By on November 18, 2019

Nissan’s full-size Titan pickup truck has a problem that Nissan engineers, marketers, and product planners will probably never fix.

That problem? The truck isn’t built by one of the Detroit Three automakers.

Ram, GM, and Ford each have such loyal followings that it seems like the full-size truck market is simply impenetrable. It’s not just Nissan, either – Toyota’s Tundra faces the same challenge.

To its credit, Nissan seems to understand this. Company reps say that they know that conquest sales will be tough, so they’re focused on the over half-million truck buyers (their number) that don’t really harbor any brand loyalty, as well as current Nissan owners who may be looking to move into a full-size truck.

That may just be PR speak – putting a positive spin on things is their job, after all. Then again, perhaps it isn’t. While the Titan doesn’t have the built-in brand loyalty of its Detroit rivals, it’s not a bad truck. It’s not on par with the segment’s best two – Ram’s 1500 and the Ford F-150 – but it’s ready to tangle with Chevy and GMC. On its own merits, it’s plenty competent.

(Full disclosure: Nissan flew me to Utah so that I could drive the Titan, and fed and housed me. I did not take the offered jacket, travel drink cup/mug, or speaker they offered.)

Changes for 2020 include new styling (including different grilles on different trims to help observers differentiate which is which), a new nine-speed automatic transmission, a power increase for the 5.6-liter V8, standard availability of Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 driver’s-aid tech (automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, high beam assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning), and revised interior decoration. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.

The nine-speed trans allows for wider gear spread and a revised final drive ratio of 4.083:1.

2020 Nissan Titan

There’s two levels of Titan: Titan and Titan XD heavy-duty. Both trucks go on sale in early 2020, with the XD following the smaller Titan. Titan is available in King or Crew Cab, with both being available in S, SV, or PRO-4X trims and with either two-wheel or four-wheel drive. Crew Cabs are also available in SL and top-line Platinum Reserve trims. XD models will be available in all trims, but only as Crew Cab and only with four-wheel drive.

Heavy-duty XD models are three inches taller, 14.6 inches longer, and ride on a wheelbase that is 11.8 inches longer. The XD has a fully boxed ladder frame, commercial grade differential, heavy-duty brakes, heavy-duty suspension, an integrated gooseneck hitch, and can tow up to 1,600 pounds above the regular Titan’s 9,370 pounds. The bed is 6.5 feet long, as opposed to 5.5.

2020 Nissan Titan

New LED fog lamps are part of the styling refresh, and this Titan is the first ever available with a dual panoramic moonroof. Available driver-aid tech includes forward collision warning, smart cruise control, traffic sign recognition, and driver alert.

There’s a nine-inch touchscreen in the center stack, and other available features include over-the-air software updates, Wi-Fi hotspot, and vehicle access via app.

Heated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, premium audio, keyless entry and starting, satellite radio, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, USB – those are also available features.

Depending on trim, you can have 18-, 19-, or 20-inch wheels, and the Titan rides on a double-wishbone suspension with stabilizer bar and coil-over shocks up front and multi-leaf with solid axle, stabilizer bar, and shock absorbers at rear. PR0-4X models have Bilstein monotube coil-over shocks.

Other PRO-4X features include standard four-wheel drive, hill descent control, electronic rear differential, LED headlights, skid plate, 18-inch wheels, all-terrain tires, red badging, tow hooks, an off-road gauge, and a black grille.

2020 Nissan Titan

The SL is all about chrome (grille, mirrors, front bumper, exhaust finisher, door handles) and has 20-inch wheels and LED lighting for the whole cargo area. Platinum Reserve adds a satin chrome grille and tailgate finisher, lighted chrome running boards, and two-tone paint. It also has 20-inch wheels.

Towers, take note – available towing-related features include trailer light check, trailer brake controller, rearview camera, trailer sway control, tow/haul mode with downhill speed control, front and rear sonar, and 360-degree camera.

