Minggu, 01 Juni 2008

Nissan Titan Review

By William C Montgomery

When it comes to full size pickups, three words have dominated headlines over the last six months: Toyota, Toyota, Toyota. Can the Tundra penetrate the Big 2.5’s final sanctuary? Who will crumble first, GM or Ford? It’s made in Texas! Yada, yada, yada. But Toyota’s not the only American-made foreign brand playing in the full-size pickup truck sandbox. Nissan was here first and they’re not going away. So can this Mississippi Titan play ball or is it destined to remain a third-string niche player?

Nissan jumped feet first into the full-sized truck market with their 2004 Titan model. Wide columns of chrome in the grill and front fascia projects mass and solidity. The now familiar look has aged well and bespeaks design originality. And there you have it.

If you’re asking “What pickup would John Stuart Mill Drive?”, Nissan gets high marks for glove-friendly door handles, standard factory spray-on bed liner, Utili-track cargo restraining system, a 12-volt bed outlet and a hidden strut that eases tailgate opening and closing. Gadget lovers will appreciate the “climate-resistant” lockbox positioned in the driver’s side rear quarter panel– until the the real world dents the panel and renders the cubby “climate-tolerant."

The Titan’s practicality continues with front seats that fold flat, providing blue print-wielding contractors with a useable work table. The Titan’s center console storage is large enough to stow and secure a laptop computer or, for Luddite load luggers, hang a few file folders. Pickup truck buyers love these features so much Nissan’s competitors have copied them.

Nissan’s laid out the interior controls and gauges logically, with genre-appropriate austerity. The Titan Crew Cab supplies abundant room for four husky carpenters or a family of five. Dashboard and door panels are appropriately washable. Passengers who utilize valet parking at Kennedy Center events will wrinkle their noses at the Titan’s confines. But that’s okay; this truck isn’t for them.

Country music lovers will applaud the Titan’s optional Rockford Fosgate 10-speaker audio system, including a bottom-tickling under seat sub-woofer. Other optional creature comforts include MP3 player connectivity, satellite navigation and radio, a DVD player and backup sonar.

What lies beneath is what usually gets hardcore pickup truck buyers blood a pumpin’. Nissan uses a fully boxed ladder frame supplied by Tower Automotive. Ford F-150 aficionados point out that the Titan’s “boxed” rails are really two C rails bonded together, rather than formed from one piece of material. Yes, well, the Titan’s frame’s cross members are welded into place for extra strength, rather than riveted. Overall, it's a professional grade tool, ready for years of action.

Most full size pickup trucks offer a wide array of engines of varying displacement: six-cylinders, diesels and big bore V8’s. Nissan keeps it simple: you get your choice of a 5.6-liter V8 married to a five-speed cog swapper or somebody else’s truck. For 2007, Nissan’s engine savants have finagled four percent more power from their 32-valve mill, boosting grunt to 317hp and 385 lbs-ft of torque. Too bad they forgot to do something about the abysmal 14/18mpg efficiency.

Still, it’s a dearth of power compared to Tundra’s 381hp and 401 ft.-lbs. of twist. But the Titan isn’t about to be left in the dust. A low first gear ratio and impatient torque converter get the 5,323lbs leviathan moving in a hurry– sometimes a little too quickly. Thanks to the standard limited-slip differential, I painted two symmetrical 10’ black lines on the concrete when I launched from a four-way stop. Fortunately the cop right behind me had better things to do than write a love letter to my spastic right foot.

My test truck’s [optional] Rancho performance shocks helped give the Titan surprising poise when maneuvering. Nissan’s pickup truck is decidedly more athletic feeling than Toyota’s new Tundra. For that matter, the Titan’s considerably more agile than trucks from Ford, GM or Dodge. The Titan’s no Lotus Elise through the slalom, but it delivers far more confidence through a cloverleaf than any of its rivals.

When Nissan first ushered the new Titan onto American dealer's showroom floors, the 'Merican made pickup was considered big, bad and bold. Since then Ford, GM and Toyota have updated and enlarged their models. These days, the Titan looks a whole lot less Titanic, and its prospects have dimmed.

Since the Titan’s introduction, Nissan’s plant has been operating just below its 90k units per year capacity. While not an abject failure, it’s not the runaway success Nissan envisioned. Reliability issues have certainly not helped it chances. And now Toyota’s entrĂ©e with a true full-sized truck is forcing deep discounts at Nissan dealerships. For buyers, that's a good thing. The Titan is a worthy (if sometimes quality challenged) competitor in a field crowded with excellence.