The Titan represents Nissan's first foray into the half-ton pickup truck market. Unlike Toyota's first two attempts, the underpowered and undersized T-100 and first generation Tundra, Nissan didn't go about the task with timidity or deference to the last bastion of Detroit dominance. When it debuted in 2004, the Titan was a powerhouse right out of the box, pushing big dimensions, big horsepower and big towing numbers. But, early Titans suffered a few problems, namely bad differentials and some brake issues, that didn't help win over domestic buyers. Later models seem to have overcome these early glitches, and owners generally seem to like the truck enough to show a strong repeat buyer experience.

Why You Want It

Available in King Cab and Crew Cab configurations, the 2004-2012 Nissan Titan provides plenty of passenger room, although only the 2008 and newer models offered longer bed options. Nissan fills the bed with all manner of clever storage and tie-down devices, including a configurable utility track system and an outside storage compartment with locking door (a feature pioneered and then abandoned by early model domestic pickups). Other thoughtful features include King Cab rear doors that swing out a full 168 degrees, a standard 305 (later model bump up to 317) horsepower V8 engine and 10-inches of ground clearance. Most models can easily tow up to 7,000 pounds and when properly equipped with the Max Utility Package, the Titan can pull up to 9,300 pounds. Models range from basic work trucks to the off-road PRO-4X, to the luxurious SL.

Notable Features & Options

The most basic Titan pickups come with a 5.6-liter V8, a five-speed automatic transmission with tow/haul mode, anti-lock brakes, dual side mirrors, AM/FM stereo with CD, cruise control and 17-inch wheels. Available features vary by trim (XE, LE, PRO-4X and SE) and include leather seating, heated front seats, center console with gated shifter, front side and head curtain airbags, four-wheel drive, a spray-in bedliner, rear step-up assist, Rockford Fosgate audio, iPod interface, navigation, locking rear differential, electronic traction and stability control, Utilit-Track Channel System for the bed, power sunroof, rear-seat DVD entertainment, eight-way power driver's seat and a rear bed extender. Later models offer a Tow Package that includes heated electrically extendable side mirrors, heavy-duty battery, front tow hooks, side step rails, and a lower final gear ratio.

Model Milestones

2005 - Crew Cab models gain a power up/down rear window.

2006 - The LE trim gains dual-zone automatic temperature control and Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) can now be ordered with the locking rear differential. A number of audio systems can play MP3 encoded CDs.

2007 - Power for the V8 jumps from 305 to 317 horsepower, while torque moves up from 379 lb-ft to 385 lb-ft.

2008 - A new long wheelbase model is added and the entire line undergoes a light cosmetic upgrade including a new grille and new wheel designs. New seats provide better support and new options include Bluetooth, XM Satellite Radio and a heated leather bench seat. Long wheelbase models now offer a 7-foot bed on Crew Cab models and an 8-foot bed on the King Cab. Standard bed lengths remain 5.6 and 6.5 feet respectively.

2009 - Minor changes include a matte black grille and bumper on the XE trim, some new option packages the addition of auto door locking.

2010 - All Titan trims gain front side impact airbags, side curtain airbags, VDC (electronic traction and stability control), and Active Brake Limited Slip feature. The 8-foot bed option is dropped.

2011 - New trim designations see the Titan LE and SE become the Titan SV and SL.

2012 - A new Sport Appearance Package on the SV trims includes 20-inch aluminum wheels, blackout grille, body colored bumpers, PRO-4X captain's chair style seats, a lockable bedside storage compartment and white faced gauges.

Engines and Performance

With just over 300 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque (numbers vary depending on the year), the 2004-2012 Nissan Titan can't match the big V8's from Dodge, Ford or Chevy for best in class power. But, the 5.6-liter V8 produces enough grunt to deal with most situations, and its five-speed automatic is one of the best transmissions around. Fuel economy remains poor, around 12 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway. The Titan's V8 is E85 compatible, but when running on the ethanol/gasoline mix, fuel economy plummets to 9/13 mpg respectively.

On the road, we found Nissan's V8 was able to move the Titan with ease. There is more engine and exhaust noise inside the cabin than with the Titan's domestic competitors, and we did notice some vibration in the steering wheel when the front wheels encountered road blemishes or bumps. The Titan's steering is nicely weighted but expectedly numb. The Titan's suspension is tuned to the stiff side, but it while it may not deliver the smoothest ride in the class, it does handle corners with impressive confidence.

