Road Test - Nissan Titan 5.6SE Crew Cab

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Oct 17, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Staff Member

    Jul 6, 2001
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    A whale of a first effort


    November 2003

    In the cosmos of full-size pickups, size matters. That’s one reason Nissan chose the name Titan—a mythical earth giant characterized by brute strength and primitive appetites. Today, our only remaining earth giants are Dick Butkus and the former governor of Minnesota.

    Last January, we suggested Nissan name this truck the Whopping Colossus Carnivore. The marketing guys said the name didn’t matter—they had obviously been drinking—as long as no one perceived this truck as anything other than “as full as full-sized gets.” That shouldn’t be a problem.

    The Titan is 2.5 inches longer than Chevy’s Avalanche, 2.9 inches taller than a Silverado SS, and 11.5 inches more endowed of wheelbase than a Toyota Tundra. Plus, the Titan’s got enough fake chrome on its nose to outfit a Roppongi sushi bar. Still, the Nissan bloodlines shine through. If you could get the Titan’s high-school yearbook photo, you’d notice its resemblance to a little Frontier.

    This truck comes in two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive layouts, in XE, SE, and LE trim. There’s a King Cab, whose bed is six feet, six inches long, and a crew cab (as tested here), with a bed one foot shorter.


    Buried below every Titan’s surprisingly short hood is a mighty wangdoodle of an all-alloy 32-valve V-8. It produces 305 horses at 4900 rpm. That tops the Toyota Tundra’s multivalve V-8 by 65 horsepower. Truck buyers have historically pooh-poohed twin-cammers for their peakiness. Nissan insists this one isn’t, producing 90 percent of its torque below 2500 rpm. But it’s still a gentleman at step-off. Throttle tip-in is far gentler than in two previous preproduction Titans we sampled; now it’s refined, subtle, never hot-roddish. The power builds rapidly and smoothly, with a throaty V-8 whoop that will mesmerize Pro Stock fans. Around town, it feels a little like the Northstar V-8 in Caddy’s SRX. Which isn’t a bad thing to feel like. The real fun begins at 4000 rpm—yeah, a little high—and from there to the automatic-shifting redline (5800 rpm), the Titan is a Titan rocket. Hold your foot flat and, at each upshift, revs return smartly to 4000 rpm, ready again to make the most of that meaty third of the band. It means the Titan is a champ at passing slower machinery on back roads. Notice its 3.5-second 30-to-50-mph top-gear time—only 0.1 second behind the 345-horse hot-rod Silverado SS.

    In fact, our 5030-pound Titan clobbered 60 mph in 6.9 seconds. That’s 0.9 second quicker than either a Dodge Ram 2500 Quad Cab with a 345-horse Hemi or a GMC Sierra Denali with a 325-hp, 6.0-liter Vortec V-8—two of our favorite trucks. It’s odd to find yourself at the helm of a full-size pickup with such squeeze-and-squirt prowess. Heck, the Titan rolls through the quarter-mile at the same velocity as a Mercury Marauder, and it’s a 10th quicker.

    We found the rack-and-pinion steering a little heavy at parking speeds, though it lightens acceptably by 25 mph. It’s always somewhat leaden, though—perhaps the price paid for filtering out kickbacks so nicely. Tracking at freeway speeds is exemplary. At a 70-mph cruise, the Titan is as quiet as a Tundra Limited. The greatest audible irritant is wind tumbling around the huge F-250–like twin-boom mirrors.


    Cockpit ergonomics are close to flawless. The window and door-lock switches, for instance, are on a lone, flat, up-facing panel perched at the base of the A-pillar, always within reach of a left finger. The steering wheel is fat and grippy. The three rotary climate controls are a paradigm of intuition, as are the radio’s rotary volume and tuning knobs—a modern rarity. Even while wearing gloves, you can operate virtually all the secondary controls. The huge gauges feature bold white numerals on a black background, the wipers are Lexus quiet, and the A/C’s max setting should be labeled “Resolute Bay.” Overhead are five of those ubiquitous plastic swing-down sunglasses holders—the Titan clearly has a future with optometrists. Plus, there are seven grab handles, about what you’d expect in a restroom at Bill Knapp’s.

    As far as we could tell, there are two ergonomic quirks only: a liquid-crystal PRNDL readout that fades in sunlight, and a column shifter that won’t let you shift manually. To do so, you instead must depress an overdrive kill button at the column’s tip, then shift up or down by flicking your thumb banjo-style across a tiny toggle. You’ll get used to it in a few days. And shifting in this manner does allow you to delve 700 revs deeper into the redline, though it doesn’t yield quicker 0-to-60 sprints. But the system requires more focus than your average trucker will likely care to summon. If you order the optional captain’s chairs, you’ll get the more familiar gated console shifter that solves both problems. But it eats a lot of floor space and spoils the middle perch on that otherwise fantastically useful front bench.

