Over the past decade, the full-size pickup competition has been one of the most exciting segments of the automotive industry. Once dominated by the Big Three (Ford, GM and Dodge), the landscape has expanded to include Toyota and the subject of this review – Nissan. The 2012 Nissan Titan 4X4 Pro-4X carries a base price of $37,340 ($40,025 as tested) with a 36-month/36,000-mile basic warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty and EPA fuel efficiency estimates of 12 mpg city/17 mpg highway. Let’s drive.
First Glance at the Nissan Titan Truck
Titan is true to its name, at least in appearance. It looks big in person, bigger than it looks in photos. The Pro-4X line of Nissan trucks and SUVs is a trim line that includes Rancho shocks, an electronic locking rear differential, skid plates under the transfer case and lower radiator, fog lights, a driver-side bed lockbox, body-color grille and bumpers and white-faced gauges on the instrument panel, among other cosmetic doodads and modest “Pro-4X” stickers on the bed. The suspension bits result in a slightly higher minimum ground clearance (10.7” vs. 10.4” for the non-Pro-X Titan), adding to the already tall Titan’s stance. Titan Pro-4X is available as a King Cab with a 6’7” bed, or Crew Cab with a 5’7” bed. The short bed always looks a little stunted with the four-door cab to me, but the trade-off of increased interior space is hard to sacrifice.
My test vehicle came dipped in the brightest red paint (Nissan calls it “Red Alert”) I’ve ever seen on a vehicle that didn’t say “Fire Department” on its doors. I used the truck to pick up a Craftsman tool chest that I bought from a friend, and the Red Alert Titan made Craftsman’s red look positively subtle. This is a red truck.
In the Nissan Titan Driver's Seat
2012 Nissan Titan Cockpit© Jason Fogelson
It’s a healthy jump into the Titan’s driver’s seat
, with a 22.5” climb-in height. Once there, the view is great. Titan has the airiest cabin of any of the full-size pickups, with a real greenhouse feel at 125.6 cubic feet of total interior volume. I'd immediately purchase washable seat covers for my Titan, because the nooks and crannies in the cloth seats will definitely hold dirt. The 60/40 split bench seat
second row in the Crew Cab is as roomy as an SUV's, and provides a comfortable, if firm, place to sit. The second row becomes really useful when you flip up the seat bottom, revealing a nearly flat load floor. Combined with the wide-opening doors on the Titan, the second row becomes a great, secure 61 cubic-foot cargo hold.
Titan's dash is functional, not very exciting or attractive, but it works. There's abundant storage in cubbies, nooks and compartments, which is good. There are power ports and auxiliary inputs for the stereo, and a generous glove box. But materials are a little hard and plasticky, not nearly at the level of class-leader (in my opinion) F-150.
On the Road in the Nissan Titan
The Pro-4X suspension setup is probably pretty good off-road -- I didn't have the opportunity to test it there. On road, however, it can only be described as punishing. The rear setup is extremely stiff, and translates every bump in the road surface into a jolt in the passenger compartment. Aaron Gold (About.com's Guide to Cars) and I hooked up a car trailer to the Titan, loaded up with our new 24 Hours of Lemons race vehicle, a 1983 Toyota Pickup. Even towing a load
, the Titan's ride didn't get any smoother. We guessed that we were towing about 4,500 - 5,000 lbs.
Titan's 5.6-liter V8 didn't have much of a problem with the load, which didn't come anywhere close to its 9,300 lb capacity (as equipped -- "S" models have a 7,300 lb capacity). Hauling south through LA's Sepulveda Pass, a deceptively steep grade, challenged the 317 hp/385 lb-ft of torque, and Aaron had to keep the accelerator depressed to the floor in order to maintain 55 mph. He made liberal use of the gear selector on the five-speed automatic in order to keep the transmission from shifting into overdrive and slowing our progress.
We immediately realized that the driver's side bed lockbox would be an essential feature for any Titan. The box isn't that much bigger than a breadbox, but it is big enough for to hold a few essential tools and a set of tie-downs -- the stuff you should always have with you in a pickup truck, in case you see that roadside sofa that simply must live in your basement.
Despite the suspension's stiffness, Titan never felt tippy or unstable, no matter how hard I pushed through corners. Titan really feels like a truck that's ready for work, which is a good thing.
Nissan Titan Bed StoragePhoto © Nissan
It's a great time for full-size pickup trucks, which may be Titan's ultimate weakness. Unless I was intent on doing a lot of off-roading with my Titan, I would not order up the Pro-4X model. It's just too much for everyday use. I'd probably cheap out and get the S 4x4 model that starts at $33,560, and add the accessories I needed, because the basic bones of the truck are the same as the Pro-4X.
Titan's big challenge to overcome isn't capacity or ability or looks: It's fuel economy. Titan's 14 mpg combined rating is inferior to the Chevy Silverado Hybrid/GMC Sierra Hybrid's 21 mpg combined; Ford F-150 3.7-L V6's 18 mpg combined; and Toyota Tundra 4.6-L V8's and Ram 1500 4.7-L V8's 16 mpg combined. Full-size pickups tend to accumulate a lot of miles, and fuel economy matters more than ever.
There really is a full-size pickup truck for everybody right now, with each brand gathering its own supporters. It's almost a matter of taste, considering how closely features and capabilities match up. Find the truck you like, outfit it to suit your needs, and live happily ever after.
Nobody else has a truck as red as a "Red Alert" Nissan Titan, though. That much I can guarantee.
Our review truck was provided by Nissan. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy