Why would Nissan go into such uncharted waters as a full-size pickup? Money and market-share. Currently, two out of every ten new vehicles sold in the U.S. are pickups. Domestic brands full-size pickups outsell the small pickups by at least three to one. Enter Nissan Country.
Titan Chief Product Specialist Larry Dominique made no bones about it, they know, "Nissan needs to earn full-size truck credibility." According to Dominique, no single vehicle was used as a target, but some that were mentioned were Chevy Silverado, Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram. The Toyota Tundra, was looked at for features as well, but the Tundra's dimensions are slightly smaller than the domestic full-size trucks.
It was no coincidence that Nissan unveiled the pickup concept at the Detroit Auto Show, home of the Big Three. When Nissan showed this "Alpha T" concept in Detroit in 2001 the one thing everyone commented on was the size of the interior.
The first thing one notices, still, about this truck is the interior size. Nissan was sure to beat the domestic brands - the 40.4 inches of rear-seat headroom in the Titan Crew Cab beats the 39.6 inches in the comparable F-150, the 39.9 inches in the Silverado, the 40.2 inches in the new Tundra Double Cab model for 2004, as well as the 40 inches in the Dodge Ram Quad Cab.
This pickup is made for the American audience and that includes the supersized American audience. Tall people, as well as big, will fit easily in the Titan. The front and rear legroom dimensions are almost identical in the Crew cab as the King cab. Nissan deliberately designed the cab so the floor would be flat, with minimal intrusion from the rear bulkhead. When the rear seats are not in use, they fold up against the bulkhead, providing a generous and unobstructed interior cargo area, or enough room for a person to throw a blanket down and go to sleep.
Capable of towing up to 9400 pounds when appropriately equipped, the Titan's V-8 revs like a high-performance car engine. Nissan has taken the nod from the domestic, and tried to integrate car performance and truck durability. The Titan even tries to mimic the throaty hemi image at low rpm so the folks in the parking lot can appreciate its Nissan Endurance 5.6-liter V8 engine producing 305 horsepower and 379 lb-ft torque.
"When creating the Titan, we found that most people's prerequisites for a serious full-size truck are horsepower, torque and towing capacity. So that's where we put our highest priority," said Larry Dominique, Chief Product Specialist, Nissan Titan. "Nearly 90 percent of the Endurance V8's torque is available below 2,500 rpm, giving Titan an advanced capability to tow, haul and drive off-road."
So what are the fun things that I like about this pickup? When I look at a vehicle for the first time, I look for new items that make me go "WOW". The first item was the Utili-track tie-down channel system. I've never seen one like it and, sure enough, Nissans' was a first. With this system, five special channel rails are mounted in the bed (two channels in the bed floor, and one each on the bed side rails and the bed header panel).
The neat part of this is that one can attach the cleats virtually anywhere in the truck. Nissan left the channels open at the rear of the bed, allowing the cleats to be completely removed when not in use. What do you do with the cleats? PUt them in the bedside storage compartment located behind the rear driver's side wheel. The bedside storage bin is designed to hold common truck items such as work gloves, chains, rope, road flares, first aid kit or a hitch ball. The compartment is double-sealed to help prevent the intrusion of water and dust (though the compartment is not designed to be waterproof in case of submersion) and uses the Titan ignition key for locking and unlocking.
We can't walk away without mentioning the sprayed on bedliner. Aftermarket drop-in bedliners have been known to warp or trap moisture. Nissan has used a special high durability hard surface resin application, which can be sprayed on complex surfaces, the bedliner helps prevent scratch damage and corrosion to the bed and inner tailgate surface, it is the first offered by any original equipment manufacturer and is covered by the Nissan Basic Limited Warranty.
"Because Titan is being produced at an all-new manufacturing facility, we designed the spray-in bedliner as part of the truck line at an added investment of nearly $20 million dollars," said Dominique. "The spray-in bedliner gives Titan a tremendous advantage in the convenience offered in the segment."
The Titan's engine-speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering is more communicative than one would normally feel from a full-size truck. This could be because the rack-and-pinion steering is isolated from the body by three rubber mounts. You can pick a line and hold it with precision, without weaving back and forth in search of an on-center feel. When negotiating a series of curves, the Titan takes the helm like an old sailor manuevering a well-known sea. And the truck is more agile in tight maneuvers than you might think; its 41-foot curb-to-curb turning diameter is considerably tighter than those of the Tundra or Dodge Ram.
The Endurance V8 - the only engine Nissan is launching the Titan with - and the Titan's five-speed transmission is wonderfully matched. The Titan will offer more power and more torque than the Ford F-150. The engine's power is immediately apparent when you step on the throttle.
The 2004 Nissan Titan will be built at a new assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi. The first models should reach dealerships this fall. Prices will be competitive with similarly equipped Ford, Chevy, and Dodge pickups. Titan will be launched only with the King Cab. Titan will not offer optional bed lengths.
Nissan knows that most people interested in this pickup are people who already own a foreign vehicle or those somewhat younger than the truck segment average. They understand brand loyalty, and realize that some of their sales will be to people who already own a Nissan and need a pickup. This group wants a bolder, more expressive exterior, which Nissan has met. The well-executed extras that the domestic pickups don't have clearly identify this pickup as a Nissan.
Chevy Silverado, Dodge Ram, Ford F-150, Toyota Tundra