We were also big fans of the thought put into cargo management and storage inside the Titan. Examples abound of the great benefits derived from attention to detail. The flip-up rear-seat cushions add a space shuttle worth of cargo space by making great use of the near-flat rear floor. Grocery hooks on the bottom of the seat cushions, a cargo bin, cup holders, oversize assist grips, and a coat hanger system all added to the appreciation of this new truck. And did we mention the generously sized rear seats? The Titan has comfortable fullsize rear seats that position the rear passengers slightly higher than the front row, allowing them a decent view of the road.
Powertrain: What most impressed us is the Titan's Nissan Endurance 5.6L DOHC V-8 engine and five-speed automatic transmission. The engine produces 305 hp and 379 lb-ft of torque backed by a standard five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with manual shift and tow/haul modes, and this 2WD version uses the very "trucky" Dana 44 axle. The combination proved potent, but not that quick. In fact, it was third behind the SRT-10 and just 1/10 second off the supercharged Toyota Double Cab Tundra's quarter-mile e.t. However, it was so smooth and driveable, which made up for the slight deficit against its supercharged competition. One of our testers put it this way: "The motor is a beautiful, aluminum powerhouse that keeps on pulling and pulling. The transmission is so smooth that I thought it was direct drive with no shifting."
This is hands down the smoothest, most elegantly tuned powertrain we've experienced in a truck. The engine is big enough to produce good low-end torque, and with its DOHC and four valves per cylinder, it makes power all the way to the rev limit. The transmission shifts seamlessly between gears, always selecting the right gear for the speed and load. The integration of engine and transmission performance is at a level equal to that of the best luxury sedans. It's a little out of place in a pickup, but you sure get used to it, making competitive models seem crude by comparison.
Handling and Braking: The Titan features a very modern and effective suspension, consisting of an all-steel double-wishbone suspension on the nose and power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering. The rear suspension is a dual-rate rigid leaf spring with shackles mounted along the frame sides to afford more ground clearance. Our test Titan came with the optional 8.0x18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and 265/70R18 tires. It also had the available tire pressure monitor system as well as the four-wheel disc brakes with Bosch antilock braking system (ABS) and vehicle dynamic control (VDC) with brake-activated limited-slip traction control.
Even with all that technology, the Titan still scored about mid pack in our slalom. The F-150 is an ever-so-slightly better-handling truck than the Titan as evidenced by the Ford's 56.02-mph slalom speed compared with the 55-mph flat (the slowest of trucks tested) for the Titan. Much of the deficit in this test comes from the Titan's mud-and-snow-style tires.
Our ringer slalom driver, John Hotchkis, noted that the Titan felt heavier than both the F-150 and the Tundra Double Cab, even though the throttle response and powertrain performance were topnotch. Hotchkis didn't notice, nor did we, during the subsequent slip-and-slide drives through the slalom whether the VDC was doing much. We were on the edge, but no so far that the system had to activate, which to us is a significant positive. We don't like such systems to intrude on the sport-driving experience, and this system was seamless.