I drove, pulled, climbed and squealed the tires in California’s wine country with the newest full-size truck, the Nissan Titan and the Pathfinder Armada SUV. Did I mention the black marks. It’s fun to have power instantly, releasing a deep throaty exhaust note that will remind you of your high school muscle car. Six brands of full size trucks, why should cars have all the choices?
My uncle Jerry had a Nissan diesel pickup truck in the eighties that was well built, actually Nissans have been around the longest in mini-trucks in this country. Ford had a Courier mini-truck made my Mazda, Chevy had a LUV made my Isuzu and Dodge had a Ram 50 by Mitsubishi. Those mini-trucks were kind of handy, like a motorized wheelbarrow. I even had a few of those mini-trucks, but don’t tell anyone.
It’s going to be different with the new full-size Nissan truck, called Titan, I guess so you don’t think small this time. And it’s certainly not small, the dimensions put it in the same size cateragory as the GM 1500’s and Dodge 1500 and the old Ford F150. As the 2004 Ford F150 has grown. Most modern trucks computers control the throttle by wire. And with that manufactures don’t usually give you all the juice at the start. Nissan recognized the marketing value of having full throttle at the get go. It’s fun squealing the tires at will, and with the gated shifter, you can up shift and down shift like a manual tranny. This can be valuable, leading a trailer down hill. Even the column shifter can be manually shifted through all 5 gears with a toggle switch on the shifter stem.and the front passenger seat folds forward.
When you use the low range of the transfer case with optional 4×4, the computer maps a different throttle setting so you don’t do too much headrest ping pong flying down the road. But it does make you feel younger when flooring the foot feed, plants you in the seat!
Double hinge doors make the King Cab truly accessible opening almost 180 degrees. The rear seats fold up, allowing incredible interior space. Many great ideas in the Titan truck that makes it a true threat to Detroit’s domestic truck dominance. The King Cab comes with a 6′ 7″ bed.
When the Toyota Tundra replaced the T100 you could still tell Toyota didn’t understand the way a lot of Americans use their trucks. The Tundra is a quality truck, but it’s really made for car drivers. Pickup trucks are the preferred mode of transportation for people who what to set higher, see farther, feel safer from a mass of metal and haul and tow anything. I’ll give Nissan credit for taking the time to ask American truck owners what they like and what they want in a truck. They don’t have all the different configurations that the big three have yet, so they have targeted the recreational buyer more than the fleet owner. There is only one engine and one transmission available, two cabs, two bed lengths and 4×2 or 4×4. But don’t feel bad because of a lack of choices, the all aluminum, cast iron sleeved 5.6L V-8 puts out 305 horsepower @4900 RPM with 379 lb-ft of torque at @ 3600 RPM. 90% of the torque is available at 2500 RPM. This translates to a trailer capacity of 9500#’s. These impressive stats puts Titan in the middle of the pack for power, beating Toyota and the new 2004 Ford F150 for horsepower and torque. Nissan has one Running Rascal even on cheap gas 87 octane.
I drove the Nissan Titan and new full-size Pathfinder Armada SUV with the same engine and transmission through the hills of Napa Valley CA. 500 miles of grapes growing up and down hills along the Silverado highway with curvy roads made for sport cars and “muscle trucks”. Once in awhile I’d have to slow down for the Lamborghini’s putting along their way to Pebble Beach. This is where the gated shifter was a blast! Even if you just let the transmission shift itself, the shift points are set at the right RPM torque curve for instant power. Using the tow mode in 1rst and 2nd will hold the gears longer to allow the biggest load have full power between shifts and for lower speeds in slow traffic as to not shift too often. I did pull an approximately 7000# boat around and you know it, I squealed the tires at will. Of course that was my option, the truck was totally controllable when I wanted to act civilized. We also climbed a rocky road never needing to use the 4×4. The truck handled the speed bumps, (craters) and curves with ease and little wheel hop.
Gaited shifting with the console automatic was fun with great control for manually going through the gears up and down to control that trailer following you. We like manual transmissions for control and the fun part of driving, but then there are stop signs, traffic lights, coffee cups and cell phones so I have to have auto trannies. Here is the best of both worlds. The control knobs on the dash are big for your gloves, it will be winter again. Click on the picture to enlarge and click the back button to return for the rest of the story.
Trailering. I’m seeing an increase in 1/2 ton trucks being used to pull trailers. 2-horse goosenecks are becoming more popular. And Nissan gave Titan the equipment to handle trailers with trailer mirrors that telescope, the torque converter locks in 4th and 5th gear, tranny temp gauge is optional with the tow package along with a class 4 receiver hitch, tranny cooler, and trailer wiring harness. The frame is boxed but not hydro formed. The receiver hitch bolts to the bottom of the frame like GM and Fords 3/4 ton trucks. Both front and rear axles are from well known Dana with the rear being a Dana 44. The engine holds 7 quarts of oil, another clue of how serious Nissan is about Titan being the real deal. Maximum trailer capacity is 9500#’s.
The Titan offers traction control on both front and rear axles. Later an e-locker will be available on 4×4 which can be turned on in low range. The tranny pan has a drain plug, which I was glad to see, since pulling trailers does mean changing oil more often. 4-wheel 12.6″ disc brakes, 4 wheel 4-channel ABS which controls the traction control. Instead of twin fans side by side, Titan has one on the outside of the radiator and one on the inside. Does that make it a push pull fan? So much done well on the Titan, I’m looking forward to my week of pulling trailers with it in the Rockies.
