When we put the latest crop of new trucks through our 2008 4x4 of the Year test (Feb. '08), we talked about pitting all the 1/2-ton trucks against one another in a head-to-head shootout. But after giving it some more thought, we realized that story could just be a repeat of our of-the-Year comparo. We don't like reruns any more than the rest of you, so we decided to go a different route with the 1/2-tons. Last month we checked out some choice suspension modifications for the domestic trucks; this time it's the imports' turn.
As you'll see in the following pages, Executive Editor Kevin McNulty visited Trail Master's Arizona headquarters to photograph a 6-inch suspension system going on a Nissan Titan, while Technical Editor Fred Williams took a Toyota Tundra to 4-Wheeler's Supply & Off-Road in Phoenix for an ARB Old Man Emu suspension upgrade.
Each system takes a different approach to chassis modifications. The Trail Master kit combines factory and aftermarket components to retain the truck's steering geometry and ride quality while lifting the suspension to clear bigger tires, while the ARB kit replaces the factory springs and struts with parts tuned for high-speed runs through the Australian Outback, thus the lift is a modest 2.5 inches instead of the Trail Master 6-inch lift.
Once the work was done, we put these modifications to the test on a day-long trail ride outside of Phoenix. Our story of that ride appears after Kevin's and Fred's how-to articles. Before we detail the installs, though, let's take a look at the trucks we started with.
'08 Titan: Revised for Work & Play
Nissan has fielded a true fullsize truck since the Titan was introduced for 2004, and during its run the truck has seen some significant improvements. The output of its 5.6L V-8 was increased to 317 hp and 385 lb-ft of peak torque last year; this year the line has been stretched to include long-wheelbase models and a new off-road package.
We tested a short-wheelbase Crew Cab Titan with the new Pro-4X off-road package during thi
Nissan's new Pro-4X off-road option package includes Rancho shocks, 275/70R18 BFGoodrich R
The cockpit in our test Titan wasn't quite as fancy as this factory photo-no woodgrain or
Titan chassis are now available in two wheelbase lengths-139.8 and 159.5 inches. Adding nearly 2 feet to the stretched version allowed for longer beds-7 feet behind the Crew Cab and 8 behind the King Cab-which is good news for anyone who wants to haul more than a potted tree in the Crew Cab's bed. (To be fair, we did once see a Crew Cab SWB Titan carrying two dirt bikes in the bed. But they were 100cc Hondas, and the owner had to crack open the tailgate to get even those short bikes to fit.)
The other addition to the '08 Titan lineup is the Pro-4X off-road package, which includes Rancho shocks, P275/70R18 BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/As, additional skidplates, a lower 3.357:1 ratio in the pumpkins, and an electrically operated rear diff locker-something not available on the Toyota.
To refresh our memories about driving a Titan, we borrowed one to take to our Arizona test site, and it proved to be a very comfortable long-distance hauler. The cloth bucket seats were comfy and supportive, giving us not a hint of fatigue even after six hours behind the wheel. We expected the Ranchos to firm up the Titan's ride, but even with those upgrades the truck was compliant over every road surface we encountered. The 5.6L V-8's output is lower than the Tundra's 5.7, but the Titan never lacked grunt and delivered a best of 16.34 mpg on the highway, close to its 17-mpg EPA rating. Complaints? Don't really have any.
|AT A GLANCE |
| ||Titan ||Tundra |
|Engine ||5.6L V-8 ||5.7L V-8 |
|Horsepower ||317 @ 5,200 rpm ||381 @ 5,600 rpm |
|Torque (lb-ft) ||385 @ 3,400 rpm ||401 @ 3,600 rpm |
|Transmission ||Five-speed automatic ||Six-speed automatic |
|Lowest Axle Ratio Avail. ||3.357 ||4.30 |
|Low-Range Ratio ||2.596 ||2.618 |
|Front Suspension ||Double wishbone/Coil spring ||Double wishbone/Coil spring |
|Rear Suspension ||Live axle/Leaf spring ||Live axle/Leaf spring |
|Largest Tire Avail. ||P275/70R18 ||P275/65R18 |
|Ground Clearance (in) ||10.7 ||10.8 |
|Off-Road Package Avail. ||Pro-4X (electronic rear diff |
locker, 275/70R18 tires, 18-inch
alloy wheels, Rancho shocks,
skidplates, 3.36 axle ratio)
|TRD (Bilstein shocks, |
P275/65R18 BFGoodrich tires,
18-inch alloy wheels,
|Max. Payload (lbs) ||1,914 (Crew Cab SWB) ||1,925 (reg. cab) |
|Max. Tow Capacity (lbs) ||9,400 (King or Crew Cab SWB) ||10,500 (reg. cab) |
|EPA Fuel Economy (mpg) ||12 city/17 hwy ||13 city/17 hwy |
|Base Price ||$26,900 (4WD XE 5.6L) ||$27,440 (4WD reg. cab 5.7L) |
'08 Tundra: Added Value to a New Design
Toyota finally came to the (truly) fullsize truck party when it introduced this version of the Tundra in mid 2007. With a truck this new, there weren't many changes made for the '08 model year. None were mechanical, in fact. Instead, Toyota chose to make its Double Cab and CrewMax trucks available in a new trim level-called Tundra Grade-that's a step below the SR5 package. Standard Tundra Grade equipment includes things like chrome steel bumpers, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system, and dual-zone air conditioning. Toyota also made formerly optional equipment standard on the SR5 and Limited trim levels to increase their value.
