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The Nissan Titan delivers dazzling performance with a powerful 5.6-liter V8 and responsive five-speed automatic. Its handling is equally responsive, making it among the most enjoyable of the full-size half-ton pickups. Brakes, suspension, drivetrain work together for quick response. This is a serious pickup that pleases the senses.
Titan offers more emotional appeal than some of the other trucks. It was the first truly full-size pickup in nearly 25 years from anyone other than the Big Three, and the first ever from a company whose world headquarters are located outside of North America. (The Titan is significantly larger than the 2006 Toyota Tundra, which is about 7/8-size.)
When designing the Titan, Nissan benchmarked the best pickups and decided to raise the bar. Titan would be big and roomy, and it would not be a shrinking violet in terms of styling or performance. As a result, the Titan excels at roominess. There's lots of headroom up front and the back seats of Crew Cab models offer plenty of legroom. Its V8 engine generates strong torque; and there is no V6 or base motor. Titan can tow up to 9,500 pounds. Four-wheel-drive models boast high ground clearances and generous approach angles.
Clever innovations improve on the traditional pickup. Among them: a factory-applied spray-in bedliner, a C-channel tie-down system for securing cargo and accessories, and a stash box integrated into the driver's-side rear fender for storing a tow hitch or other small items. The rear doors on the King Cab open nearly 180 degrees for quick access. A dampened tailgate assist reduces effort when opening and closing the tailgate. The Crew Cab has a power retractable rear window with privacy glass and an electric defroster.
There are no major changes for 2006, only adjustments to standard and optional equipment lists.
Designed in California, the Titan is built near Jackson, Mississippi, and its high-tech V8 is built near Nashville, Tennessee.
The Nissan Titan is boldly styled. Its blocky head-on view, with its twin sloping chrome bars angling down across a bee-comb radiator presents an intimidating appearance in rear-view mirrors, a look that's simple and direct, short of braggadocio. The rest of the Nissan Titan fulfills that impression: direct and shaped by function, a true truck. Big square-shaped fender flares give it a look of rugged sportiness. Lots of chrome up front adds to the boldness, heightened when combined with dark paint colors.
The King Cab's unique door design is a real light-bulb innovation. Like most extended-cab pickups, the Titan King Cab has a conventional front door hinged at the front, with a rear-hinged back door; and you must open the front door before you can open the rear door. But the Titan's rear door opens not just to the near 90 degrees that's expected; it swings farther yet, yawning 168 degrees, which is nearly flat against the truck's body. Wide-Open Nissan calls it, and it is. On both sides, too. It's surprising how often this feature becomes useful. At the grocery store, it makes it much easier to maneuver a cart closely into position for unloading. Next to a curbside tree, you can open the main door just wide enough to get out, open the rear door its full 168 degrees, close the main door, and you have unencumbered access to the cargo area behind the seats. Doing the same thing on the driver's side means you can unload cargo without having a big door open into traffic. King Cab models come with 6 1/2-foot beds.
Crew Cab models feature four full-sized doors, adding greatly to comfort and convenience. Crew Cabs have 5 1/2-foot beds, trading a foot of bed space for roomy rear seats and more interior cargo room.
With their tailgates lowered, both bed sizes can accommodate 4x8-foot sheets of building material between their wheel housings. Four big eyelets are bolted to the insides of the bed for tying things down. Like the Ford and Dodge trucks, the load height (the distance from the bed to the ground) is high on 4WD Titans, measuring approximately 37 inches to the open tailgate by our tape measure. On 2WD Titans the load height is about 34 inches, a big difference when loading heavy cargo. Higher may be better for displaying machismo, but lower is better when there's work to be done.
Nissan's sprayed-in bedliner looks terrific. The anti-skid surface keeps cargo from sliding around while driving and reduces noise. The anti-skid surface can make it harder to slide a box out, but this seems outweighed by the upsides. It prevents scratches and rust and, unlike plastic drop-in liners, it doesn't trap moisture underneath, again reducing the chance of rust. It's also covered by the truck's warranty. The coating is applied at a $2 million facility specifically built for this purpose at Nissan's spanking-new truck factory in Mississippi.
The available C-channel tie-down system, part of the Utility Bed Package, is designed to accommodate a variety of scenarios. It features C-section rails mounted in the bed: two on the floor, and one each on the side and forward walls. Removable cleats slide into the channels and can be positioned anywhere along its length, thus permitting customized securing of cargo. Sliding cargo trays, a sliding tool box and other modular storage units are available for kayaks, bikes, and other needs. The bed channels feature protective caps that slide on to keep out debris when they're not being used. It appears to be a great system.
The storage compartment integrated into the left rear fender is convenient for storing a tow-hitch ball, work gloves, road flares, or a first aid kit. Measuring 11x15 inches, this small bedside compartment is double sealed to be weather and dust proof. Opening it is a little awkward because you must pry open a little springloaded cover with one hand, then unlock the lid with the ignition key in the other hand; however,
Inside, the Nissan Titan feels spacious yet snug at the same time. It's roomy when measured in cubic feet, but it's also organized, with handy storage bins and spaces to tuck stuff away.
Two interior configurations are available. Standard on XE is a front bench seat with column shifter to accommodate up to six passengers. SE and LE come with two front bucket seats (captain's chairs) and a gated floor shifter in a large center console. You can get the bench seat as a credit option upholstered in premium cloth in SE and in leather in LE.
The leather upholstery in the LE models is sporty, attractive and quite pleasing. The rear seats in the LE are covered in matching vinyl that most people will assume is leather. It's a good sleight of hand.