The bed of the Utili-track System. 5 channels to attach to. Securing cargo properly is another safety feature I appreciate. We’ve all seen what happens when things blow out of the truck we’re following and exciting evasive maneuvers test our set belts.
Oh yeah, the bed, well it starts with a standard bedside tool/storage box on the drivers side behind the rear wheel of the bed. It has a movable shelf and comes in handy for a hitch drawbar or all the tie down straps you can use with the Utili-track bed. My dad’s 72 GMC had a toolbox in the bottom below the bed floor. We had our tire chains it. Who had 4×4 in 72? The optional Utili-track will start a new wave in truck beds. I can tell Nissan has been visiting SEMA looking at aftermarket options. This bed comes with a factory sprayed in bedliner with a full factory warranty. Then there are 5 C-channel tracks that allow any option you can think of to be tied to them. We were shown adjustable cleats that could tie down motorcycles or feed bags. Another option is a bed divider that slides in the floor and bed rail channels to lock in place where you need them. Even a tonneau cover will clamp to the tracks.
I should have thought of some of this stuff. Nissan must have talked to some farmers. They had a crossover toolbox attached to the side rails, that was nice, it would slide out to the back. It looks to me like the new bed slides where a tray will slide out the back of the truck bed for easy access is going to be one of the more popular aftermarket products you will see more of. The Nissan bed also comes with a 12-volt outlet near the rear and when you open the tailgate with the cab lights on, you have a light on each side of the rear bed frame. What a tailgate party with 12 volt for the ice box and lights to see who you are setting next to.
Safety, another truck first is Vehicle Dynamic Control option. Yeah I’m talking about YAW and Gyro’s again. Continental makes the Electronic Stability Control System for the Titan that detects if the truck is going in a direction different from the steering direction. Now talk about safety! The truck, through it’s ABS brakes, traction control, and throttle decelerator can correct over and understeer providing safe control on slick, loose surfaces as well as curves. This is exceptional considering how a empty truck can fishtail easier than a car without efficient cargo weight to balance the distribution of the load on each axle. VDC is included in the Tow Package. The Titan also has Electronic Brake force Distribution to adjust braking force based on the load the truck is carrying. Rounding out the safety features is the standard Tire Pressure Monitor System, telling you when your tires are over or under inflated. I think all trucks and trailers should have this system. Knowing of a low tire before it gets hot enough to blow would save lives, tires and those stressful moments when you hear the noise then fell the vibration in the steering wheel as you try to get over to the shoulder of the road.
The rear leaf springs are mounted outside the frame to lower the truck and use the frame to protect the power train. Looking under the frame was very clean with nothing hanging down to be damaged off-road. Pay attention to this GM, no need for cross members hanging below the frame. The off-road package has 4 skid plates Rancho shocks and larger tires.
Seventeen inch tires are standard on the XE, with 18’s standard on the SE and LE models. Titan’s on center power rack-and-pinion steering is tight and precise feeling more like a car than a full size truck. The steel double wishbone front suspension gives smooth road handling leaving the rear leaf suspension mounted to the outside of the boxed frame for load carrying and a nice low stance that is easy to climb into. Nice to be able to step up into a truck without a ladder. The older I get the less truck climbing I like to do. The front visibility is great looking over the short hood. The A-pillar (holding the windshield) is far enough forward and the ceiling high enough to wear Hoss’s 10 gallon hat.
The stiff boxed frame kept the truck tight allowing the road impact to move the suspension instead of the frame. The Class IV hitch with the towing package bolts to the bottom of the frame like we seen for decades in the other trucks. Click on the picture to the right.
The rear axle ratio’s are different from what you are used to. The standard ratio is 2.93 and the towing package or off-road package lowers you to 3.35. Higher than you are use to in a full size truck. Nissan claims that with the lower transmission ratio’s they’ve incorporated into the 5-speed automatic transmission, that the power to the rear wheels is equivalent to a 4.10 axle ration with a 4-speed automatic transmission. The Titan had no problem pulling the almost 7000# boat at any speed I could achieve weaving around the Lamborghini’s on the Silverado highway. I’ll know more about how these higher ratio’s perform pulling a trailer when I can tow up I-70 and Vail Pass.
Nissan’s first full-size SUV, the Pathfinder Armada shares engines and transmissions with the Titan truck along with the safety features and a standard side curtain air bag that covers all three rows of seats.. Both the Titan and Armada have a “chiseled look” nose that makes their brand highly recognizable. Self leveling air shocks available on the Armada are designed to level you while towing a trailer which will be an asset with the rear independent suspension. With a slightly lower towing ratings than the Titan and a shorter wheelbase, the Armada is a very versatile SUV.
With seating for eight with the standard 3rd row seat. Also standard backup sensor will produces a solid tone 6 inches from the bumper. Running boards are standard. The optional power rear lift gate is a handy feature when your hands are full. A unique feature I liked on the Armada was the 2nd and 3rd row of seats fold flat fast and the front passenger seat folds over forward to load that long extension ladder or planks. Up to 14 cup holders for the eight passengers, this full-size SUV shows the direction American buyers are headed from mini-vans to more stylish larger SUV’s. The Armada should be in showrooms soon, with the Titan out in December.