Review: 2005 Nissan Titan

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Driver and passenger front airbags with dual-stage inflators are standard on all models. Sensors determine the front-seat passenger's weight to inhibit deployment if there's no occupant or if a small child is present. Front-seat side airbags and roof-mounted curtain airbags for all outboard passengers, a first in full-size pickups, are optional in all models. When these airbags are installed on the SE or LE trim levels, vehicle dynamic control (a.k.a. stability control) is included in the package. The front seatbelts have adjustable upper mountings to better accommodate drivers of varying heights, plus pretensioners and load limiters. The front seats feature "active" headrests that help avoid whiplash injuries. All outboard seating positions are equipped with three-point seatbelts. Four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock are standard on all models; the Dodge Ram, in comparison, offers only rear-wheel ABS as standard and four-wheel ABS as an option.

Unlike its competitors, all of which offer a base V-6 engine and at least a couple of different V-8s, the Titan has one powertrain: a 5.6-liter/305-horse DOHC V-8 that produces a substantial 379 lb-ft of torque, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. The competition offers several engines, requiring a couple steps up to cross the 300-horse mark. Measuring up, the F-150 drivetrain range peaks at 300 hp, and both Ford and Chevy still make do with four-speed automatics.

Coming out swinging, these horsepower and torque figures allow the Titan to tow up to 9,500 pounds when equipped with the optional tow package. A 4x4 King Cab reaches 60 mph in a respectable 7.7 seconds. The Titan's powertrain is shared in the Nissan family with the full-size Armada and its twin, the Infiniti QX56 luxury SUV. We hope the 4.0-liter V-6 used in the Pathfinder becomes available in the future on the Titan, giving it a lower-cost model with improved fuel economy. At 270 horses, this engine would best the base offering in the segment.Four-wheel drive Titans have an electronically controlled, part-time transfer case with three dash-selected settings: two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive high, and four-wheel drive low. An available off-road option package includes stiffer dampers, a lower final-drive ratio, white-letter all-terrain tires, and an electronically locking rear differential.

The Titan's big V-8 accelerates smartly both from a standstill and at speed during passing maneuvers, and it works seamlessly with the five-speed automatic transmission. The engine is coarser and noisier than the Toyota Tundra's, which is also a modern, double-overhead-cam design, but it's more refined than the domestic competition. Power is on par with that of the top Chevy and Dodge offerings, though the Nissan Endurance V-8 is more eager than the Ford 5.4-liter Triton V-8. Titan's power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is best in class, with a hefty, precise steering-wheel feel. Also, the Titan has far better body control than either the Dodge Ram or the Chevy Silverado, making this truck easy, and enjoyable, to hustle along a twisty road. Its ride quality isn't quite the equal of the silky Tundra's. Bottom line is that the Titan stands tall in all performance considerations.

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