In all, there are more than 40 Tundra models to choose from, given the truck's three available engines, three cab styles, three wheelbases, three box lengths, and three trim levels. Our tendency is to always go big in the engine department, and the Tundra's 5.7L iForce V-8 doesn't disappoint, with a brutish 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of peak torque. Those figures not only eclipse the Titan's 5.6 but also outgun GM's 6.0L V-8 and Ford's 5.4. If you don't need quite that much power, Toyota's 4.7L V-8 is available too, though its EPA mileage rating is almost identical to the 5.7, so chances are all you'll be saving is the $1,000 or so in purchase price between the two engines. (The third engine option, a 4.0L, 236hp V-6, is best left to the 2WD crowd.)
The '08 4x4 of the Year competition also included a regular-cab Tundra with the TRD off-ro
Toyota's TRD off-road option group includes Bilstein shocks, extra skidplates, 275/65R18 B
The Tundra's cockpit is similar to the Titan's but with a few key differences. The in-cab
Inside, the Double Cab and CrewMax Tundras are as roomy as their Nissan counterparts, though Toyota has figured out more places to stash stuff-more cubbies, a bigger center console, and so on. The Tundra's seats, which were broad, flat, stiff, and unsupportive, were a big disappointment.
We could have used a bit more coddling, given the truck's somewhat firm ride. Anecdotally we've heard a lot of complaints about the Tundra's harsh ride quality from owner reports and even YouTube videos. Our firsthand experience hasn't been as bad as what we've heard, read, and seen, though nearly all of our test Tundras have been equipped with the TRD off-road package, which includes a nice set of Bilstein shocks.
Titan vs. Tundra-Decisions, Decisions
So, if you're in the market for one of these trucks, which should you choose?
In some ways they're very much alike. Both are available with big V-8 engines that are on par performancewise with the domestic V-8s. Both trucks are fitted with double-wishbone/coil-spring front suspensions and live axles hung by leaves in back. Both are available with off-road option packages that upgrade the suspensions, tires, and skidplating. Both offer a choice of wheelbases and bed lengths to suit your work and lifestyle.
But there are also big differences between the two. You get more choices with the Toyota-three engines versus Nissan's one and a regular cab option in addition to the two four-doors. The Toyota's power advantage gives it a working advantage too, with payload and tow capacities higher than the Nissan's. You get six speeds in the Toyota's automatic transmission (the top two gears are overdrives) and the option of a 4.30:1 axle ratio, compared to the Nissan's five-speed automatic and axle gears that only go as low as 3.357:1. And speaking of axles, the rear axle in the Titan is a smallish variant similar to a Dana 44, where the Tundra is available with a massive 101/2-inch ring gear similar to a Corporate 14-bolt. With the Toyota you can get a backup camera mounted in the tailgate handle, which is very helpful when hooking up a trailer. The Nissan only offers a proximity sensor that beeps in Reverse when you get close to something. On the other hand, only the Nissan is available with a locking rear diff from the factory-a big plus in our minds.
And then there are the subjective things: Over the long haul, some of us prefer the compliance of Nissan's Pro-4X suspension over Toyota's TRD setup. We also found the Nissan's seats far more comfortable than the Toyota's. There was one driver in our group, however, who found that firmer-seats and suspension- was better.
Another point to consider: Many of these characteristics will be affected when you add aftermarket equipment, which is what we're about to do.