The bucket seats are firm and comfortable. The seat bottoms are relatively flat, making it easy to slide in and out, yet they offer good support and feel like they'd be comfortable on cross-country trips. We find them more comfortable than the cushy seats in the GM trucks or those we've seen in the new Ford F-150, which could use more side support. The Titan LE driver's seat and passenger's seat are power adjustable, with memory on the driver's side. Seat heaters are available.
The King Cab has 60/40 flip-up rear seats, and the nearly flat floor beneath makes loading and toting a wide mix of people and things a breeze. Three people can ride in the back seat, enjoying lots of legroom and headroom, but the upright seatbacks make anything longer than a trip to the restaurant or store feel like a journey. Bottle holders are provided in the rear doors for back-seat riders. Flip up the rear seat bottoms and the King Cab can carry a 160-pound dog in comfort. (We did this.) Hooks provided on the seat bottoms are useful for hanging grocery bags, tote bags, or gear bags so their contents don't end up scattered around the floor. The seatbacks also fold down, adding another cargo-carrying option. Add the benefits of the wide-opening rear doors and the King Cab offers real flexibility.
The Crew Cab is roomy and comfortable whether sitting in the front or rear seats. The Crew Cab offers more front legroom and rear legroom than most other full-size half-ton pickups. The rear seat is large and relaxing, with a full 24 degrees of seatback angle. The rear seats are split 60/40 with bottoms that flip up, revealing much more interior cargo space than what's available in the King Cab. The fold-up seat bottoms leave more usable space available than fold-and-tumble designs. Ample storage is available in the rear compartment, including door storage bins and rear door bottle holders in the armrests.
Titan's interior is smart in function and in looks. Large knobs, handles and grips are easy to operate, even when wearing heavy work gloves. Big knobs are used for the manual heating and air conditioning controls.
The top-line Rockford Fosgate audio system has a big volume knob and large station buttons that can be set simply by holding them down for a couple of seconds. Secondary audio functions are easy to access and operate. An auxiliary input is provided on the dash for plugging in an Apple iPod or other MP3 player.
Thoughtfulness in the design is evident everywhere, inside and out, making the Titan a singularly useful truck. The lid on the center console is flat, so you can set a clipboard there without having it slide off; the lid is indented and lined with rubber for small items. The center console on bench seat models is large enough to accommodate laptops. The center console in bucket seat models is designed to hold DVDs and CDs. Well-designed cup holders provide welcome homes for sleeved grande cappuccinos. Decent-size coat hooks are easily accessed for hanging a coat or a load of dry cleaning. The glove box is large, with a damped lid that doesn't slam open. Battery power points are provided for charging laptops.
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Driving the Nissan Titan is a pleasure. For starters, it offers brilliant throttle response. Its powertrain is perhaps the most responsive among the full-size pickups with comparable engines. The Titan always feels alert and wide awake, like it started the morning with a double espresso. The V8 delivers quick acceleration performance whether launching off the line or pulling a quick pass at speed. It isn't a whisper quiet engine, but has a deep exhaust note that sounds pleasing when accelerating.
The five-speed automatic is equally responsive, quickly downshifting whenever needed. With five gears to choose from, it can always find an appropriate ratio for smooth, rather than abrupt, downshifts. The transmission features a Tow/Haul mode to reduce unnecessary shifting and heat buildup.
Nissan's 5.6-liter V8 produces 300 horsepower. Doubly welcome is the well-shaped torque curve with a peak of 379 pound-feet. The Titan's engine delivers 90 percent of that peak torque across a wide band down to low rpm. Torque, that force that propels you from intersections and pulls heavy trailers up long grades, is particularly important when towing and hauling.
Nissan's Endurance V8 is a modern design with double overhead-cams and 32 valves designed to balance performance and fuel economy. Titan 2WD gets EPA ratings of 14/19 mpg City/Highway, while Titan 4WD models are rated 14/18 mpg. Regular unleaded is recommended.
Towing capacity is 9,500 pounds, which is more often seen in heavy-duty 3/4-ton trucks, not light-duty 1/2-ton trucks like the Titan.
Handling is quick and agile. It's easy to drive the Titan smoothly or quickly or both at the same time. Ride quality is good in most situations, though we found a rippled, well-traveled section of I-405 in Los Angeles that generated an uncomfortable harmonic in a 4WD model. A 2WD Crew Cab we drove seemed to offer a better ride.
Braking is accomplished with four-wheel disc brakes. It's easy to modulate the brakes for smooth stops in everyday driving. Anti-lock brakes come standard with electronic brake-force distribution and Brake Assist. (ABS helps the driver maintain steering control in a skid. EBD improves balance and stopping power by apportioning the braking force to whichever tires are getting the best grip. Brake Assist helps ensure full braking potential in a panic stop.)
4x4 models offer a shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system with an electronically controlled part-time transfer case. Simply turn a knob to shift from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive. This can be done while driving. At very low speeds, almost a full stop, push in the knob and turn it to shift into low range. The low creeper gear keeps steep descents in the comfort zone. An off-road package includes an electronically activated locking rear differential to help the Titan slog through the toughest conditions.
The Nissan Titan is a serious, full-size pickup boasting brilliant throttle response and agile handling. It can tow up to 9,500 pounds. Its cab is big and roomy. And it's loaded with innovations such the spray-in bedliner and a track system for cargo and accessories. The King Cab boasts a clever door that opens nearly 180 degrees. The Crew Cab has super roomy back seats. All of that puts Titan in the front row of a class of superb trucks.
Denise McCluggage filed the original report; with NewCarTestDrive.com correspondents Mitch McCullough and Greg Brown reporting from Los Angeles.
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