2014 Nissan Titan Road Test and Review: Introduction
Let’s address the elephant in the room, shall we? The Nissan Titan is an old truck. Introduced for the 2004 model year, the Titan is basically the same now as it was then. Predictably, then, in most of the ways that count, the Titan falls short of its full-size pickup competitors, which means it appeals to three different kinds of truck buyers:
- Die-hard fans of the Nissan brand
- People looking for a deal they cannot refuse
- First-time buyers who care too much about styling
As evidenced by the accompanying photos, the Titan is a good-looking truck. And right now, in my area of the country, you can buy a Titan at invoice and pocket $2,500 in rebates and incentives, or shave a $500 rebate off the invoice price and finance the truck for 60 months with a zero-interest loan. Get a base Titan King Cab S, and you’re talking about a monthly payment of about $455 plus tax, without opening your wallet.
Still, the number of interested parties is, comparatively speaking, a small one. Last year, Nissan sold as many Titans in 365 days as Ford sold F-Series trucks in 12 days. As a good friend of mine might say, Holy Shnikes!
Nissan isn’t giving up, though. A redesigned Titan is in the works, arriving for the 2015 or 2016 model year, and the company has already confirmed that the new truck will offer an optional Cummins turbo-diesel engine. In the meantime, the old Titan soldiers on for at least one more model year, sure to provide value as dealers deeply discount in order to help keep the truck’s Mississippi factory limping along.
2014 Nissan Titan Road Test and Review: Models and Prices
Given the Titan’s low sales figures, it isn’t surprising that choice is limited in comparison to other full-size pickups. Nissan offers the 2014 Titan in King Cab and Crew Cab styles, with 2-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive. Both versions are offered in S, SV and PRO-4X trim levels, and the Crew Cab can also be specified with loaded and luxurious SL trim. A long cargo bed is available exclusively for the Crew Cab SV model; other Titans have a regular-length bed.
Prices range from a low of $30,265 for the King Cab S with 2WD to $47,405 for the Crew Cab PRO-4X with all factory options. Dealers offer a long list of accessories for the Titan, and if you’re inclined to buy all of them, the Titan’s price tag rises to more than $53,000.
My test truck is the 2014 Nissan Titan King Cab PRO-4X, painted Cayenne Red and wearing a base price of $38,485. To this, my truck added the Premium Utility Package ($1,500 – premium audio system, power adjustable pedals, a universal garage door opener, a spray-in bedliner, tailgate illumination, Utili-track cargo system with tie-down cleats, bed-mounted 120-volt power outlet) and the Luxury Package ($2,630 – leather seats, heated front seats, a power front passenger’s seat, NissanConnect touchscreen infotainment system, satellite radio, Pandora Internet radio, and a navigation system).
Additionally, my truck had telescopic tow mirrors ($403), a Utility Accessory Package ($350 – sliding bed extender, rear underseat storage bin), and a rear bumper step-up assist ($230) for a grand total of $43,598.
2014 Nissan Titan Road Test and Review: Design
- No changes
Though the Titan is rapidly aging, it remains a good-looking truck. Even in its most basic format, with a black grille, black mirror caps, and 18-inch steel wheels, the Titan is attractive, managing to avoid the bare-bones appearance of most entry-level pickups. It sure helps that in recent years the tailgate lost its enormous black plastic insert for a more conservative and conventional look.
From a styling standpoint, my favorite model is the Titan PRO-4X, which benefits from dark chrome trim, dark gray wheels, and a more aggressive appearance except for the cartoonish “PRO-4X” decal on the side of the pickup bed. Note that my test vehicle did not have side step rails. This improves the breakover angle when 4-wheeling, but sure makes it harder for smaller people to clamber aboard. They’re available, though, as a dealer add-on.
Inside, the Titan’s design is modular and industrial in nature, plainly finished in lots of plastic. My PRO-4X test truck was a sea of black punctuated only by gray trim pieces, white exposed seat stitching, and white-faced gauges. As monotonous as this was, I prefer it to the fake wood trim installed in the Titan SL.
If it sounds like I didn’t find the Titan’s cabin appealing, that’s not the case. Simplicity befits a vehicle designed first and foremost for working hard, and Nissan’s competitors have been over-dressing their truck cabins, creating visually jarring environments that are frequently an ergonomic disaster. Comparatively speaking, the Nissan looks like it could be hosed out without causing damage. That’s not the case, of course, but the Titan’s lack of glitz is almost refreshing.
