Look at the bed of Kelley Blue Book’s long-term Nissan Titan and you might notice the “Pro-4X” graphics. What could that swath of alphanumerics possibly mean? Dirt, my friend. The answer is dirt.

It’s not glamorous but our 2017 Titan pickup spends most of its days imitating a tarmac-bound commuter car; a modest task occasionally interrupted by deliveries to the thrift store or the need to lug dirtbikes to the dirt. On a recent video shoot however we finally experienced the off-roadiest of the Titan in an honest-to-goodness off-road adventure.

Along with its titular graphic package the Nissan Titan Pro-4X features off-road tires, skid plates, a locking rear differential, and an off-road tuned suspension. Those are all great off-road add-ons but our long-termer’s task was to follow the 2017 Ford Raptor; a nutty factory-built plaything crafted for 100 mile per hour blasts across the desert and airborne shenanigans. Yes, you really can jump a Raptor. In this unfair matchup the Titan didn’t stand a chance. The Ford Raptor is simply more capable thanks to its superior power, race truck suspension, and, quite possibly, its cooler side graphics. 

Pedal to the mettle

But that’s not to say our friendly Titan embarrassed itself. When asked to follow the eager young Raptor our Titan Pro-4X happily complied, just at a much slower pace. During a rock crawling section the Titan’s 4-wheel drive system did an admirable job putting power to inhospitable sedimentary. And, truth be told, the Titan’s narrower width actually made it the superior choice when squeezing between rocky outcroppings.

If there’s a weak link in our long-term Titan’s off-road chain it’s the suspension. Where the Ford Raptor effortlessly glides over bumpy trails the Titan Pro-4X bounces like an 8-year old at a birthday party. For traversing dirt in rapid fashion the Titan’s predilection to spring-step over even modestly-rugged terrain is a distinct limiting factor. As camera gear toppled and rocked around the Titan’s cabin we watched as the Raptor literally left us in its dust.

Trailing Ford’s rugged wunderkind we pondered some of the Pro-4X’s plusses and minuses. In blessed contrast to the tortuous external locking hubs on the 1987 Toyota 4Runner my dad used to own, engaging four-wheel drive in the Titan is as easy as rotating a knob. My dad’s rudimentary 1980’s Toyota also lacked the Titan’s cool 360-degeree camera system, which helps minimize stress and dented fenders when parking…or when slipping between rocks and cacti during off-road misadventures. Lastly, while we appreciate the Titan’s handy flip-out bed step, it eventually became so caked in mud that the extra weight caused it to extend automatically, hanging low and risking damage during confined maneuvers. Pro-4X tip: enjoy the mud in moderation.

Again, for emphasis, comparing a 2018 Ford Raptor to a 2017 Nissan Titan Pro-4X is not fair. Yet, our stint in the wilderness did show that a humble Pro-4X can go everywhere the flashy Raptor can go…just much, much slower. Remove the Raptor from the equation and you’re left with a functional, capable full-size Nissan pickup that can absolutely hold its own off-road. With luck we’ll find more opportunities to slowly bash our Titan around the underbrush before it departs the Kelley Blue Book long-term fleet. And to minimize unflattering comparisons, we’ll probably leave the Raptor at home.

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