    All the seats, by the way, are terrific—firm, supportive, clasping. They’re a trifle dowdy-looking, though. Art guy Dan Winter described them as “Wisconsin wedding-suit fabric.” The crew cab’s split rear seats, which accommodate three bratwurst-laden adults, are about an inch too short to provide perfect thigh support. I nonetheless rode 100 miles back there with no complaint, in part because my knees were always six inches from the front seatbacks. Legroom, hiproom, footroom—all are astonishing. Even welders wearing steel-toed boots will fit. The rear cushions can be folded against the rear bulkhead, creating 34 inches of fore-and-aft floor space.


    Our crew cab’s bed, rated to lug 1850 pounds, is 67.0 inches long. It’s 50.0 inches wide between the wheel wells, 61.0 inches everywhere else. The Titan’s bed is coated in a thick, slip-resistant pebble finish that Nissan says will make plastic liners redundant. We’ll see. At least it looks great now.

    Our Titan was fitted with the Big Tow package, which includes all manner of manly stuff, including a Class IV hitch and a heavy-duty radiator. You’ll be able to tow 9400 pounds—a couple of dead refrigerators, the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, Tony Swan’s race car. Nissan has made a big deal out of the lockable storage bin on the Titan’s left-rear flank. In truth, it’s fiddly to open and won’t hold much—jumper cables, a pint of Jim Beam, a deck of cards.

    Even on Michigan’s ruined roads, our two-wheel-drive Titan delivered a restful, compliant ride, with no head toss—a real accomplishment in a live-axle layout. Ride motions were beautifully damped and rarely intrusive, even over washboard gravel. For so formidable a vehicle, roll control was also good. We had little trouble storming our 10Best loop and keeping the Titan on the happy side of the center line. The ride-and-handling trade-off here reflects a lot of careful calibrating. The silent and supple 18-inch Goodyear Wranglers, in particular, are a great choice for pavement. Still, the Titan’s 0.71-g skidpad grip fell short of the 0.75-g average we logged in a four-wheel-drive truck comparo in 2002.

    This truck’s five-speed automatic is itself a high-five: seamless wide-open-throttle upshifts, kickdowns that never provoke neck muscles. The box is uncanny about either being in the correct gear or reacting instantly to summon it. And the brakes are strong and easy to modulate, though the pedal emits some funky clunks. In this class, any sub-200-foot stop from 70 mph is swell.

    The chassis and the body felt adequately rigid, and we noticed no bed shimmy. But the Titan is not as rock solid and twist-free as the new F-150. And in some matters—the tinniness of its rear doors, for instance, or the crudeness of its tailgate’s action—the Titan could still learn a trick or two from a Silverado.

    Brand loyalty in this niche is fierce. Blue-oval and bow-tie adherents, especially, would rather dump spouses and root for out-of-state college teams than invest in the enemy camp’s truck. Nissan is thus wise to woo them with big horsepower—a sure route to a hard-hatted man’s heart.

    Nissan will assemble a trifling 100,000 Titans annually at its $1.43 billion facility in Mississippi. That’s close to the number of Tundras produced in 2001 and 2002. Going big costs big, and Nissan has been fearless about signing some scary checks—$500 million at the engine plant alone. What’s more, thousands of employees are being expensively trained in the quirks of full-size trucks, and many dealerships are being retrofitted with larger lifts, tire changers, and alignment racks. Heck, Nissan had to install a big new door at its California HQ just to drive a Titan inside.

    This truck maybe isn’t a mythical earth giant, but it’s an effective tool that is as calm, quick, and user-friendly as full-size pickupping gets. A Titanic first effort, depending, of course, on prices, which won’t be fixed until November.

    “Intergallactica Freightship Saber Tooth” might have been a good name.



    Highs: Strong and velvety V-8, immense cockpit, smart ride-and-handling trade-off.

    Lows: Heavy steering, rattly tailgate, chintzy interior surfaces.

    The Verdict: The best first effort in all of full-size truckdom.



    The Big Three finally have some serious competition in the full-size pickup-truck market as Nissan has managed to produce a genuine contender. Unlike the seven-eighths-scale Toyota Tundra, the Titan has the size—and the power—to give the home teams a run for their money. The Titan also has a couple neat features that the other trucks don’t: With parking spaces getting ever narrower, the rear half-doors on the King Cab open out to almost 180 degrees, and that makes loading kids or cargo in the back seat a lot easier. Plus there’s a cargo bin in the left rear fender for storing grimy items such as jumper cables and tow straps that otherwise usually clutter up the cab.

    The Titan is a perfect example of a company staying up late and doing its homework. Nissan got the easy stuff right with the torquey V-8 engine, smooth transmission, and a correctly large body that’s the equal of the domestics. This truck has good road manners, too, and a roomy rear seat. It’s the little things, though, that suggest how much midnight oil Nissan burned. The anchor points in the bed are easily accessible, there’s a handy storage bin behind the rear wheel, the seat fabric looks durable and easy to clean, and the turning radius is reasonably tight. Sure, these are small details, but in this competitive segment, they matter.

