First Drive: 2011 Nissan Titan Crew Cab 4x4 SV
Since we last tested it in 2005, the Nissan Titan has gotten a smidge more powerful, been slightly restyled, and seen its list of standard features grow. Other than that, the full-size rig has remained much the same as it was six years ago. As its sales figures show, that may not be the best tactic in challenging its heavy-hitting rivals from the Detroit Three.
In 2010, Nissan moved 23,426 Titans off dealer lots, up from 19,042 units in 2009, but considerably lower than 2008, when 34,053 were sold. For 2011 the Titan swaps the SE and LE for SV and SL badges, leaving a quartet of trim levels available (S, SV, Pro-4X, SL).
Elaborate option packages can be had at each level, as exemplified by our Radiant Silver SV tester, which checked in with a base price of $33,870. It arrived with three key amenity groups: the $345 Utility Accessory Package (sliding bed extender and underseat storage bin); a $1910 SV Premium Utility Package (10-speaker Rockford Fosgate stereo, power adjustable pedals, XM Radio, spray-on bedliner, Utili-Track channel system with removable cleats, 3.357 final gear, bedside storage compartments, and tow mirrors); and the $1350 SV Value Truck Package (front captain's chairs, rear air vents, a flat-folding front passenger seat, floor-mounted leather shifter, fog lights, and Class IV towing hitch). Nissan says that last package saves buyers $1100 had they purchased the options separately.
Once inside you'll notice a clean, utilitarian space with ample storage capacity and elbow room. The charcoal and black materials aren't pretty, but they feel rugged and easily cleanable. With 10 speakers onboard (including a subwoofer), and the knob turned high enough, jamming to your favorite XM Radio stations turns the Titan into a mobile massage parlor.
A lockable center console capable of swallowing a laptop or small ice chest sits between cushy captain's chairs. We especially liked the storage bins and nets located underneath the Crew Cab's foldable rear bench seats. They proved essential when lugging loose groceries and small items. The same can be said of the lockable, double-sealed bedside storage compartments that held our power tools.
Southern California's rugged streets, with their cavernous potholes, high curbs, and acne-filled highways, served as an appropriate proving ground for the fully boxed F-Alpha platform. With an empty 5-foot, 7-inch bed, the double wishbone front, dual-rate leaf spring rear suspension bounced over bigger obstructions, jarring riders slightly. Compared to the recently tested 2011 Silverado and F Series rigs, the Titan's ride felt skittish and overly responsive to passing imperfections, making us second-guess a few upcoming long-distance trips. Thick A-pillars with their extended tow mirrors hindered some side visibility and made judging the vehicle's width a chore in parking lots.
But when the cab was packed to the brim with a freshly cut Christmas tree and the cabin full of passengers, we hardly noticed fleeting road bumps. Tying down the 7-foot tall tree was a snap, literally. We simply moved the Utili-Track's locking cleats onto the low channels, folded down the included bed extender for a few extra feet, and then tied it all down. The spray-on bedliner prevents scratches, and made power-washing to remove the pine needles all the more convenient.
Nissan's 317-horsepower, 5.6-liter Endurance V-8 grunted and burbled at low rpms, yet as revs and speeds climbed, its voice became less audible. Gunning the Titan provided a surprising leap thanks to the 385 pound-feet of torque that's available from 3400 rpm. Throttle response remains civilized, which should make for easier towing.
A five-speed automatic gearbox with tow/haul mode and shift-on-the-fly capability ran through cogs smoothly in both urban and off-road situations, and kept the mill in its ideal tachometer range for optimal power delivery. During said tree cutting expedition, a switch of the two-speed transfer case's knob into 4LO became necessary when severe ruts and rocks were on the horizon. Like the gearbox, the transfer case changed modes with the slightest of chatter.
All in all, the Titan remains a capable full-size truck with lots to offer in terms of performance and amenities. But in today's automotive world, seven years without a major refresh or next-generation model is an eternity.
In the Titan's lifetime, GM and Ford have introduced multiple refreshes and engine revisions in their respective lineups. Granted, American brands emphasize full-size trucks to an extent Nissan can never match. Yet even so, the Titan's platform, antiquated V-8 engine, Tonka-truck styling, and confusing pricing schedule (our optioned-up middle-of-the-road SV commanded well over $38,000) are clearly showing their age and associated weaknesses.
With sales that are far and away the worst in the segment, the Titan is in dire need of a redo if it's going to get back on truck buyers' radar screens. Nissan knows this, and briefly flirted with Chrysler to explore the possibility of selling a re-badged Ram. Nissan has a good base to build upon, but we'll see if it has the will to breathe new life into its aging full-size truck.
|2011 Nissan Titan Crew Cab 4x4 SV|
|Vehicle layout||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door, pickup|
|Engine Engines||5.6L/317-hp/385-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|Curb weight||5600 lb (mfr)|
|Length x width x height||244.2 x 79.5 x 76.3 in|
|0-60 mph||7.2 sec (MT est)|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||12/17 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||1.40 lb/mile (est)|