In 2004, for the first time in the company's history, Nissan entered the full-size pickup market with the Titan. Kind of a risky move, considering the fact that domestic manufacturers were well dug in, with almost 60 years of experience manufacturing full-size pickups.
Nissan's biggest challenge was to overcome the perception that Japanese pickups were too small or underpowered. Thus the name.
The brain trust at Nissan wanted to come up with something that conveyed "an image of great size and power." Coincidentally, perhaps, the Titan's sister vehicle, the Armada SUV, was launched in the same year, and shared its platform with the Titan.
On paper, the Titan has all the right moves; a big powerful V-8 engine, strong ladder-type frame, four-wheel-drive, lots of cargo capacity and King Cab and Crew Cab variations.
Power was provided by a 5.6-litre V-8 engine with dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. It developed 305 horsepower at 4,900 rpm and 379 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm. There was only one transmission: a five-speed automatic and you could order either a 4x2 or 4x4 drivetrain.
Two body styles were offered: King Cab and Crew Cab, and each version had three trim levels: base XE, SE and top-of-the-line LE. The Crew Cab had a 4WD drivetrain as standard equipment.
The equipment level was quite high. Full analog instrumentation, air conditioning, cruise control, rear bench seat and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS were standard issue. Interestingly, you could get a 4x2 XE King Cab with manual wind-down windows and Nissan marketed this model as a "no-frills" work truck.
Unsurprisingly, the options list for the Titan was extensive. Leather interior, centre console, upgraded stereo system with six-disc CD player, power windows, mirrors and door locks, heated seats, side airbags, power-adjustable pedals, sliding rear window and front bucket seats were just some of the available extras.
There was also a towing package, and a factory-applied spray-on bed liner. Nissan was quite proud of this last feature, and claimed it was superior to conventional slip-on plastic liners in every respect.
For those who needed to haul motorcycles, snowmobiles and other big equipment, Nissan had an optional cargo-carrying system for the truck bed - it utilized five open sections and moveable tie-down cleats.
The Titan was definitely a full-size rig. When it was introduced, Nissan claimed that rival Toyota trucks were "7/8-size" pickups, and that the Titan had the best headroom, rear legroom and interior volume in this class.
The Crew Cab also had doors that opened a full 180 degrees, to facilitate ingress and egress into the back, and the 4x4 LE came with the biggest off-road tires in this segment: 265/70R18.
One point of interest: During the R&D phase of the Titan's evolution, Nissan apparently sent out "live-in anthropologists" to stay with families and check out what owners of full-size trucks do with their pickups - over a 35-day period!
Transport Canada has issued five safety recall notices for the inaugural year of the Titan. One concerns a possible defect in the back doors' wiring harness, which could short out, resulting in the failure of the airbag system, among other things. There are also a couple of seat-belt glitches and a warning about the shift lever, which may not hold the transmission in Park when the vehicle is not running.
The U.S.-based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has these as well, plus an alert regarding a possibly faulty aftermarket trailer brake wiring connection manufactured by the Hopkins company.
A fairly hefty 45 technical service bulletins are also on file with NHTSA. Lots of the usual engine cooling contretemps, including the inability of the engine to crank over during extremely cold weather and "low power" when the accelerator pedal is floored.
There are also complaints about "squeaky" rear springs, a front passenger seat that won't recline properly and shuddering front brakes. Prospective buyers should bear in mind that the Titan is a truck and may have seen some serious duty under the previous owner.
In terms of its predicted reliability, Consumer Reports gives the '04 Titan a thumbs-down. The transmission and 4WD system get failing grades, as do the brakes, exhaust and paint/trim. The 2WD model fares better than its off-road stable mate and things seem to get better by 2007. Still, CR kvetches about the exhaust and engine noise. No surprise there.
Market research company J.D. Power likes the performance and comfort factor of the Titan, but gives it its lowest possible rating for overall dependability. Feature accessory quality also gets a rough ride and it's safe to say that J.D. and the boys do not recommend this vintage of the Titan.
From an initial base price of around $32,000 for the 2WD XE, a five-year-old Titan has dropped to about a third of its value. Depending upon the cab configuration, drivetrain and various options, these days you can expect to pay anywhere from $11,000 to $24,000.
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2004 Nissan Titan
Type: Full-size pickup
Original Base Price: $31,900; Black Book Value: $12,300-$24,800; Red Book Value: $11,750-$16,350
Engine: 5.6-litre V-8
Horsepower/Torque: 305 hp/379 lb-ft
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 16.8 city/11.7 highway (2WD version); regular gas
Alternatives: Toyota Tundra, GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Ram 1500, Ford F-150
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