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2009 Nissan Titan ReviewThe Good
Outstanding engine power provides quick acceleration and superior towing capability, while innovative bed options and a spacious cabin offer solid pickup truck utility in the 2009 Nissan Titan.The Bad
The '09 Titan lacks a more fuel efficient V6 option, and the little-changed interior feels outdated and less accommodating than those of most of its modernized competitors.
The CarGurus View
Perhaps its foreign nameplate turns off potential buyers, but the 2009 Nissan Titan offers just as much versatile utility, towing power, and rugged four-wheel-drive performance as the popular domestic trucks on the market. Combined with agile maneuverability and a family-oriented roomy cabin, the Titan can switch easily from heavy-duty work to quick trips to the supermarket. Due to be replaced in the next couple of years, however, buyers may want to wait for what should be a more updated and perhaps more fuel efficient large pickup from Nissan.
At a Glance
Overlooked by many but the most diehard Nissan loyalists, the Titan, with its tough build, powerful engine, off-road capability, and towing heft, was the first pickup offered by a foreign automaker to give the domestic trucks a serious run for their money. But going without any major updates in its five years on the market has left it looking and feeling somewhat old-school next to its overhauled competitors. Despite winning several head-to-head comparisons in the past, this solid and reliable work truck never quite spread its popularity beyond its Nissan fans, and the Titan will likely be replaced after 2010.
As such, the 2009 Titan receives minor tweaks this year, but does get some cool new option packages. The full-size pickup comes in rear-wheel and four-wheel drive, and seats either five or six passengers depending on whether you get the front bench or bucket seats. King Cabs feature little rear legroom and small, reverse-hinged rear doors that do not open independently of the front doors, but do open 180 degrees for easy access. The Crew Cabs have four full-size doors and more rear legroom. Each cab has a choice of two bed sizes – the Kings get either a 6-foot-6-inch or 8-foot bed, while the Crews have smaller 5-foot-6-inch or 7-foot beds to accommodate the additional cabin space.
Both sizes come in XE, SE, luxury LE, and off-road PRO-4X trims, all with 18-inch wheels and the option to add 20-inchers. The base XE offers power features and a CD player, but moving through the line-up to the LE gradually adds leather trim and upholstery, a 6-CD changer, and power front seats. The PRO-4X, available only with four-wheel drive, prepares itself for serious off-roading with its all-terrain tires, larger shocks and brakes, stiffer suspension, skid plates, and 10.7 inches of ground clearance.
New for 2009, the Titan XE gets a matte grille and body-colored bumpers. An optional Heavy Metal Package gets aggressive with a chrome grille, chrome wheels, and chrome step rails. The versatile Max Utility Package outfits the bed with useful items, such as a five-channel rail system with adjustable cleats, a spray-in bedliner, a lockable utility box, and a utility light for the bed. For extra hauling power, it also includes a heavy duty battery, trailer wiring and harness, large tow mirrors, and tow hooks up front.
Unlike most pickups in its segment, the '09 Titan offers only one engine choice, with predictably terrible fuel economy in the low, low teens. Under the hood roars a 32-valve, 5.6-liter DOHC V8, paired with a 5-speed automatic transmission equipped with overdrive and a tow-haul mode to help pull heavy loads. The powerplant delivers 317 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque at a low 3,400 RPM, and when fully outfitted it can tow up to 9,500 pounds with the King Cab and 9,400 with the Crew. The engine is also flex fuel E85 compatible. Unfortunately, both the rear-wheel and all-wheel drive versions average a disappointing 13/17 mpg, so expect to be dipping into your wallet quite frequently to fill up its 28-gallon tank.
The V8 engine does offer satisfying power and, according to one reviewer, exhibits some of the quickest off-the-line acceleration among large trucks. Confident in highway passing situations and strong on off-road and uphill climbs, the engine gets a lot of help from a quick and responsive transmission. However, as gas prices fluctuate and remain uncertain, the '09 Titan's lack of a more fuel-efficient V6 engine seems glaringly out of step with the times. Many everyday truck users who want the utility of a pickup, but don't need the extra power or poor mileage of a V8, will want to take a look at other brands.
Ride & Handling
The four-wheel-drive system in the '09 Titan features a limited-slip differential for optimal traction and comes equipped with low-range gearing for off-road performance. The PRO-4X adds a locking rear differential for even better torque delivery to the rear wheels, and with its skid plates and over 10 inches of ground clearance, it tackles rough roads easily and with confidence. However, its firmer suspension can be overly harsh, and even the regular suspension in the other trims feels choppy on rough roads, according to several test drives. When not loaded down in the back, the rear of the Titan bounces around uncomfortably.
