Background: The 2004 model year is shaping up to be the year of the full-size pickup. Ford Motor Co. started the ball rolling in September when the totally revamped 2004 full-size F-150 hit dealerships. It’s the best-selling full-size pickup in the segment as well as the best-selling vehicle in the United States for the past 21 years. As in year’s past, Ford must fend off challenges from domestic rivals General Motors and Dodge who also offer a wide variety of pickup products of their own. Unlike in years past, the American Big Three must contend with worthy full-size challengers from Japanese automakers. In June of 1999, Toyota introduced the Tundra pickup, its first full-size pickup built in the United States. In the 2004 model year, Nissan debuts its newest pickup, the full-size Titan. Like Tundra, Titan is built in America for the U.S. market. The United States is the largest market in the world for pickup trucks. Interestingly, Thailand ranks second. The battle of the full-size pickups is more than just a fancy passing for the players involved. Full-size pickups have the largest profit margins of just about any vehicle on the road, even with the plethora of incentives currently available. Titan is big. It’s built on a body-on-frame ladder platform found in most rugged, work-horse off-road capable trucks. Dealerships began receiving shipments this week. Nissan’s new Canton, Miss. plant, home to the Titan, is located fifteen miles north of the state capital of Jackson. It opened for business seven months ago. The new plant has the capacity to assemble as many as 400,000 vehicles annually. Nissan also has a second U.S. plant in Smyrna, Tenn. which opened in 1983.
Engine/Trim level: As with just about every full-size pickup, Titan can be mixed and matched in a wide variety of configurations. Titan comes with two rows of seating in either King Cab versions (with smaller rear access doors on both sides) and more spacious Crew Cab (with full-sized rear doors and full-size back seat region). Each offers three trim levels: XE, SE and up-level LE. In addition each trim level is available in rear-wheel two wheel drive or four-wheel drive. A 5-foot-6-inch-length bed comes with the Crew Cab while a 6-foot 6-inch variation is standard with the King Cab. One engine powers all versions: a 5.6-liter, double overhead cam V-8 delivers 305 horsepower and 379 lb.-ft. of torque for heavy-duty trailering. This engine offers more horsepower than most competing powertrains in the segment. The high performance Chevrolet Silverado SS is one of the few providing more oomph. Five-speed automatic transmission comes standard. No manual transmission is offered. Towing capacity is 9,500 pounds (when equipped with the towing package) while payload capacity checks in at 1,692 pounds. The fuel tank holds 28 gallons of regular unleaded gasoline. Fuel economy ratings check in at 14 miles per gallon in city travel and 19 m.p.g. highway for two-wheel drive versions while four-wheel drive editions register 18 m.p.g. highway Tundra’s sole V-8 powertrain is a 4.7-liter V-8 cranking out 240 horses. Tundra also offers a V-6 engine. Ford F-150 offers two V-8 gas engine selections: the 4.6-liter V-8 cranks out 231 horses while the larger, 5.4-liter generates 300 horsepower. Most domestic automakers offer more than one engine selection in their full-size pickup stable, including diesels; but Titan’s sole engine, in addition to providing decent horsepower and torque, idles with a quite dignity and rumbles with authority when punching the pedal.
Price: Nissan supplied the Daily Herald with two Titan variants: a pre-production King Cab and a production version of the larger cabined Crew Cab. Nissan announced Titan pricing last month. The lowest priced version, a King Cab XE with two-wheel drive starts at $22,400. The price jumps to $25,500 with the addition of four-wheel drive. Mid-level SEs start at $24,400 for two-wheel drive and $27,500 for four-wheel versions. Top-level LE includes a $28,800 starting price for two-wheel drive and $31,900 for four-wheel versions. A two-wheel drive Crew Cab XE starts at $25,100 while the four-wheel version checks in at $28,200. A mid-grade SE lists at $26,700 for two-wheel drive editions and $29,800 for a four-wheel drive. The most-opulent LE starts at $31,100 for a two-wheel drive version and $34,200 for a four-wheel drive model. All prices are exclusive of the $650 destination charge. Our Crew Cab 4 x 2 production vehicle included a $31,100 starting price and $34,050 bottom line when factoring in the tow package ($850), DVD mobile theater ($1,450) and $650 destination charge. The lowest priced Tundra, a stripped down two-door regular cab with manual transmission, V-6 power and two-wheel drive starts at $15,955. The lowest-priced Ford F-150, a regular cab (with rear access doors) two-wheel drive short bed with the 4.6-liter, V-8 starts at $21,215. Comparably-equipped Titans run about $2,500 less than the competition but remember, Nissan does not offer the same generous level of incentives as the domestic automakers currently provide. Ford offers 0.9 to 2.9 percent financing rates on 2004 F-150s depending on the length of the loan. Ford also has a $1,000 loyalty program for shoppers trading in a full-size GM or Dodge pickup.