2014 Nissan Titan Road Test and Review: Comfort and Cargo
- No changes
Getting into my Titan PRO-4X test truck was no easy task, as it lacked step rails or running boards. That makes it tough to get into and out of the Titan without getting dirt, mud, road salt, or other gunk on your clothes.
If you’re an adult, and you’re climbing into a Titan King Cab, you want to be taking your place in the driver’s seat or the front passenger’s seat, either of which is comfortable and supportive. My PRO-4X test truck had captain’s chairs upholstered in leather that was surprisingly soft and supple for a pickup. Unfortunately, the inboard armrests don’t lock into a comfortable position and are mounted too snug to a larger driver’s body, making them utterly useless.
They represent the only comfort gaffe, though. My Titan had a softly padded and flat shelf atop the door panel where the driver can comfortably crook an elbow, and the leather-wrapped steering wheel is pleasing to hold. When the front passenger’s seat is not occupied, it folds to help carry longer items inside of the cab.
The King Cab’s rear seat is tight for adults. Three will fit across, but with taller people riding in front, longer limbed rear passengers are forced to splay their legs, making the back bench a better proposition for two, and preferably only for a short distance. By the way, forget installing child safety seats for the kids. I tried, and there was little room for legs behind the driver’s seat. If you’re gonna carry more than one extra person on a regular basis, I strongly suggest getting the Titan Crew Cab.
A sizable center console with a rubber tray on the outer lid separates the two front seats. It is of a decent size, but pales in comparison to what the competition installs in their trucks. The Titan’s glove box isn’t very large, either. My test truck did have an optional storage tray under the rear seat, accessed by releasing the rear bottom seat cushions and folding them up, and there are several small trays and bins located in various parts of the cabin.
My test truck also had a locking storage bin built into the body of the truck just beyond the left rear wheel. While this isn’t nearly as handy as the RamBox option on a RAM 1500, it could still prove useful. Another useful upgrade to my test Titan was the assist step that deploys from under the rear bumper to make accessing the cargo box easier. My truck also had tailgate assist and tailgate illumination features, Nissan’s Utili-track system that allows owners to adjust tie-down cleats as might be necessary, given a particular payload, and an optional sliding bed extender that helps to secure longer cargo when driving with the tailgate lowered.
2014 Nissan Titan Road Test and Review: Features and Controls
- No changes
If you’ve ever been inside of a modern Nissan, you’ll recognize much of the Titan’s controls and switchgear. That’s great for saving money, but that’s often lousy for a buyer base that is frequently wearing gloves while driving. Now, I live in California, and my soft hands do nothing put tap at a keyboard all day, so I grabbed my old leather work gloves from the garage and went to work on the Titan’s control layout.
The good news, and I’m just as surprised by this as anyone, is that I could make everything work with no problem. The NissanConnect infotainment screen, at 5.8 inches, isn’t terribly large, but most of the touch-sensitive buttons that appear on the screen are big enough that using it while wearing gloves was not terribly difficult. Sure, some functions require a little bit of extra accuracy and precision, but so what.
The better news is that the Titan’s simplicity of design extends to how everything inside of the truck works. You’re not gonna need to crack an owner’s manual to figure this thing out.
I don’t usually comment on stereo systems, mainly because I’m not an audiophile, I suffer hearing loss, and I usually listen to satellite radio “news” stations. But I must say that the Titan’s Rockford Fosgate premium sound system is impressive. While testing how easy it is to use the tuning knob with gloves on, I stumbled across a manly Sade song on the Watercolors jazz station, a track with particularly strong bass. Cranking the system up resulted in zero distortion or muddiness, and with each thump of bass I could feel it through the driver’s seatback. So then, the Titan’s best stereo is great for middle-aged dudes who don’t know any better and who listen to lame ‘90s music.
2014 Nissan Titan Road Test and Review: Safety and Ratings
- No changes
When it comes to safety, there’s little to discuss regarding the Titan. Aside from the standard equipment required by the feds, the truck is offered only with a reversing camera, rear parking assist sensors, and blind-spot mirrors when you get the telescopic towing mirrors.
2014 Nissan Titan Crash-Test Ratings:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not rate the Titan for crash protection, except to assign the 2WD models with a 4-star rollover resistance rating and the 4WD models with a 3-star rollover resistance rating.
In testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Titan receives a “Good” rating for moderate overlap frontal-impact protection and for rear-impact injury prevention. The truck’s roof crush strength rating is “Acceptable.” The IIHS has not tested the Titan’s side-impact performance or its small overlap frontal-impact performance.
2014 Nissan Titan Road Test and Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- No changes
Hope you like a thirsty V-8 engine, because that’s all Nissan supplies for the Titan. It’s an aging 5.6-liter “Endurance” V-8, one that generates 317 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 385 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,400 rpm. The engine is E85-compatible, is paired with a 5-speed automatic transmission that includes a Tow/Haul mode, and when properly configured the Titan can tow up to 9,500 pounds and carry a 2,153-lb. payload.
If some of these numbers aren’t terribly impressive, you’re not gonna like the EPA’s fuel economy ratings. With 2WD, the truck gets 13 mpg in the city and 18 on the highway, for a combined 15 mpg. With 4WD, those numbers each slip by a single mile per gallon.
During my driving in mountainous terrain, on coastal highways, and on suburban freeways and streets, the Titan carried a single passenger and nothing in its cargo bed. It averaged 14.6 mpg.
Good thing gas is getting so cheap again.
2014 Nissan Titan Road Test and Review: Driving Impressions
If the Titan’s Endurance V-8 isn’t terribly strong or fuel-efficient, it sure sounds terrific if you’re the type who likes a loud rumbling V-8 engine. And it had no trouble motivating an empty truck. Still, imagine what the optional dealer-installed cat-back exhaust system can do for this engine, and its mechanical symphony.
The Titan’s 5-speed automatic transmission behaves in predictable fashion, and holds a gear for climbing grades. I did, however, have trouble getting used to the Titan’s gated shifter, frequently selecting 4th gear rather than overdrive 5th, and choosing Neutral rather than Reverse. But like anything in life, the driver acclimates with time. The Titan demonstrated a tendency to spin its inside rear tire a bit when accelerating around corners, even when the driver is light on the gas.
Rancho shocks and all-terrain tires give the Titan PRO-4X a buttoned-down ride and decent handling on pavement and in the dirt, but the steering is slow and rather heavy. Not surprisingly, the Titan definitely doesn’t feel as stiff and rigid as a newer truck, like the redesigned Chevy Silverado.
While doing some light off-roading in the mountains west of Malibu, crossing areas of natural erosion and deep ruts left by fire-fighting equipment during a blaze earlier this year, the Titan felt less stiff and unyielding than other pickups I’ve taken to the same spot. In tight quarters, I found the King Cab was likely easier to maneuver than the longer Crew Cab model, and the reversing camera and rear parking assist sensors helped me to avoid rocks and backing off of cliffs. With 4-Hi engaged, though, I found throttle response to be too sensitive, resulting in occasional lunges forward, something you don’t really wish for in an off-roader.
Back on pavement, while descending a steep grade on an unusually balmy 90-degree day, the Titan’s brakes proved fade-free, feeling stout underfoot and providing the driver with the ability to easily modulate pressure as necessary. One other thing worth mentioning about the Titan is how remarkably quiet the cabin is while trucking down the freeway at 75 mph. Aside from faint engine burble and a hint of wind noise, it is utterly silent.
2014 Nissan Titan Road Test and Review: Final Thoughts
Loyalty runs deep in truck country. You can almost hear pickup owners, drawling over a beer, saying something along the lines of: “My daddy always had a Chevy, his daddy always had a Chevy, and I’m always gonna have a Chevy. (Raise beer glass) ‘Murica!”
That the 2014 Titan wears the name of a Japanese company, is down on towing capacity, falls short at the gas pump, and is equipped with a spec sheet that doesn’t provide bragging rights at the local bar sure isn’t helping its cause. Personally, I liked the Titan King Cab PRO-4X just fine. But I’m not a truck guy. Nissan needs to make sure the next-generation Titan knocks it out of the park with truck guys if it has a chance in hell of surviving.
2014 Nissan Titan Road Test and Review: Pros and Cons
- Good looks
- Comfortable front seats
- Simple, plain, practical interior
- Useful cargo solutions
- There’s always a deal
- Tow ratings
- Fuel economy ratings
- Tight rear quarters in King Cab
- Lack of model, powertrain choice
- Engineering and design date to 2004
Nissan supplied the vehicle for this review
2014 Nissan Titan PRO-4X photos by Christian Wardlaw
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