard pickup truck look to brash new heights, and still break out of the usual F-150/Silverado mold. The cabin hasn't stayed as fresh as the sheetmetal, though: lower-rent materials and textures make it seem dated, especially when cross-shopped with the downright luxurious interiors found in the F-150, Ram 1500, and Sierra/Silverado.

The Titan comes in a single powertrain configuration, its 5.6-liter V-8 teamed to a five-speed automatic transmission and a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive. The "Endurance" V-8 sounds like a monster, with 317 horsepower rippling through its driveline, ending in a NASCAR-style exhaust note--but it's worth pointing out that output is now barely higher than the Ford F-150's six-cylinder engine. The Titan's V-8 is now woefully behind Ford's 5.0-liter V-8 or the big eights from GM and Ford, though it doesn't feel like it as it snaps off brisk gearchanges and responds willingly from a full stop. The Titan will tow up to 9,500 pounds in the right configuration, but that's now a thousand pounds shy of the class leaders, too. Handling's very good for a truck this size, though, and the PRO-4X Titan is a seriously off-road-capable pickup. The Titan's miserable fuel economy is far outstripped by the newest trucks with their six-speed automatics, though.

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The Titan is a truck for those that need to haul and tow, and not as much for those that want an efficient but roomy city truck. Interior space and comfort are good, and build quality is reasonably good, too. King Cabs have rear-hinged doors for access to a stubby rear-seat area; four-door Crew Cabs are preferred for wide, nicely positioned seats, though the step-in height in the Titan seems higher than in competitive trucks. A choice of three bed lengths keeps the Titan in the hunt for hauling a big payload, but the longest bed length of 7' 3" is nine inches less than you'll need to stack the usual 4x8 sheets of plywood. The Titan is available with a factory-applied spray-in bedliner and lockable storage bins built into its bed fenders, nice touches in a class now waking up to new interpretations of utility.

Most pickups fare better in frontal than side-impact protection, and the Titan is no different. However, its side-impact protection's been called "marginal" by the IIHS, and the NHTSA gives 2WD King Cabs a rollover rating of just three stars. Stability control and anti-lock brakes are standard, and rear parking sensors are an option, but the Titan lacks options for advanced safety features such as a rearview camera.

Aimed more at casual or recreational pickup users than the work-vehicle crowd, the Titan packs a handful of innovative features. Option packages and trim levels are the main point of differentiation for the single-powertrain Titan range, and the differences between the four models and several option packages are noticeable. Advanced technology isn't a forte, but Bluetooth phone connectivity, a DVD entertainment system, and XM Satellite Radio keep it in the 21st Century. Leather, a Rockford Fosgate audio system, and heated front seats are available.
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2012 Nissan Titan

Styling

It looks tough to this day, though the Nissan Titan is the oldest full-size pickup on sale today.

Some may find the Titan's unique looks too flashy, though others will find it offers a more appealing alternative to the conservative styling of other trucks.

It was new in the 2004 model year, and Nissan's Titan hasn't changed much at all since then. More than seven years down the road, the American-made, Japanese-branded pickup still manages to look brawny and relatively fresh, in the way the Ram trucks still generate more of a double-take than anything in the class.

The Titan's tough exterior has lots of overstated details, but the basic boxes aren't awkward at all, like the ones on the exaggerated Toyota Tundra. The upright and aggressive appearance wears lots of bright chrome, too, and a new styling package ups the wheels to sizes that usually mean the end of the current life cycle.

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Inside, the Titan shows more of its age, and really has for at least a few years. Both its design and materials come off dull and plasticky in comparison to more recently redesigned trucks, especially the current Ram 1500 and Ford F-150, but also including the refined Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra.
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2012 Nissan Titan

Performance

So long as you can afford the gas, the Nissan Titan's big V-8 is powerful, smooth, and entertaining.

It's no longer one of the most powerful pickups on the planet, but we're still fans of the Nissan Titan and its sole powertrain, a rippling V-8 with more macho engine noises than those coming from some of the American entries in the class.

It's the NASCAR sound quality that makes the Titan's exhaust note a perfect fit for this Mississippi-built truck. It snarls, it growls, and the 5.6-liter V-8 turns in 317 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers are nowhere near best in class anymore--Ford's new V-6 engine makes 302 horsepower--but the Titan sounds like it loves every minute of its job.

The V-8 teams up only to a five-speed automatic that lacks the gears it needs to boost fuel economy, but otherwise works well with the engine to combine for smooth shifts and strong acceleration. Gas mileage as low as 12/17 mpg is offset by towing capacity of up to 9,500 pounds with the King Cab and 9,400 pounds with the Crew Cab. Again, those numbers are strong in absolute terms, but against the 11,700-pound capacity of the latest F-150, it's almost a lightweight.

For a big, heavy pickup, the Nissan Titan handles extremely well. On the road, the Titan feels smaller and nimbler than it is, maneuvering well at low speed. Of the many variants, all but the PRO-4X is offered with a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive; the PRO-4X off-road variants are four-wheel-drive only.

