2008 Nissan Titan Crew Cab SE 4x4 LWB
2008 Nissan Titan Crew Cab SE 4×4 LWB. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2008 Nissan Titan

Oshawa, Ontario – I like trucks. I like their attitude, their practicality and their stance, so much so that the only new vehicle I’ve ever purchased is a pickup truck. But my 1995 model, one of the largest available at the time, now feels like a compact in comparison to the bulked-up beasts on sale today – including my tester, the 2008 Nissan Titan.

It isn’t the largest truck overall on the market right now, but it’s one of the tallest, and I was thankful for the grab handle as I hauled myself up into it. I realize I’m “vertically challenged” and that trucks aren’t meant to be tiny, but several of my friends – big, burly guys who use their trucks to haul boats and trailers – remarked that they don’t understand why manufacturers are feeling the need to make their vehicles so big and tall. It should be interesting to see when we hit a peak in truck sizes.

The Titan uses only one engine, a 5.6-litre V8, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission with tow/haul mode. It comes in King Cab configuration, with 6-foot-6 or 8-foot box, and in Crew Cab, with 5-foot-6 and 7-foot box, as well as regular or long wheelbase, and XE, SE, PRO-4X and LE trim lines. The King Cab XE and SE come in two- or four-wheel drive, while the PRO-4X, LE and all Crew Cab models are strictly four-wheel. Between all of the bed lengths, trim lines and wheelbases, there are 11 models.

2008 Nissan Titan Crew Cab SE 4x4 LWB
2008 Nissan Titan Crew Cab SE 4×4 LWB. Click image to enlarge

North American trucks are rated by half-, three-quarter- and one-ton labels, but like the Toyota Tundra, the Titan comes only in one size, with no designation. Depending on the model, the payload varies from 743 kg (1,638 lbs) to 911 kg (2,009 lbs). Towing capacity ranges from 2,948 kg (6,500 lbs) to 4,309 kg (9,500 lbs).

My tester was the Crew Cab with long wheelbase and seven-foot box. All models include air conditioning, tow hooks, locking tailgate, alloy wheels, cargo and bed lights, sliding rear window, cruise control, six-CD stereo and a sprayed-in bedliner that’s covered by a factory warranty; my SE also added power locks and windows, heavy-duty battery, chrome bumpers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, power-adjustable pedals, rear parking assist and heated power mirrors that can be manually extended for towing. Crew Cab models also have a power-opening rear window. Titans aren’t cheap: Nissan’s strategy is to give you a truck that’s equipped more like an SUV than a work vehicle, and since a great many people never ask their vehicles to do more than haul home groceries, there’s definitely a market for it. (The Titan is also the basis for the Nissan Armada and the Infiniti QX56 SUVs.)

2008 Nissan Titan Crew Cab SE 4x4 LWB
2008 Nissan Titan Crew Cab SE 4x4 LWB
2008 Nissan Titan Crew Cab SE 4x4 LWB
2008 Nissan Titan Crew Cab SE 4x4 LWB
2008 Nissan Titan Crew Cab SE 4×4 LWB. Click image to enlarge

The 5.6-litre V8 is a powerhouse in its class, making a very respectable 317 horsepower and 385 lb-ft of torque. In comparison, the Ford 5.4-litre produces 300 hp and 365 lb-ft; the Chevrolet 5.3-litre makes 315 hp and 338 lb-ft; the Dodge 5.7-litre tops it with 345 hp, but drops below at 375 lb-ft. The Tundra’s 4.7-litre makes 271 hp and 313 lb-ft, but the 5.7-litre tops it at 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque. In combined driving, I averaged 16.9 L/100 km to the published combined 15.1 L/100 km.

The Titan’s foam seats are the most comfortable I’ve experienced in any pickup truck; my tester’s bench seat included a huge, folding centre console with movable dividers and a foam insert to keep change from rattling around. There are five overhead bins, huge map pockets and three open dash-top cubbies as well – you could definitely lose stuff in this truck if you don’t keep track of where you stashed it. The centre stack is plain but very functional, with the big, simple knobs and buttons that should be on every vehicle. The rear seats are equally comfortable and roomy, and the cushions fold up for more cargo storage on the floor.

For outside storage, the box contains a rail system on three sides under the lip, with movable cleats for tying down loads; all models except the SE have a lockable storage compartment behind the left rear wheel well, with movable divider, that can be used for items such as muddy work boots. The locking tailgate is well-balanced, with damped struts that prevent it from banging down should you only have one hand free when opening it.

I had the opportunity to test the Titan at this year’s Truck King Challenge, which included burdened and off-road testing. Putting a load into the box greatly improves the Titan’s ride comfort; on regular roads, with nothing in the back, my tester was bouncy, especially on a concrete highway where every expansion joint reverberated through it. The brakes bring it to a halt just fine, but they’re too squishy for my liking. On the off-road course, torque transfer could be better: in a sticky spot, the Titan went sideways before it went forward, and a couple of times I was afraid the box was going to meet the trees. In its favour, the transfer case switches almost instantaneously, even from 4High into 4Low.

2008 Nissan Titan Crew Cab SE 4x4 LWB
2008 Nissan Titan Crew Cab SE 4x4 LWB
2008 Nissan Titan Crew Cab SE 4×4 LWB. Click image to enlarge

The Titan’s size also makes it tough to manoeuvre: at the grocery store, it always took two and sometimes three attempts to line it up so that I could put it in its spot without taking off the corners of neighbouring vehicles. It’s hard to see over the domed hood, and if you take it anywhere near the city limits you’ll be grateful for the rear parking sensors.

After all that, it sounds like I don’t care for the Titan, but that isn’t so; rather, I’m torn on it. Its size makes it a handful, but once you’ve got it going in a straight line, its gutsy engine and smooth-shifting transmission are a real pleasure. It’s pricey, but it has a lot of standard equipment that must be added as extra-charge items to other trucks. Its size also means a very roomy interior that’s exceptionally comfortable.

Its single engine choice is going to limit its appeal in the marketplace, part of the Catch-22 situation common to the imports. Despite inroads by Nissan, Toyota and Honda, the truck segment belongs overwhelmingly to the domestic manufacturers. It’s hard for a Japanese company to offer a full range of engine and configuration choices for such a small slice of the pie, but at the same time, a limited range curtails sales. Still, if you’re in the market for a big brute, this one belongs on the test-drive list.

Pricing: 2008 Nissan Titan Crew Cab SE Long Wheelbase 7-foot box 4×4


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