Nissan had watched the big-truck market from the sidelines long enough. Seeing the incredible popularity and growth of the full-size pickup market, this truck dropped in not with a hint and a whisper, but with a large, loud, 305-hp bang. It was a noisemaker whose name left no question about Nissan's intent: Titan.

That was in 2003, when the Titan launched as a 2004 model from its Canton, Mississippi, birthplace like a gravel-spewing, V-8-powered rocket. At the time, the American manufacturers owned the segment, with the Japanese makers fielding compact or, at best, midsize trucks. Toyota's then-current Tundra was, unlike the current behemoth, actually Dodge Dakota-sized.

The Titan followed traditional form: body-on-frame with a large-displacement V-8, cab and bed variations, and rear or four-wheel drive. But there were relatively few combinations. Until the 2008 model year, there was only one overall length and wheelbase (224.2 and 139.8 inches) for the King Cab (smaller back seats, rear-hinged aft doors, 6.5-foot bed) and Crew Cab (four full doors, 5.5-foot bed). For 2008, Nissan introduced a stretched version, riding on a 159.5-inch wheelbase that gave the King Cab an 8-foot bed and the Crew Cab a 7-foot bed. No standard cab, no Mega Cab.

Nissan similarly limited the options on powertrains. There was one, the VK56DE 5.6-liter DOHC V-8 with four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing for the intakes, and an aluminum block and heads. Initially, the engine was rated at 305 hp but got a bump to 317 for 2007. Torque rose from the original 379 lb-ft to 385.

As for transmissions, you can have anything you like as long as it's a five-speed automatic. In a category filled with trucks available with anything from a puny V-6/manual to a roaring V-10, the Titan's motive options seemed a bit single-note.

Contemporary reports praised the 2004 Titan for its significant power, roomy cabin, and impressive 9500-pound towing capacity, but Nissan largely left the truck alone to face the second-generation Tundra and dramatically improved domestic pickups. It's overcome some of that disadvantage with durability. A perusal of online reliability reports show the Titan to have few issues: leaky trans-cooler pipes and power-steering hoses, weak fuel pumps in early models, and a smattering of electrical issues that result in hard starting. All these are covered under Technical Service Bulletins, so make sure any Titan you're considering has complied with them.

If the Titan is long in the tooth compared with the current big trucks, why would you bother? Value. A 2006 Titan put up against a comparably equipped 2006 Toyota Tundra (the smaller one) costs about $1500 less, according to the Kelley Blue Book. Jump ahead two years to 2008 models, when the Tundra was in its current, larger-than-life form, and the difference is more than $5000.


2004-2010 NISSAN TITAN
Body type 4-door pickup
Drivetrain Front engine, RWD/4WD
Airbags Dual front, side
Engine 5.6L/305-317-hp DOHC V-8
Brakes, f/r Disc/disc, ABS
Price range, whlsl/retail (KBB) $7472/$9622 (2004 RWD XE); $27,871/$30,621 (2010 4WD LE)*
Recalls Too many to list. See www.intellichoice.com
NHTSA frontal impact rating, driver/pass Five stars/four stars
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