The Nissan Titan as tested. Click to enlarge.

Ask a Nissan employee what the company’s best-kept secret is and the answer will likely be: its Titan truck. Why?

The company is proud of the Titans assembled in its Mississippi plant but disappointed with the lack of sales. Engineers owed much of it to the company’s preference to promote its passenger cars over its trucks. Those same engineers are frustrated because they think they have a fantastic half-ton truck that is more competitive than sales figures indicate.

To make the truck even more competitive and appealing and hopefully stimulate more sales, the Nissan Titan received numerous upgrades for 2008. To target more outdoor enthusiasts like snowmobilers, Nissan put us in the driver’s seat during a test session in Tennessee. We drove the newest Nissan truck lineup and tested the off-road capabilities of its new Pro-4X off-road package. The variety of trucks we drove gives a clear indication that the Titan is marketed toward a larger audience.

The trip piqued our interest to conduct a more thorough test, so we asked for additional time and heavy duty tow testing. Nissan responded with a long wheelbase Titan Extended Cab.

More Options And Trim Packages

There are four trim packages for the Titan: XE, SE, LE and the new PRO-4X off-road package available only on 4×4 models. Our King Cab LE had doors that opened wide to access the rear for passengers or cargo. Seats were comfortable and supportive and the controls all placed tastefully and logically, an improvement from earlier Titans.

At least one control wasn’t fastened well into the console on our test truck, though the 4×4 drive mode control knob was pushed though the dash. It was sloppy when we took delivery of it, and it looked like an errant knee from a center-seated passenger would dislodge the switch. We used one hand to hold the switch in place and the other to turn the knob.

The LE package includes 20-inch alloy wheels, heated leather seats, a powerful audio system with steering wheel controls and extras in the cargo bed, including a spray-in liner, the Utili-Track C-channel tie down system, a bed-mounted 12-volt outlet and a lighted tailgate area. All great, usable features for truck owners.

Our long wheelbase King Cab had an 8-foot, 2-inch bed with an optional bed extender. The short wheelbase version has a box length of 7 feet, 3 inches, the longest in the half-ton class.

The Titan’s only engine offering behind the updated front cosmetics is the 5.6 liter Endurance V8. The current spec is 317 hp, with peak torque of 385 pound-feet. The engine received Flex-Fuel capability in 2007. For those wishing to fill the Long Wheelbase Titan Crew Cab’s 37-gallon fuel tank with E85 ethanol, the engine will comply. Expect a 25 to 30 percent reduction in fuel mileage with the high ethanol blend, however.

The transmission on all Titan configurations is a five-speed automatic. During our first outing with the 2008 Titans in Tennessee, we performed light-duty towing with a crew cab model. We were nowhere near the vehicle’s towing capacity of 9,200 pounds, but with a load of about 3,500 pounds, the transmission’s gear hunting between fourth and fifth was bothersome until we locked out the overdrive.


Cold Weather Tow Testing

Back home in Minnesota during normal driving we averaged 12.8 mpg, which is on the bottom end of the 12 mpg city and 17 mpg highway EPA rating. It’s acceptable for a truck with this engine power until it’s compared to the latest competition. A Chevrolet Silverado Crew cab we tested last year averaged 15.1 mpg with its cylinder-deactivation technology.
While towing with the Titan, after a mix of 70 mph freeway and city driving, we averaged 7.8 mpg while driving into a light wind. During the return, with the same wind pushing us, we recovered to an 8.1 mpg average for the round trip. The trip computer, incidentally, wasn’t accurate. The driver information panel in the instrument cluster reported an optimistic 9.7 mpg for the trip average compared to what the pump put back into the truck’s tank.

The poor mileage does get drivers something in return: excellent power, mated to equally excellent shifting. Because of our 5,100-pound trailer weight and previous experience with light-duty towing, we bypassed the overdrive gear the moment the trailer was coupled to the hitch.

With the trailer/towing mode engaged, the truck used peak engine power before shifting to a higher gear for better acceleration performance. At hills we toggled a shifter-mounted switch to engage a lower gear for peak power and used it as well in downhill situations for engine braking to assist our descent. On a cold, minus 19 degrees F morning the Titan’s transmission shifted harsh for the first few miles of driving. Stopping the 2008 model trucks are beefier brakes. Both the rotor and caliper sizes were increased.

Overall, the towing performance is stellar, other than the mileage. While we never expect great economy from powerful V8 engines when we tow 5,000 pounds or more, the truth is that other half-ton trucks tow just as effectively with better mileage results. However, most half-ton trucks don’t have tow ratings and payload capacities near three-quarter ton truck specs like they do on the Titan.

Great Power, But …

The Titan has overachiever capacities, great manners while towing and it does things we expect of half-ton trucks. It’s rugged, quiet, and comfortable and has some class-leading capabilities and a great list of functional features and options. Its only serious knock is the thirsty engine. With stiff competition from Detroit offering things like cylinder deactivation for improved mileage, we’d love to see the Titan introduce a powertrain that saves at the pump — a priority these days to consumers who need trucks for towing and daily driving?

Editor’s Note: In each issue of Snow Goer magazine, our team of product testers reviews various aftermarket products in the Cold Tested department. Subscribe to Snow Goer now to receive such reviews, 6 times per year delivered to your home.

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