Hallway conversations about our 2004 long-term Titan tend to focus on the powertrain. It's not surprising--the truck's 5.6-liter V-8 is a power monster and makes the 4x2 pickup a blast to hustle around town. Last year, after sending the truck to our Florida offices for duty among the oranges and gators, the Titan's powerful engine proved useful in running from three major hurricanes. In fact, it helped get editor Jeff Bartlett to The Home Depot when the news broke that the first storm was on its way. Loading the bed with plywood, he made it back in plenty of time to cover the windows on his recently built home, protecting them from storm damage. The Titan's factory spray-on bedliner prevented scratches and dents in the bed, but Bartlett did notice that the rubber feet on the bed extender were susceptible to being clobbered when loading four-by-eight sheets.

During his natural-disaster preparation, Bartlett tells us he still found time to rock out with this truck's upgraded Rockford Fosgate stereo. The 350-watt premium system has a six-disc CD changer that pumps music through 10 speakers including a subwoofer--sure to satisfy the bass-thumping needs of any audiophile. This could easily be one of the most complete and best-sounding systems currently offered in any full-size pickup. We also like the secondary controls on the steering wheel, keeping audio adjustment at our fingertips.

Once the storms subsided, Bartlett fired up the Titan time and again to transport furniture, supplies, and landscaping to his home. He loaded three 24x30 cabinets into the bed and transported them without banging or scratching any of the furniture.

The Titan is a looker and gets lots of comments and neck turns everywhere it's driven, whether on the east or west coast. Unfortunately, despite the truck's handsome and aggressive exterior, several staffers commented on interior quality issues, such as rough and hard surfaces and uneven textures. For instance, the instrument panel, though full of useful gauges, is enveloped in hard--almost brittle--plastic, and the switchgear on the HVAC feels downmarket and out of place in such a brawny truck. A few extra dollars spent on interior appointments could've made a big difference in quality perception.

In addition to performing serious home-improvement tasks, this big maroon truck helps out when we want to go have fun. Of note, a photo-location-scouting trip to the Eastern Sierras resulted in a flat rear tire, but we found it easy to bolt on the spare and continue kicking up dust at one of our favorite playgrounds. Also, assistant art director Danny King packed the Titan with camping gear and people and was happy to report the rear-seat passengers couldn't stop talking about how much legroom they enjoyed.

Our last trip to the dealer cost us $83.30 for the required 7500-mile service, but included a new passenger visor (ours broke), a new head unit for the radio (AM reception was really bad), and a reattached inner fenderwell liner, which had come loose during driving. In a few thousand miles we'll take the Titan to the dealer for its 15,000-mile service and bring with us a list of tidbits that plague the truck: the dash-mounted power point is dead, ABS warning lamps are on, and the radio's AM reception is on the fritz--yet again. Although they're minor annoyances and will most likely be covered under warranty, it's still disappointing. In the meantime, the sunny Florida weekends beckon, and this truck is ready for the chores we'll toss at it.

2004 Nissan Titan 4x2 SE Crew Cab
Base price $26,700
Price as tested $32,240
Vehicle layout Front engine, 2WD, 4-door, 5-pass
Engine 5.6-liter DOHC 32-valve V-8
SAE net hp @ rpm 305@4900
SAE net torque @ rpm 379@3600
Transmission Five-speed automatic
0-60 mph, sec 7.2
EPA, city/hwy 14/19
Total mileage 13,771
Average test mpg 14.7
Observed worst mpg 7.8
Observed best mpg 18.0
Average distance per fill-up, miles 213
Average cost per fill-up $30.91
Average cost per gallon 2.20
Number of services 1
Overall service cost $83.30
Problem areas Poor radio reception
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