Test: 2004 Nissan Titan
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In the late ‘90s, the personal-style crew cab pickup started to appear. Those were trucks with four full-sized, forward-hinged doors and enough room in the back to comfortably seat adults. The extra cab length was achieved by sacrificing the cargo bed, allowing manufacturers to save money by using extended-cab wheelbase and frames. Die-hard truck owners said these shorty-bed trucks would fail as work trucks. With compact trucks such as the Frontier Crew Cab, there was a tight fit when hauling an ATV, and the benchmark of all work chores—the 4x8 sheet of plywood—required some tie-down ingenuity.
But these are trucks geared toward personal use, and crew cabs appear to offer enough utility to make the new 4-door pickups the hottest selling segment in the industry. Hauling passengers more comfortably is the priority of these motorists, not toting a ton of bricks. This new breed of truck owner wants maneuverability and the option of parking in a normal garage. Traditional fullsize crew cab pickups had beds up to eight feet long and could carry enough building materials to raise a barn. The personal truck owner just wanted to take home plants for the wife or haul camping equipment.
About the same time we received the keys to a 2004 Nissan Titan Crew Cab, a friend called needing help with a move. Now we had a chance to see just how useful a 5-foot-7 bed would be. But first we had to get past all the utility options that Nissan offers.
Our test truck came with the $900 Utility Bed Package, $200 Utili-Track sliding floor tray, $270 Utili-Track sliding bed divider and $280 Utili-Track sliding bed extender. The Bed Package includes the Utili-Track channel system with adjustable tie-down cleats, a factory-applied spray-on bedliner, 12-volt outlet in the bed, tailgate illumination and a side lockbox behind the left rear wheel well. While $1650 of bed goodies may be useful for carrying different items of various sizes, it wasn’t conducive for holding half of a living room.
First, I had to remove the 4 adjustable tie-downs along the bed rail. These cleats are massive and will support numerous straps pulled as tight as any two weightlifters can tug, but the tie-downs also take away about seven inches of bed width if you’re hauling large items. All that’s needed to slide the cleats out of the tracks is a 10mm wrench to unbolt the end stops. The bed extender support also slides out at this point. But I had to remove the tailgate to side the floor tray out. Despite the massive appearance of the Titan, an average-size person can manage the tailgate alone. The big tie-down cleats also work in the floor rails that support the sliding tray.
Once all the accessories were out of the bed, I loaded a large sleeper sofa, love seat, all the pillows and a few large, heavy boxes. The remaining smaller boxes were stacked in the back of the cab after folding up the 60/40 split bench seat. The standard tie-downs in the bed were used to secure the cargo, since we had removed the sliding cleats to avoid damaging the sofas.
From a utilitarian point, the bed is well-designed and functional. There is 41.8 cubic feet of cargo volume in a bed that measures 63.8 inches wide and 19.9 inches deep. Standard payload on our test model was 1585 pounds. (1453 pounds for a 4x4 models, and remember, payload also includes the weights of occupants.) The factory spray-in liner worked quite well to keep cargo from sliding and appeared to be tough enough to prevent gouges in the bed. The tailgate workstation concept with lights integrated into the side frames worked quite well in the evening when combined with overhead cargo illumination. Inside the cab there are plenty of storage options that are easily within reach and deep enough to hold most common items used by drivers, such as CDs and cell phones.
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