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The Titan has received considerable praise since it was introduced for its power, towing capacity and work-truck capability. The 305-horsepower, 5.6-liter V8 engine is very impressive with its 379 lb-ft of peak torque at 3600 rpm. That beats any other standard engine in a half-ton, crew-cab pickup, but how does it compare with top-of-the-line engines from the competition?

  • Ford: 5.4-liter V8, 300 horsepower, 365 lb-ft at 3750 rpm
  • GM: 5.3-liter V8, 295 horsepower, 335 lb-ft at 4000 rpm
  • Dodge: 5.7-liter V8, 345 horsepower, 375 lb-ft at 4200 rpm
  • Toyota: 4.7-liter V8, 282 horsepower, 325 lb-ft at 3400 rpm

Combined with a smooth-shifting 5-speed automatic, we had plenty of power to haul our load over canyon roads on a 400-mile round trip. Manually downshifting for hills was a breeze with the gated shifter: just tap it to the left for 4th Gear. But the electronically controlled transmission did an excellent job on its own of reducing gear hunting when the engine was asked for a little more power. We averaged just over 16 mpg on our trip. EPA fuel economy estimates are 14 city/19 highway.

Driving the mid-trim SE was quite comfortable. The bucket seats are large and easy on the back for long cruises. The adjustable pedals and tilt steering wheel accommodate just about any size driver. The dash layout is functional with large knobs and generous vents. Interior lighting was also exceptional with sufficient candlepower from map lights and IP lights that are easy on the eyes during nighttime cruising.

Our test model had two impressive entertainment options. The $1800 Rockford Fosgate package featured a pounding 350-watt audio system with 6-CD in-dash changer and 10 speakers, including a subwoofer. Even though it’s pricey, sound quality was outstanding at every level and with all types of programming. We also had the $1450 DVD rear video theatre system with a 7-inch color monitor and wireless headphones. The DVD player was located in the center console, allowing access by either the driver or rear-seat passengers. A dual-media capability allowed driver and passengers to listen to different CDs or radio and CD.

We rate overall ride quality high, even though the cab is not as quiet as the Ford. Our only real problem was visibility. The A-pillars are huge and the high profile hood makes judging the curbs a little tenuous. The good news is that Nissan offers large, extendable mirrors matched with a separate, smaller convex mirror for wide-angle viewing.

Our 5019-pound 2-wheel-drive Crew Cab SE had a base price of $26,700 but that includes a stunning list of standard equipment:

  • 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes
  • 5-speed automatic transmission
  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • P265/70R18 tires
  • Chrome bumpers
  • Sliding rear window
  • Locking tailgate
  • Air conditioning w/ rear ducts
  • CD player w/ 8 speakers
  • Power windows/door locks
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel

Besides the entertainment and utility options already listed, our test truck had a $950 Off-Road Package (Rancho shock absorbers, lower 3.36:1 rear axle ratio, fog lamps, tow hooks and skid plates), $850 Tow Package (Class IV hitch, tow mirrors, heavy-duty battery, transmission temperature gauge and Vehicle Dynamic Control w/ active-brake limited slip), $100 splash guards and $110 floor mats. Total MSRP: $34,260. The only other option we would have preferred is the $850 side airbag package.

Nissan’s fullsize truck sales haven’t reached early goals yet, despite impressive features for the cost, strong engine, max towing capacity of 9500 pounds, spacious crew cab cabin, glowing reviews and winning a few multi-truck shootouts. Word is spreading, although not as fast as Nissan would like, about the value and capability of the Nissan’s first fullsize truck. One problem, according to a Nissan official, is that many owners of Big 3 trucks who want to switch are “upside down” on their current loans. That means they owe more on their loan than their truck is worth, so working a trade-in deal is more difficult. Those owners find it easier to fold in the balance with another purchase from the first dealer and finance company and forget about the Nissan showroom.

Our test vehicle was a 2004 model but we hear of some interesting improvements and options for 2005, including:

  • Power up/down rear window w/ defroster for crew cabs
  • Dampened tailgate assist
  • Brushed aluminum interior trim on LE trims
  • Spray-in bedliner available as stand-alone option on base XE trim
  • New badging on front doors that say, “V8 Titan”
  • 2 new exterior colors: Red Alert and Steel

By entering the fullsize truck market, Nissan isn’t trying to reinvent a true American icon. This truck was built with extensive American input and matches the Big 3 in half-ton capability while promoting Japanese virtues of fit ‘n’ finish and a little bit of technology (the Toyota Tundra is the only other fullsize truck that offers a vehicle stability control option). The Titan offers snappy throttle response, solid handling, comfortable ride, generous interior dimensions and a respectable 6486 GVWR. It deserves a look by anyone cross-shopping half-ton crew cab pickups.

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