Otherwise, the 2009 Titan rides smoothly, according to owners, with precise steering, responsive brakes, and a very quick-shifting powertrain. For its size, reviewers find the Titan surprisingly agile to maneuver. Its speed-sensitive steering moves from a light touch in city driving to a more weighted and driver-interactive feel in more challenging situations.
Thanks to triple door seals (as opposed to double ones found in domestic trucks), the '09 Titan rides with little wind and road noise. However, many critics mention the loud exhaust note of the V8, which sounds satisfyingly macho at first but quickly gets on nerves with its constant droning on long trips.
Cabin & Comfort
The '09 Titan offers a roomy cabin, according to both professional critics and owners. Regular configurations in both the King and Crew Cabs seat six in both a front and rear bench. King Cabs have larger pickup bed options and, as a result, rear passengers get only 33 inches of legroom, compared to the incredibly spacious 40 inches in Crew Cabs. The reverse-hinged 180-degree doors on the King Cabs open flat against the side of the truck, allowing for easy access, although a high step-in height requires smaller passengers to grab onto something to help hoist themselves up.
The rear bench split-folds flat 60/40, with the seat cushion flipped forward to create more cargo space. The front bench seat also split-folds 40/20/40, and in the Crew Cab the front passenger seat folds flat to accommodate longer objects. Bucket seats are standard on LE and PRO-4X trims, but the front passenger seat still folds flat. One reviewer prefers the bucket seats to the bench seat, which feels too flat and firm to provide the comfort required on long trips.
A center storage console comes with the buckets, offering a cargo bin, cupholders, and a 12-volt power outlet. The '09 Titan offers plenty of interior storage otherwise, including a large glovebox and an overhead console optional for the XE and standard on all others. Despite a good quality build, reviewers find the actual materials used to be at a low-grade level, with a lot of hard plastic and not many soft-touch surfaces.
Drivers get a roomy 41 inches of headroom and nearly 42 inches of legroom. The steering wheel tilts for height adjustment, but does not telescope. Test drives reveal simple, large, and intuitive controls, generally within easy reach of the driver. However, one critic finds some switches too low to access quickly and without taking your eyes off the road. SE trims come with manual lumbar support, while the LE and PRO-4X offer an 8-way power driver's seat and 6-way passenger seat. Memory settings and wheel-mounted audio controls in the LE add extra convenience for the driver. An SE-specific Convenience Package adds a console-mounted shifter, Bluetooth, and front captain's chairs.
Pickup beds come with a lockable tailgate and tiedown cleats, and can be equipped with the Utili-Track system. This offers five rail channels – two on the floor and three on each side of the bed – each with its own set of adjustable cleats. A lockbox and utility light are also optional.
The '09 Titan offers rugged performance with interior creature comforts. The base XE offers power windows and locks, a 6-speaker sound system with CD player, and a power rear window (not on the King Cab version). SE trims upgrade to power mirrors, cruise control, remote entry, a trip computer, and a 6-CD changer with MP3 jack. The luxury-oriented LE boosts comfort with leather seats, dual-zone climate control, a garage opener, wood and leather trim, and a 10-speaker sound system. Several option packages add these features to the SE. The PRO-4X comes dressed similarly to the SE, but adds its own badging and gauge style and red-stitching on its leather trim. Options include Bluetooth, satellite radio, a sunroof for Crew Cabs, and a Rockford Fosgate sound system. A technology bundle offers a DVD player, heated seats, and a navigation system to the LE and PRO-4X.
Despite the lack of standard stability control or side impact airbags for both rows, the 2009 Nissan Titan earns good safety scores from both the NHTSA and the Insurance Institute. Frontal impacts earn five stars, while side crash and rollover tests earn four. All trims feature 4-wheel disc and ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, dual front airbags, active front head restraints, and a tire monitor.
Standard on the LE and optional for the SE are foglights, automatic headlamps, and mirrors with turn signals. Traction control comes standard on SE, LE, and PRO-4X trims only. Side head curtain airbags for both front and rear rows can be added as an option, and stability control is available for all but the base XE trim. Standard on the PRO-4X, but optional for all other trims, rear parking sensors help when maneuvering the large pickup in parking lots or when parallel parking.
What Owners Think
Lots of V8 power and towing capacity get rave reviews from owners of the 2009 Titan. Throw in a smooth ride, nimble handling, and a good-looking interior, and you produce a lot of happy drivers. The extremely poor fuel economy earns the most negative comments, while some owners give low marks to the outdated interior and seat comfort. One reviewer can't shake the feeling that the Titan seems less solid or durable than its domestic competitors.
No word yet from CarGurus owners, but drivers of the nearly identical 2008 version also list the engine power as a favorite feature of their Titan, saying the truck is actually quite quick for its size. Overall build quality and the abundant storage capacity both inside and out also please owners. A few wish for a V6 engine option, but by far the biggest downside remains its low-teens fuel efficiency ratings.