Our drive took place at altitude – hi, Park City – and the Titan struggled to accelerate a bit at times, although it wasn’t too bogged down during a towing demo in which I was lugging around about 4,300 pounds worth of Ski-Doos. The 5.6L felt like it would offer adequate if not excellent punch closer to sea level – certainly it would be class-appropriate. No one expects a truck to be a burner, and there was at least enough guts for drama-free merging.

The ride is predictably trucky, even in the SL Crew Cab I drove. Again, about par for the course for a full-size truck. Not Ram road manners, but acceptable.

2020 Nissan Titan

Steering corrections were needed, but not excessively so, and the system feels weighted well enough and acceptably accurate. Oddly, the gas engine made a clatter that sounded diesel-like, although with the windows up the sound faded. Titan’s interior is a pleasant place – it’s roomy front and rear with plenty of headroom, and it’s quiet.

While the cabin styling is getting a little dated, at least the switchgear is easy to reach and use. Titan’s cockpit is arguably better than what Chevrolet (and perhaps GMC) have on offer.

Nissan had us do some light off-roading with the PRO-4X, and it seemed perfectly capable, although large trucks are always tricky to handle on the trails.

Pricing hasn’t yet been announced.

2020 Nissan Titan

Nissan is offering up a pleasantly competent truck with styling that sets it apart from its forebears despite not being revolutionary.

It doesn’t have the Ram’s on-road grace or cabin (heck, it doesn’t even have the F-150’s cabin), and it doesn’t offer up unique features like aluminum body work or a multi-function tailgate. That could hold Titan back – it’s hard enough to conquest the big boys in a segment so loyal, and being able to out-do the leaders on the block at their own game, or offering up some tech that no one else does, would be helpful to Nissan’s cause.

Mid-pack manners and lack of gee-whiz features aside, the Titan still drives well enough on- and off-road and has enough room and enough basic content to lure buyers. How many of those independents will become Nissan loyalists remains to be seen, but the Titan won’t be completely shut out by the leaders of the pack.

[Images © 2019 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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35 Comments on “2020 Nissan Titan First Drive – Competent, but Not a Conqueror...”


  • avatar
    dal20402

    This looks a lot like it benchmarked the 2009 F-150. The engine’s a beast (if thirsty) but I can’t imagine a reason to pick the rest of the truck.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Well if your brother in law was a sales guy at the local Nissan store, that might be a good deal…

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      People who have been burned by all three domestics, don’t want a 15 year old new Toyota, and haven’t been burned by a Nissan.

      Yet.

      • 0 avatar
        Ol Shel

        They burned a lot of people with the pre-2006 Titan and Armada’s faulty front differentials and cracking exhaust manifolds. These are expensive repairs, with no help offered post-warranty.

        The later vehicles are supposed to be good, if crude. I’d choose the nissan over an American truck, and they tend to be a good value if a left over or used vehicle. The cult of Toyota truck usually prices them out of my range.

      • 0 avatar
        SSJeep

        I would take a Tundra over any of the other pickups on the market today. Yes, the Tundra has a dated powertrain. But Toyota support both in and out of warranty is second to none, and problems are few and far between. The Titan has had its fair share of issues as well.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Somewhat off topic but why didn’t Toyota continue their product assault with the Tundra? They intro’d a pretty solid entry in 2007 and let it sit nearly untouched for how many years now? They’re spending all that dough in Nascar (and doing well) but would it make more sense to put that in product?

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      Maybe Toyota is still trying to figure out how to not have to replace the frame under warranty when it rusts through?

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        I haven’t seen any second generation Tundras with the Dana Corp/UAW frame sabotage issue.

      • 0 avatar
        SSJeep

        Hello, 2006 calling to replace the frame on your Tundra.