Recalls, Safety Ratings and Warranties

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, has issued the following recalls for the 2004-2012 Nissan Titan.

2004 - Recalls were issued for a possible defective column shifter that could slip out of park and rear seat belts that may freeze up after going into lockup mode (Crew Cab only). A recall was issued for possible defective seat belt anchors.

2004-06 - A recall was issued for possible frayed wires due to improper routing through the King Cab's rear doors. A break in the wires could lead to the front airbags becoming inoperable. A recall was also issued for a possible defective module in the engine management computer that could lead to stalling.

2004-10 - A recall was issued for possible improper welds in the front suspension that could cause the lower control arm to separate should the welds fail.

2005-06 - A recall was issued for a possible improperly installed air conditioning fan that could leak water and lead to corrosion of the fan motor.

2005-09 - A recall was issued for a possible defective fuel gauge that shows fuel remaining when the tank is empty.

2006- A recall was issued regarding rear door latches missing an arc weld that may not meet federal safety impact standards.

2008 - Recalls were issued for possible mislabeled weight capacity for the tires and for a defective seat track locking mechanism on models equipped with manual seat adjusters.

2008-10 - A recall was issued for a possible defective brake pedal pivot pin that could fail causing the brake pedal to feel loose and a reduction in braking force.

2012 - Certain models equipped with the Sports Appearance Package have incorrect seating capacity labels.

Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.

As for safety, the 2004-2012 Nissan Titan scores fairly well in the government's front impact test, scoring five out of five stars for the driver and four stars for the passenger. The Titan earned three stars in the roll over roof strength test, but was not tested for side impact. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) give the Titan its best score of GOOD in the offset front crash test, but only MARGINAL ratings for the side-impact test with airbags. The 2004-09 models without side curtain airbags scored a POOR rating.

Nissan provides the Titan with a 3-year/36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty and a 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty. If you purchase your Titan through Nissan's Certified Pre-Own (CPO) program, the vehicle not only goes through an extensive 150 point check, it comes with an extended factory warranty of 7-years/100,000 miles from the original date the vehicle entered service. Other advantage of the program include a free Carfax report, 24-hour roadside assistance, rental car reimbursement and towing benefit and a 3-month free trail subscription to SiriusXM Satellite radio.To qualify for the Nissan CPO program, vehicles typically are no older than five years and must have less than 60,000 miles.

Word on the Web

In its early years, the Titan does not have a very good reputation for durability and quality. Consumer Reports gives the 04-07 models average to worse than average ratings, but after 2009, the Titan does a complete turnabout scoring above average scores in all categories. Reading through some of the enthusiast sites such as Titantalk.com and ClubTitan.org, it seems that early model 2004-2007 trucks suffered from leaking seals in the front and rear differentials and in the axles that caused expensive hardware failures. Owners also report excessive noise from the differentials. 2008 and newer trucks use different seals and seem to have tackled the problem. Other areas of concern are early model brakes being too small and prone to wear and some body hardware issues. On the flip side, most Titan owners love their trucks versatility, comfort and features and many on the forums have opted for another, even those who experienced early model mishaps.

Competitive Set (say something about each, strengths and weaknesses)

The Titan's primary competitors are the Dodge Ram, Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-150. All three trucks offer a choice of V6 or V8 engines, manual or automatic transmission and a standard cab, none of which can be found on the Titan. The Big Three's trucks also offer more bed choices as well as more horsepower, torque and towing capability. Newer Ford and Chevy models offer better fuel economy than the Titan, while Dodge offers a Mega Cab model hosting the largest passenger cabin in the full-size pickup arena.

Auto Trader Recommendations

If you're not looking for something a year or two old, we'd go with the 2008-10 models due to the availability of the 8-foot bed. Newer models may still have their warranty in place, but will cost more. We'd avoid anything earlier than 2008 due to the number of mechanical problems surrounding the rear differential, brakes and general body quality.

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Joe Tralongo started in the industry writing competitive comparison books for a number of manufacturers, before moving on in 2000 to become a freelance automotive journalist. He's well regarded for his keen eye for detail, as well as his ability to communicate complex mechanical terminology into user-friendly explanations.

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