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2008 Nissan Titan

The Titan isn't the largest pickup overall, but it's one of the tallest, which became evident when trying to see over the massive hood.

Back in 1994, I bought my first (and so far only) brand-new vehicle, a full-size 1995 Dodge Ram 1500 that was one of the largest pickups available at the time.

Trucks are getting bigger, a point brought home every time I reached for the grab handle and pulled myself up into the Nissan Titan tester.

The late Ford Excursion seemed to prove it is possible to make an SUV that's just too big. I wonder when we're going to hit that peak with pickup trucks.

The Titan isn't the largest pickup overall, but it's one of the tallest, which became evident when trying to see over the massive hood.

My tester was a 4×4 Crew Cab with 7-foot box, on the new-for-2008 optional long wheelbase. Its length and wide turning radius made it a handful to park, especially in tight mall spots, where two, and sometimes three, attempts were needed to line it up without removing the corners of neighbouring cars.

While many buyers use their trucks simply as big cars, they're really meant for work, of course, and the Titan's ready for that.

It's available as a King Cab, with rear-hinged back doors that open almost 180 degrees, and in 6-foot-6 or 8-foot box, and as a Crew Cab, with 5-foot-6 or 7-foot box.

There's only one engine, though, a 5.6 L V8 with five-speed automatic transmission. While the King comes in two- or four-wheel drive, Crew Cab models are strictly 4×4.

Truck buyers like to have choice, especially when it comes to engines and, more specifically, to have the choice of a diesel.

But Japanese companies face a Catch-22: they don't sell enough trucks to offer a full range, but not offering a full range is hurting their truck sales.

Nonetheless, Titan offers variety: both body styles come in four trim lines, including an off-road model. Throw in bed lengths and the 4×2 and 11 models are available.

This Nissan comes well equipped (and should, for the price), with all models containing air conditioning, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, six-CD stereo and, on the Crew Cab, a power-sliding rear window.

Only the base XE model lacks power-adjustable pedals and power driver's seat. Side and curtain airbags are available.

A massive nose incorporates considerable chrome and a domed hood, while the rear includes squared-off fenders and a locking tailgate with damped struts.

A plastic-lined locking compartment behind the left rear wheel contains a removable tray that can be set at two different heights and is handy for storing dirty work boots. A spray-in bed liner is covered by the company's warranty.

My tester's box contained a 12-volt power outlet, cab-mounted and rear cargo lights and a rail system, mounted just under the box lip, that holds movable cleats for securing loads.

The seats are Nissan's trademark foam-filled variety, and they're the most comfortable I've experienced in any pickup truck. The rear seats are just as nice and fold up for extra cargo space on the floor.

My truck featured four cupholders just for the front passengers, plus five overhead bins and three open dash cubbies. The front bench seat incorporates a huge lidded console with movable divider.

The King Cab can tow up to 4,309 kg and the Crew up to 4,218 kg.

It's obvious these trucks are made for work: unburdened, the bouncy ride transmits every bump. The brakes work just fine, but I don't like their squishy feel.

A big dial on the centre stack switches the transfer case, and it's almost instantaneous, even into the four-low maximum traction range. On a gooey off-road course, though, torque transfer could have been better; the truck crabbed sideways before going forward.

All things considered, I'm torn on the Titan. It's got gutsy acceleration, good on-centre feel; it's quiet and comfortable interior, has great fit-and-finish and tons of storage.

Out on a wide country road, it's a lot of fun to drive. But if you want a truck because it's a big car that just happens to have a box, Titan's workaholic suspension can get tiresome. And this big brute is a beast in the city, especially at parking time.

On a recent trip into downtown Toronto, I weighed Titan's super-comfy seats and premium stereo against the aggravation of tight traffic and even tighter underground parking – and took my aging Ram instead.

Freelance auto reviewer Jil McIntosh can be reached at jil@ca.inter.net

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