        Seriously? First, this was a galvanization issue with 1st generation Tundras, and has not affected any 2nd gen trucks. Secondly, Toyota either replaced the ENTIRE frame free of charge OR provided a $10000 above value trade in allowance. Mileage didn’t matter, and most of the repaired trucks were well out of warranty.

        That speaks volumes about Toyota’s commitment to the segment. Its not a bad thing. Try getting any other manufacturer to do so out of warranty, what with cam roller problems, bad transmissions, oil consumption, etc – it wont happen and the owner will get soaked.

        • 0 avatar
          sailorsrest

          Wrong, on my 04 Sequoia the frame was so bad it had holes in it and a .5″ of rust dust in the bottom rail. Toyota inspected it and said I put the holes in the frame. Yeah right and I guess I sanded down the inside of the frame to get all the orange dust. The told me good luck. I flipped them off, sold the truck in 2 weeks and will never step foot on a Toyota lot again–taking care of their customers yeah right, keep drinking the California Kool Aid

  • avatar
    conundrum

    An excellent press kit rewrite.

    Now down to brass tacks. C/D went to the same Park City reveal of this thing and found it almost entirely inadequate: “hard and unimpressive plastics creep up the Titan’s door panels and center console like moss, lending it an air of cheapness that is increasingly difficult to ignore the further you move up the price range.”

    And that’s just the kind part!

    When a purely commercial website like C/D seems to these days at least attempt to call a spade a spade, and then TTAC readers are fed this mild and uncritical gruel, I wonder, what’s the point of sending the editor to these reveals in the first place? I mean, the general writing is so bland, it conveys virtually nothing of any import whatsoever.

    The short and the long of it is that the Titan is deeply uncompetitive. So why not say so?

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      Because the edginess and hard-hitting truth that made this website what it used to be has been neutered by years of corporate ownership by polite Canadians, eh?

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      That’s C/D for you. Ads, pictures of cars which are basically ads, and the occasional exercise in flowery prose about the horrors of hard dashboard plastics and electronic stability control.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      conundrum, I was actually going to post the first five words of your post, in the same order.

      There’s a reason TTAC posts used to routinely get 50-100 comments each, and now they routinely get 5-10. The tools who run VerticalScope should have had the decency to retire this website when they decided to run off a series of editors and ignore its name in their management decisions. The very name of the company tells you it’s not from people who love either truth or cars — it’s investors with a “vertical” marketing strategy (i.e., gather a bunch of websites that each reach people with a particular interest and bombard the resulting captive audience with easy-to-sell ads). One catch: If you never post any worthwhile content, they’re not so “captive.”

      I used to visit this site more times in a day than I do now in a month. I didn’t change; the site did.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        If reviews aren’t getting TTAC banned from OEM press events, they’re not doing it right.

        But it was nice to get rental reviews and commentor private cars. They’re more like normal people would order/buy them, mid trim, cloth seats, etc.

        You could say the site has officially jumped the shark.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Rental Reviews were freaking awesome.

          Like when Jack took a Lacrosse hybrid to the track, or even his Lady writing up the XTS that they gave her at the airport rental.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      Find me a pickup truck that does not have “hard and unimpressive plastics” all over the interior. Hard and unimpressive plastics are a GM and Ford calling card, even in higher level trims. The only outlier might be the Ram Laramie where every surface is covered in stitched leather.

      • 0 avatar
        MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

        Indeed. I have a newish F150 crew cab 4×4 at work that listed over 50 fat ones and the interior strikes me as pulled right out of a $25K truck, aside from the large screen and heated seats. Scratchy cloth seats at that. If they were the soft velour out of a ’95 Camry they’d be great.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    in a nutshell, the domestics own this market because they do it better

    however, w/ the extreme profit margins there is a major opening if one company decides to become the value proposition

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    You can buy my brand loyalty. Just give me a 10 year 160 k mile bumper to bumper all inclusive coverage, transferable and no deductibles.
    Oh, and column shift with console delete.
    Oh, and no chrome pie plates on the fenders.
    I have a check ready right now.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    They’re stupid. If they keep blaming “loyalty”, they’ll always be in the Ridgeline’s shadows. But if they really want loyalty, fleets have loads of it.