The PRO-4X is also more prone to being over-firm on and off-road, with skittish behavior under some circumstances. Solid 10-inch ground clearance puts it at the front of its class, however, and may win converts more concerned with capability than comfort.

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2012 Nissan Titan

Comfort & Quality

A big cabin saves the Nissan Titan from its occasional lapses in interior trim quality.

King Cab and Crew Cab bodies give the Nissan Titan something to offer a wide range of pickup drivers, and most of them will find lots of usable space inside, which makes its sometimes plasticky interior easier to forgive.

The interior of the Titan varies significantly depending on which model you choose. Base models use a split bench seat, for example, while mid-range and top-end trims get captain's chairs and a center console.

King Cab editions (the name goes back forever, back to the days before Datsun trucks had a real name) have an abbreviated cabin with a bench or pair of front bucket seats, and some rear-hinged doors for access to a stubby area with a pair of jump seats. We much prefer the four-door Crew Cabs, with their wide, nicely positioned seats that seem to be more of a climb to get into than in some of the competitive trucks.

Once inside, most drivers will find it easy to find a comfortable driving position. Power-adjustable pedals accommodate shorter drivers, and ride quality is good for a truck, with wind and road noise both at acceptable levels, though the engine can be a bit loud for some.

A choice of three bed lengths keeps the Titan in the hunt for hauling a big payload, but the longest bed length of 7' 3" is nine inches less than you'll need to stack the usual 4x8 sheets of plywood. The Titan is available with a factory-applied spray-in bedliner and lockable storage bins built into its bed fenders.

Interior materials generally fall well short of the mark. Drab colors and textures are particularly hard to get over if you've cross-shopped similar trucks in the class. Storage space is abundant, however, with plenty of spaces for smaller items. Overall build quality is also good, if not great.

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2012 Nissan Titan

Safety

The Titan's crash-test scores are far from the best in class, and it's missing some of the latest safety options.

Safety isn't the Nissan Titan's strongest selling point. While trucks from Toyota and Ford get high ratings from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Titan doesn't fare as well.

It's unrated by the NHTSA, though the Titan earned four- and five-star grades from the federal agency under its previous scoring regimen, which was changed in 2011.

The Titan runs into trouble once it gets past the IIHS' front-impact tests, where it receives a "good" score. The IIHS calls it "acceptable" for roof-crush protection, but gives it only a "marginal" score for side-impact protection--despite the fact that side airbags are standard.

All Titans now come with dual front, side, and curtain airbags, as well as anti-lock brakes and stability control. However, there are no provisions for features such as blind-spot monitors.

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2012 Nissan Titan

Features

It's not as advanced as the latest Ram and Ford trucks, but the Nissan Titan's available features include Bluetooth and higher-end audio.

The Nissan Titan has been only lightly refreshed over the course of its long life. It doesn't have some of the very latest tech features you'd find in a Ford F-150 or a Ram 1500, but it can be outfitted and upgraded into something a lot nicer than the standard work truck.

Four trim levels are again offered: S, SV, PRO-4X, and SL. Basic work models--the S and SV--have the usual rugged grade of interior finish. Moving into the PRO-4X brings with it a special set of features keyed directly at trailblazers of all kinds: it comes with tow hooks, off-road tires, Rancho shocks, and a locking tailgate and locking storage box.

Key features of the top-of-the-line SL model include a cargo light, sonar backup assist, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, cabin air filter, a rear 23-volt outlet, HomeLink, power-adjustable pedals and leather captain's chairs, heated front seats, and a rockin' Rockford Fosgate stereo.

On various models, Bluetooth hands-free phone capability, XM Satellite Radio, heated/leather seats, and a DVD entertainment center are all available. The Max Utility package adds a raft of towing and load-centric features.

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4

2012 Nissan Titan

Fuel Economy

Gas-savers have nowhere to turn with the latest Nissan Titan.

Even in a class that includes some of the least fuel-efficient passenger vehicles sold in America, the Nissan Titan is a laggard.

The EPA rates this year's Titan at 12/17 mpg when it's fitted with four-wheel drive, and slightly better at 13/18 mpg as a two-wheel-drive truck. In our experience, real-world gas mileage numbers will fall to the lower end of the Titan's scale.

At issue: Nissan is the only manufacturer of full-size pickups sold in the U.S. that does not offer a V-6 engine. Some of its competitors may not offer very efficient V-6s, but all of them are better on gas than the Titan. The Titan is capable of running on E85 biofuel, but that option's really only realistic in the corn belt.

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June 25, 2015
2012 Nissan Titan 2WD Crew Cab SWB SL

Awesome handling sports truck

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I bought this truck new and have been very pleased with its dependability. It is very fun to drive! The Titan's performance is awesome! Very comfortable! I only wish the gas mileage was a little better. I... + More »
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Styling 7
Performance 8
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