THE FOREIGN COMPETITION
2020 Nissan Titan Review: Is ‘Good Enough’ Good Enough?
Release Date: Early 2020
Why should anyone buy a Nissan Titan? The question sounds glib, but it’s a fundamental point any vehicle must address — especially in the hyper-competitive full-size truck segment, where just being good enough is not very good.
Nissan named its truck “Titan” to convey size and strength, but the connotation that stems from Greek mythology — an immortal cast aside by the craftier, more fleshed-out (and markedly less prone to infant consumption) Olympians — may depict the Titan’s market situation more accurately. Ford, Fiat Chrysler and GM will outspend all comers to dominate in the full-size truck arena. Their present business models — and mobility futures — depend on those profits. The only foreign competitors, Toyota and Nissan, can’t match those resources. Toyota has carved out a successful niche in off-roading, but it’s never been clear what the Titan’s rationale for existence is.
Nissan spent $230 million facelifting the Titan for the 2020 model year to address that question, then gave it to the media to see what changes they made. Here are our thoughts after sampling the updated truck in the Utah mountains.
What We Like
Nissan devoted its resources to places where buyers would most appreciate the changes. The biggest upgrade may be switching from a seven-speed automatic transmission to a nine-speed. The gears and shifts, designed to take better advantage of the power and torque from the now-400-horsepower-and-413-lb-ft 5.6-liter V8, felt lively and intuitive. According to Nissan, acceleration from 50 mph to 70 mph has improved by a full second.
That nine-speed transmission also means a lower engine speed during cruising. Combined with the acoustic laminated glass of the windshield, that yields a relatively quiet ride.
The Pro 4-X trim offers a robust off-roading package, which impressed us. We scrambled up a (relatively accessible) mountain in it, though you might want to accessorize it up a bit if you’re planning on going full overlander.
Nissan continued to make progress on the tech front, as well. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and a Fender sound system carry over from 2019, but Nissan bumped up the standard touchscreen to 8.0 inches, with an option for 9.0. The Nissan Safety Shield 360 driver-assist features come standard. Over-the-air software upgrades are also possible, using NissanConnect.
Watch Out For
The Titan’s new styling is bold, to put it kindly. Nissan goes heavy with the “TITAN” branding, and aggressively differentiates the trim levels, with a lot of chrome and large badges. In the Platinum Reserve version, the front passenger scores giant logos on the dashboard and armrest to inform them they are riding in the top-tier trim; a massive badge on the tailgate helpfully informs tailgaters of that same fact.
The Titan doesn’t quite match up with big three competitors when it comes to comfort. The ride felt bumpy at a couple points, even on fairly decent Utah pavement. While the American trucks have gone full-on megayacht with their truck cabins, the Titan doesn’t feel as spacious or fancy, especially in the rear of the cabin. Those same front passengers bombarded by “Platinum Reserve” badging will wonder whey their seats only adjusts four ways.
The Titan competes with the high-volume full-size trucks of the Big Three: the Ford F-150 ($28,155+), the Ram 1500 ($33,440+), and the Chevy Silverado ($28,300+). The Toyota Tundra ($33,425+) may be the Titan’s most direct competitor.
The new Nissan Titan feels like a decent truck across the board. But every truck in this segment brings that and more. The Titan can’t match its Big Three competitors for luxury, capability, or sheer array of options. It doesn’t seem to have a distinctive niche where it excels. (Nissan says it’s targeting current Titan owners, current Nissan owners, and first-time truck buyers with the updated Titan…which doesn’t clarify much.)
Pricing details are not available yet, but the argument for the Titan may be at the value end of the market. Buyers who want a basic truck with a big V8 and a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty won’t be disappointed.
Nissan hosted us and provided this product for review.
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