    The Big 3 make it look too easy, but they’ve been paying their dues with fleets (and other bottom feeders) for decades, and are still paying up. It sounds like an investment Nissan isn’t willing to make/risk.

    Did they learn nothing from the Hard Body (before p!ssing away the valuable franchise)?

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I did not take the offered jacket, travel drink cup/mug, or speaker they offered.

    How about taking those things and finding creative ways to give them away?

    Show us a little love.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    Most owners who tow with 1/2 tons are hauling a 26 to 30 foot travel trailer, weighing in at between 5,000 and 7,000 pounds-with a 750ish tongue weight. The 4,300 pounds of jet skis (for demo purposes) are hardly representative of what most do.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      That is not my experience at all.

      A much more common load for a 1/2 ton is a boat or snowmobile trailer. Possibly a smaller camper or a car hauler. Most 30 foot trailers I see are pulled by 3/4 tons or above.

    • 0 avatar
      Jon

      My 17 Tahoe sees a 24′ 5700lb (loaded) travel trailer a few times a year and a flatbed with a loaded weight of 2000-5500lb once a month.

      I see others towing a trailer up I-17 that pushes the max capacity of their 1/2 ton and do not envy their soon to be transmission repair bills.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      The 4300 is 800 pounds more than a minivan co do so there is that.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    jack4x

    Must be a regional thing. What I mentioned is what most half-tons are tasked with in the state that I live and adjacent states-even with the mountains we have.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I see way more of either of these on the road than huge travel trailers:

      1) wood-sided landscaping trailers full of a few thousand pounds of assorted lawn care implements
      2) small utility trailers carrying a jetski or a couple of dirt bikes

      Like jack4x, usually when I see the big travel trailers they’re being towed by 3/4- or 1-ton pickups.

  • avatar
    V16

    Looks like a full size truck interior from 2005.
    Unfortunately for Nissan, its closing in on 2020.

  • avatar

    The interior looks to have superior quality to any of the big three designs. However, this is always the case with Japanese vehicles. Lets be honest the Mirage has better switchgear than the Sierra.

  • avatar
    TOTitan

    I will go against popular opinion here. In 2004 I bought a new Titan and have used it hard during my career in construction management (Im now retired). I have upgraded it with the 14″ front brakes from the 2008 and up Titans, Bilsteins, a Yukon Gear limited slip diff, and Firestone air bags. I have towed extensively with it and when we moved from socal to the Denver area made three trips over the Rockies with both the bed and my 14 x 7 enclosed trailer stuffed to the gills. After 15 years and 170,000 miles everything still works, it doesnt use any oil, and the only parts I have had to replace are one window motor and one radiator. Prior to the Titan I had owned every domestic truck including International long ago. None of them came close to the long term reliability of the Titan. How many Dodges or Fords have you guys seen that old where everything including the AC still works and body parts are not falling off? Flame me if you want but the above reflects 15 years of real life experience, not just opinions.

    • 0 avatar
      crtfour

      These are my sentiments as well after a similar experience with a Toyota. The American offerings may be “nicer” on the front end, but if you want a truck that will last with minimal fuss and no squeaks/rattles, it’s hard to beat the Japanese.

  • avatar
    sailorsrest

    What’s pitiful is the foreign truck makers employ and use more parts and people here in the US. The US car companies have almost all gone overseas. I saw a article of where the new battery mustang may be built in China. Let the Chinese drive them then. We want it built here for all the people looking for good paying jobs. We as a whole in America have got to demand the American companies stay here and build and employ. I would be willing to pay a little extra for it being all American built to help my neighbors and communities with good jobs.

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    Looks like a 10 year old Ford.

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