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If you’ve been thinking about buying a pickup truck, then you already know the segment is red hot. The, Ford F-150, and Ram 1500 are all battling it out for dominance, and honestly, it’s hard to pick between those options. The heavily refreshed Nissan Titan enters the ring swinging for 2020, but it’s really just a middleweight option taking on the heavyweight contenders. Good as the updated Titan is, its swing can’t match the punch offered by its American-made rivals.
- Revamped V8 engine offers strong performance
- Updated styling looks good, especially on the Pro-4X
- Lots of available driver-assistance technology
- Only one engine, while competitors offer more
- No helpful towing tech
- Towing and payload numbers fall behind the competition
Nissan simplified the Titan’s lineup for 2020, but with competitors available in myriad configurations, this only hurts the truck’s appeal. The S, SV and Pro-4X models are offered in King Cab and Crew Cab body styles, while the SL and Platinum Reserve only get the latter. You can buy the Titan with two- or four-wheel drive, except the Pro-4X, which is 4WD only.
No matter which version you choose, every Titan is powered by the same engine: a naturally aspirated, 5.6-liter V8. Honestly, the powerplant is the best thing about the Titan, pushing out 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. Compared to 2019, this 5.6-liter engine has more power and torque all the way around — provided you fill it with premium fuel. A higher final drive ratio improves acceleration, which is especially noticeable in the engine’s midrange. In fact, Nissan says the Titan is a full second quicker from 50 to 70 mph than a 2019 model.
The transmission is a gem, probably the quickest-shifting automatic in the class. It never hunts around for the right gear and is happy to upshift or downshift multiple steps at a time. Best of all, a throaty V8 rumble comes into the cabin without much wind or road noise to drown it out.
Not everything about the driving experience is hunky-dory, though. The higher final drive ratio might be great for acceleration, but it can do a doozy on fuel economy. I saw only 14.8 miles per gallon during my week with the Titan. Meanwhile, the EPA estimates that a two-wheel drive truck like mine should return 16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined.
In addition, this “improved” powertrain doesn’t do much for towing. Most configurations are actually rated slightly lower than before: The maximum towing capacity is 9,370 pounds in a King Cab with two-wheel drive. At least payload improves slightly, with a max rating of 1,680 pounds for all four-wheel-drive models.
Those aren’t bad numbers, it’s just that the competition mostly does everything better. Both the Ram 1500 and Ford F-150 can be configured to haul over 2,000 pounds or tow more than 10,000 pounds. Of course, if you need more towing capability you could trade up to, which starts at about $2,500 more.
Nissan has jumped on the driver-assistance bandwagon for 2020, beefing up its Safety Shield 360 suite of driver’s aids. All Titan trims get blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, high-beam assist, rear automatic braking and and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. My tester also has the optional adaptive cruise control, driver alert system, rear door alert and traffic sign recognition.
On the whole, these driving aids work as advertised. The adaptive cruise control can do its thing in slow-speed traffic, bringing the truck to a complete stop when necessary and stay engaged for a brief second or two. I like that the lane-departure warning is just that — a warning. No torque is applied to the steering wheel, just a little buzz to bring my attention back to the road. I wish the blind-spot indicators were a little bigger, however. Placed on the top outside corner of the side mirrors, they’re pretty tiny. Given the size of the truck and the mirrors, it’s easy to miss those warning lights — especially on the passenger side.
For infotainment tech, Nissan Connect now runs on a standard 8-inch touchscreen, but my tester has the optional 9-inch screen with Wi-Fi. Regardless of screen size,and are standard, as is satellite radio. Nissan has made a few tweaks to its in-dash technology as of late and the system is organized better than it was in the past, but the screen is sometimes lazy to respond to inputs. Besides, it’s nowhere near as robust as the Uconnect system in the Ram 1500, with its optional 12-inch touchscreen.
Charging options are abundant with USB type-A and type-C plugs up front, a 12-volt outlet in the center console and two USB-A outlets, a 12-volt and a 12-volt, 400-watt outlet for rear seat passengers. Wireless charging is not available, however.
Perhaps most notably, the Titan doesn’t come with any kind of camera assistance for towing. In fact, there isn’t any kind of technology to make towing easier at all. The Ford F-150 has the Pro Trailer Back-Up system that takes the stress out of reversing when hitched up, and the GMC Sierra 1500 has an incredible array of cameras so drivers always know what’s going on. Meanwhile the Ram 1500 has blind-spot monitoring that covers the length of the trailer. The Nissan Titan makes do with a blurry back-up camera. That’s it.
The 2020 model-year update doesn’t change the truck’s styling too much, though each trim gets its own specific grille. It’s all chrome, all the time for the SL model, while Platinum Reserve dials it back with a satin-chrome finish. The Pro-4X gets a black grille with red badging accents. S and SV trims get a black grille, as well, just with the standard silver Nissan badge.
A new headlight design on higher-level trims is a welcome change, as is the LED lighting. Out back you’ll find revamped tailgate finishers, again denoting the different trim levels, and LED taillights. Finishing out the new look are redesigned wheel options and four new colors: Red Alert, Super Black, Baja Storm and Cardinal Red Metallic.
If a fancy-pants interior is your thing, you might be disappointed by the Titan. Sure, everything is within reach, with big grippy knobs and buttons for big manly hands, but the design is utilitarian at best, especially when you compare it to the Ram 1500. That said, Nissan’s “Zero-Gravity” seats are here and are certainly the most comfortable you’ll find in a truck, save for the massaging seats in the upper-level Ford F-150 models.
If I’m buying a Titan, my money is on the Pro-4X trim, not only because I think it looks the best with red accents and devoid of chrome, but it also has a locking rear differential, Bilstein shocks and upgraded off-road tires. I’d spec the $2,190 Utility Package to get the bumping 12-speaker Fender audio system, trailer brake controller and bed rack system, as well as a bed-mounted 120-volt outlet. The $3,390 Convenience Package, meanwhile, just isn’t worth it. The surround-view camera is mediocre at best in terms of clarity and the heated seats are some of the weakest I’ve tested. All told, that puts my ideal Titan at $53,575, excluding $1,595 for destination.
That’s a lot of money, not just on its own, but especially when you consider I can get a similarly optioned Ram 1500 Rebel for a bit less, or spend just a tad more to get a base Ford F-150 Raptor that’ll run circles around the Pro-4X (what can I say, I like off-road trucks). Even my two-wheel-drive SV King Cab tester starts at $39,990, but adding the Utility Package requires you select the Tow and Convenience packages as well, so I’m up to $46,505 including destination.
The 2020 Nissan Titan isn’t a bad truck — far from it, in fact. The engine and transmission are great, it has all the necessary driver’s aids for making a commute a bit easier and it looks pretty good, especially in Pro-4X guise. The problem is just that the competition is so much better. Chevy, Ford, GMC and Ram all offer more engine choices, including a diesel option. (You could also get a Toyota Tundra, but it has the same problems as the Nissan.) The others also offer more technology, better interiors and increased utility. If the Titan fits your needs, then you won’t be disappointed. But you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not looking at one of its competitors first.
Keyword: 2020 Nissan Titan review: When good isn’t good enough