    Four camshafts, 32 valves, and 5.6 liters of displacement simply will not be denied, as clearly demonstrated by the gutsy performance of this big Nissan pickup. I also appreciate its comfortable and spacious interior, the clever, easily adjustable partition in its bed, and its overall sense of quality and strength. For my taste, the steering is a little trucklike—slow and heavy—but otherwise, it’s a delight to drive. In fact, it will take a comparison test to sort out just how well it measures up to the new Ford F-150, as well as the existing full-size pickups. Meanwhile, every manufacturer in this segment will be feeling the pressure from this strong new entry.




    ACCELERATION (Seconds)
    Zero to 30 mph: 2.4
    40 mph: 3.6
    50 mph: 5.2
    60 mph: 6.9
    70 mph: 9.2
    80 mph: 11.9
    90 mph: 15.1
    100 mph: 19.6
    110 mph: 28.3
    Street start, 5–60 mph 7.1
    Top-gear acceleration, 30–50 mph: 3.5
    50–70 mph: 4.7
    Standing 1/4-mile: 15.4 sec @ 91 mph
    Top speed (governor limited): 114 mph

    70–0 mph @ impending lockup: 193 ft

    Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.71 g
    Understeer: moderate

    EPA city driving: 15 mpg
    EPA highway driving: 19 mpg
    C/D-observed: 15 mpg

    Idle: 41 dBA
    Full-throttle acceleration: 75 dBA
    70-mph cruising: 69 dBA

    Type: V-8, aluminum block and heads
    Bore x stroke: 3.86 x 3.62 in, 98.0 x 92.0mm
    Displacement: 339 cu in, 5552cc
    Compression ratio: 9.8:1
    Fuel-delivery system: port injection
    Valve gear: chain-driven double overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder
    Power (SAE net): 305 bhp @ 4900 rpm
    Torque (SAE net): 379 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm

    Redline: 6100 rpm

    Transmission: 5-speed automatic
    Final-drive ratio: 3.36:1
    Gear ... Ratio ... Mph/1000 rpm ... Max. test speed
    I ... 3.83 ... 7.1 ... 43 mph (6100 rpm)
    II ... 2.37 ... 11.4 ... 70 mph (6100 rpm)
    III ... 1.52 ... 17.8 ... 109 mph (6100 rpm)
    IV ... 1.00 ... 27.0 ... 114 mph (4200 rpm)
    V ... 0.83 ... 32.4 ... 114 mph (3500 rpm)

    Wheelbase: 139.8 in
    Track, front/rear: 67.5/67.5 in
    Length/width/height: 224.2/78.8/75.1 in
    Ground clearance: 9.9 in
    Drag area, Cd (0.44) x frontal area (34.3 sq ft): 15.09 sq ft
    Curb weight: 5030 lb
    Weight distribution, F/R: 54.0/46.0%
    Curb weight per horsepower: 16.5 lb
    Fuel capacity: 28.0 gal

    Type: full-length frame
    Body: material welded steel stampings

    SAE volume, front seat: 65 cu ft
    rear seat: 61 cu ft
    cargo: 48 cu ft
    Front: seats bench
    Front-seat adjustments: fore and aft, seatback angle; driver only: lumbar support
    Restraint systems, front: manual 3-point belts, center lap belt, driver and passenger front airbags
    rear: manual 3-point belts

    Front: ind, unequal-length control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar
    Rear: rigid axle supported by semi-elliptical leaf springs

    Type: rack-and-pinion with variable power assist
    Steering ratio: 19.5:1
    Turns lock-to-lock: 3.6
    Turning circle curb-to-curb: 45.9 ft

    Type: hydraulic with vacuum power assist, anti-lock control, and panic brake assist
    Front: 12.6 x 1.0-in vented disc
    Rear: 12.6 x 0.6-in disc

    Wheel size/type: 8.0 x 18 in/cast aluminum
    Tires: Goodyear Wrangler SR-A, P265/70SR-18
    Test inflation pressures, F/R: 34/34 psi
    Spare: full-size on alloy wheel

  2. HisXLNC

    HisXLNC ๑۩۞۩๑ Hot ๑۩۞۩๑

    Oct 26, 2000
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    Island of Electronicus
    I am happy. :wiggle:
  3. Wave

    Wave Carlos Spicy Weiner

    Mar 21, 2000
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    Seattle, WA
    :cool:... thanks for the post. I've been meaning to track down some info...
  4. Mega-JC: Da Return

    Mega-JC: Da Return Tiger Knee!

    Sep 7, 2001
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    Tacoma, Wa
    wow I kinda like it :bigthumb:
  5. Mr.Fusion

    Mr.Fusion feast upon my magnificence

    Mar 20, 2000
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  6. Mr.Fusion

    Mr.Fusion feast upon my magnificence

    Mar 20, 2000
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  7. dragon1976

    dragon1976 Guest

  8. dragon1976

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