If you're going to step into the ring with the big boys, you need to come out swinging. Nissan did exactly that when it introduced its all-new Titan in 2004. To focus its attack, Nissan only offered King Cab and Crew Cab models with a single engine choice. Wheelbase options were simplified as well, coming in one length for both configurations--139.8 inches. Two bed lengths were offered to accommodate the added length of the Crew Cab's seating area versus the King Cab's.

The sole engine--the 5.6-liter, 32-valve V-8--Nissan offers in its full-size is rated at 305 horsepower and 379 pound-feet of torque. But the rated numbers are highly underrated: "If this is 305 horses, they're Clydesdales and not Shetlands," noted one of our editors. The five-speed transmission was another standout feature. We liked the feel of the lever when manually rowing up and down the gears. Gear hits were soft but sturdy. Our only complaint involves the plastic casing surrounding the transmission console area. When vigorously working the gears, the lever made unnerving cracks as it hit into the plastic. There wasn't any console damage in our 12 months, but it might be something we'd keep an eye on if we owned the truck.

Our two-wheel-drive tester came with the off-road suspension package. The ride was stiffer than some would've liked, while others seem to understand the inherent trade-off for a vehicle like this: it's designed to carry cargo, but will spend most of the time driven around town completely empty.

But don't think we didn't use the truck to its fullest capacities. Online editor and Webmeister extraordinaire Jeff Bartlett, located in Florida, gathered a full complement of supplies during one tour of duty to help fend off not one, but four hurricanes. This alone justified our decision to add the Utility Bed package with heavy-duty tie-downs. One editor noted, "The optional spray-in bedliner seems like something that ought to be standard in every pickup; [it offers] grip and protection." The bed had only a few noticeable scratches and dents, even with a good amount of abuse.

There were some minor problems. Rear seatbelts were located too high and cut into several passengers' necks and the radio lost AM reception for a while. The dealer claimed it was just a loose connection and fixed it in about 20 minutes. And a weatherstripping seal wore out prematurely, which was taken care of during the first scheduled maintenance.

The front rotors warped and caused a small steering-wheel vibration. Our dealer replaced the rotors and front and rear pads and machined the rear brakes. Problems solved for $180.

With almost 100 fill-ups, the Titan averaged close to 15 mpg, but consider that we like to give our long-termers a good workout. Your mileage may vary, especially if you do a bit of towing. In all, service costs totaled $239.15 and allowed us to put our long-term Titan's data folder in the "trouble-free" end of the file cabinet.

2004 Nissan Titan 4x2 SE
Price $32,240
Engine 5.6L DOHC 32-valve V-8
Miles 24,695
EPA, city/hwy 14/19
Observed average mpg 15.0
Observed worst mpg 7.8
Observed best mpg 18.0
Average distance per fill-up 235
Average cost per gallon $2.20*
Average cost per fill-up $33.43
Number of services 2
Overall service cost $239.15
*With significant price flux

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