Standard equipment: In addition to automatic transmission, Titan includes rack-and-pinion power steering, power windows, cruise control, power door locks, AM-FM stereo with compact disc player and speed-sensitive power steering. A double wishbone suspension is standard up front while rigid leaf suspension is found the rear. A navigation system is optional in the top-level LE only. A rear DVD entertainment system is optional in SE and LE Crew Cab editions. Secondary steering-wheel-mounted audio controls are standard in LE and optional in SE. Upgraded sound systems are offered in most editions. Upgraded towing and off-road packages are also available.
Inside: Titan’s dashboard reflects a testosterone-influenced, big, bold design. Not many curves, just a sharp-edged feel. Nissan chose long, rectangular air vents in contrast to Ford which utilized circular vents in the F-150 makeover. Gray pewter was the dashboard and seat color scheme. Short stubs grace both sides of the steering column. Headlights operate from the turn signal stalk while front windshield wipers activate from a right-hand side stub. To the steering column’s right is the shift-on-the-fly, electronic control transfer case dial for switching into four-wheel high and low (in four-wheel drive editions only). Between front bucket seats (where equipped) is a large, deep storage bin hinged on the right side. Titan also features many small nooks for storing loose change and other items. In front is the floor-mounted, five-speed automatic transmission shifter. Dual in-line cup holders are to the right cloaked by a flip-top cover. Three ceiling caddy compartments hold sun glasses, maps and other small objects. Molded grab handles are placed on the “A” pillar while an additional one is above the passenger side door. Power mirror, window and lock controls are placed rather high on the driver’s door almost parallel to the window bottom. As with most trucks, the parking brake is foot operated. Leather appointed seating comes standard in up-level LE models. Cloth seating is the norm in XE and SE. Six or five seating positions are available. Entry XE comes with a 40/20/40 split bench seat up front while SE and LE have two captain’s chairs. A bench seat is optional in SE. Titan’s second-row seat is a bench style. If more cargo room is needed in back, seat cushions fold up flush against seat backs. Leg room in the King Cab’s second row is tight for grown adults and teenagers. If the back area is to be used to primarily cart riders, opt for the larger Crew Cab, with one of the most spacious interiors of any half-ton pickup on the road.
Exterior: Overall Titan dimensions are larger than Tundras and more in line with domestic competitors. King Cab editions feature the smaller, access doors in back (with non-roll-down windows) and a smaller rear cabin area. The larger Crew Cabs have full-sized rear doors and a full-size cabin. Rear access doors in the King Cab, hinged on the outside swing out in ‘clam shell’ fashion 180 degrees, making entering or leaving the back a little easier. Front doors must be opened before the access door can open via a pull handle on the inside pillar. Wide step rails (or running boards) come standard, a good aspect since it’s a long haul from the ground to the cabin. Titan’s front hood is short with the center region an inch or two higher than the sides. Thick, strap-like, chrome-laden handles adorn the doors. Large, side-view mirrors also utilize chrome enhancements. Our Crew Cab test vehicle included a rectangular concave mirror beneath the standard one, very useful in magnifying blind spot areas along the side. The large, imposing front grille includes a checkerboard-like background. Nissan’s circular logo in the center flanked by large, thick vertical chrome bars. Below is a large air dam with circular fog lights on each side. A removable, whip-like radio antenna protrudes from the passenger-side front fender. The square fuel tank door is on the driver’s side rear fender. Flanking the tailgate are vertical taillights that wrap around to the side fender. A nice Crew Cab feature is a locking, bi-level storage area found on the rear driver’s side fender useful for storing tools or other small items. The cargo region is available with a factory-applied, high durability, spray-in bedliner helping to prevent scratching and corrosion. Also in back is an integrated cargo tie down system with two channel rails running the length of the bed. Tie down rails are also built into Titan’s side and header panel.
Warranty: Nissan vehicles include a five-year or 60,000 mile (whichever comes first) powertrain warranty and a three-year, 30,000-mile basic warranty. Roadside assistance is good for three years or 36,000 miles while rust and corrosion is covered for five years (unlimited coverage).
Safety equipment: All Titans include dual front air bags, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, child safety rear door locks, energy-absorbing steering column, front and rear crumple zones, vehicle security system and keyless entry. Optional in all three models is a front seat curtain air bag system. Power adjustable foot pedals are standard in LE while optional in SE.
Final thoughts: Give the folks at Nissan credit. Titan is an excellent first effort from a company that never offered a pickup of this magnitude in the past. Titan’s larger size and more powerful numbers, when compared to Toyota’s Tundra, could be deciding factors if shoppers are choosing between the only two full-size pickups from Asian manufacturers. Titan’s versatile cargo region is well thought out. Nissan expects to sell 100,000 units annually. The questions is where are these buyers coming from? Pickup customers historically are a brand loyal bunch so persuading a Ford, Dodge or Chevy owner to switch allegiances is a tough, but not insurmountable sell. Both Nissan and Toyota are better off targeting current buyers thinking of moving up to a work truck.