By on March 12, 2020

On a cold January morning during the 2015 North American International Auto Show, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn debuted the brand’s all-new pickup truck. It wasn’t a typical full-size, half-ton offering. Rather, it was a “tweener” that sits between the half-ton and three-quarter ton trucks currently on sale. Ghosn made the business case for the truck, stating that nearly 150,000 people every year switch from a half-ton to a three-quarter ton truck or vice versa because there’s no real truck out there to meet their needs. Additionally, the truck would have a 5.0-liter Cummins diesel V8 engine.

Fast forward to 2020 and things have changed. Sales of the first-generation Titan XD were lackluster at best, and the company has completely discontinued the diesel engine and regular cab options. Ghosn himself was smuggled out of Japan in an instrument case back to Lebanon to avoid the Japanese legal system. But there is a new version of the Titan XD, and Nissan claims things will be different this time. 

(Full disclosure: Nissan flew me to Jackson, Mississippi to drive the 2020 Titan XD, tour the production facility in Canton, and enjoy food from Chef Cory Bahr’s amazing restaurant.)

While I understood and quite liked the half-ton Nissan Titan for what it is, the XD was always something of a head scratcher for me. If you needed more towing or hauling capability than what a half-ton truck would allow, you simply upgraded to a three-quarter ton truck. Even with the old XD’s Cummins diesel, the truck only made 555 lb-ft of torque compared to the over 900 lb-ft offered by the competition. The Big Three truck makers were also able to offer huge incentives that made their trucks’ price competitive with the Titan.

[Get new and used Nissan Titan pricing here!]

Did the Titan XD drive nicer than a three-quarter truck competitor? Sure. But not enough to really make a difference in what I’d buy.

Nissan’s positioning of the truck also didn’t make sense. The company complicated things by trying to make a truck segment that didn’t really exist. None of this factors in how fiercely loyal truck buyers are.

For 2020, things are different. The Titan XD is only available in a crew cab configuration with four-wheel drive. Its powered by the brand’s 5.6-liter Endurance V8, that with premium fuel makes 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque. That power is sent to all four wheels via a very good nine-speed automatic transmission. Both the engine and transmission are standard equipment on the half-ton Titan, as well.

The Titan XD is longer than the half-ton truck and bigger overall. It’s 3 inches taller and 11.8 inches longer in wheelbase compared to the half-ton. It’s also 14.8 inches longer. There’s a 6.5-foot bed in the Titan XD, plus a unique, heavy duty frame built specifically for that model. The rear differential is 9.84 inches in size with 3.5-inch axle tubes. Front differential measures 9.25-inches. Massive brakes help keep everything in check, with 14.2 x 1.5-inch rotors up front and 14.4 x 1.2-inch rotors in the rear.

Towing capacity is up to 11,000 pounds, which is 1,600 pounds more than the half-ton, while payload grows 750 pounds to 2,450.

Nissan has simplified its messaging on the Titan XD. Don’t think of it as a different truck, but rather as a towing package for the half-ton. Instead of just getting a tow hitch and trailer brake controller, buyers get a heavier duty truck for a modest price premium. That premium? $2,590 on base S trim with four-wheel drive, and as little as $1,300 on the SL trim.

All of this is purely academic if it doesn’t work out in the real world. Like in the regular Titan, the nine-speed automatic performs exceptionally well and doesn’t often hunt for gears. Shifts are quick and smooth, with the extra cogs making better use of the V8’s naturally aspirated power. The engine itself is stout — it’s one of my favorite V8 truck engines — but it doesn’t feel significantly more powerful than the last generation.

The truck is also smooth and composed when towing. Nissan includes the trailer brake controller (some OEMs don’t) on its towing packages, and the Titan XD can support conventional towing as well as a gooseneck trailer.

Even when attached to a trailer nearing the rated maximum capacity of the truck, the truck performs flawlessly. The most noticeable change over towing with the half-ton is how much better a bigger braking system is in improving confidence. The rest of the heavy duty components are nice, and surely add to the assuredness you feel when towing, but being able to confidently press the brake pedal and have the truck stop is a relief.

The 2020 Titan XD also benefits from all of the other changes made to its half-ton sibling. That means upgraded NissanConnect Services that even include a personal concierge. A new infotainment screen measuring up to 9 inches supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Fender premium audio system is one of the best found in pickup trucks right now. Upgraded safety technology includes autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams, in addition to things like blind spot monitoring.

If you are a Nissan Titan buyer, but plan on spending some time towing, you’d be remiss by not buying the Titan XD. As far as towing packages go, this is quite a doozy.

If this truck existed inside a Hermetically-sealed bubble with no competition, the truck would be brilliant. Sadly for Nissan, it lives in a world where the Ford Super Duty, Ram Heavy Duty, and the General Motors HD trucks exist. While the infotainment found in the Titan XD outclasses both the GM twins and the Ford, a new Super Duty with the 7.3-liter gasser and 10-speed automatic has better towing numbers at similar pricing.

Ultimately that’s going to restrict buyers. The Big Three’s competitiveness isn’t just the product, but the ability to market and price the product competitively. If one of those companies wants more market share, it simply needs to cut into its massive margins and run some ad campaigns. The battle is much tougher for Nissan, which can incentivize the trucks and build a state-of-the-art product, but doesn’t have the massive war chests enjoyed by the competition.

The 2020 Nissan Titan XD is a better product than the one it replaces. It offers some features that the competition doesn’t. But it lives in a world where everyone is building a better product, and which will likely limit the audience interested in ultimately purchasing one of these rigs.

[Images: Nissan]

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54 Comments on “2020 Nissan Titan XD First Drive – Is the Tweener All Grown Up?...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    No diesel really hurts the appeal (or what’s left) of this truck, either Nissan needs a new engine supplier or they need to give this a big block gasser. Give HD buyers a reason to switch, as is this is the smallest engine available in the HD field.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    I looked at these before I purchased my 2018 Silverado-Crew cab with the short bed. The Titan XD wouldn’t fit in my garage-so it went off the list.

    I still think the XD is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist-as alluded to by the above article.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I always thought the XD was a tactic employed by Nissan to grab a segment that Toyota/Tundra did not compete in.

      Tundra and Titan exist for those who do not want to buy Ford, RAM or GM.

      What doesn’t hurt either is that Tundra and Titan are Made in America, by Americans, for Americans.

      The same cannot be said for the other pickup truck makers.

      If you want to support Mexican or Canadian labor, that’s cool, but others prefer to support and celebrate American labor. The lower cost of labor in Mexico does not produce the same quality of finished product.

      And Canadians should prefer goods Made in Canada, even in trucks.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        “The same cannot be said for the other pickup truck makers.”

        So have Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Kentucky left the Union? I was just wondering since every F series truck that is currently sold in the US came from one of those places.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        The only US market full size pickups not built in the US are some of the GM twins and the Ram Heavy Duties.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          “http://popularamericancars.com/2019-ford-lobo/”

          Lots and lots of these being bought by Americans in my part of the country.

          I suppose it depends on WHERE a person lives in the US or Canada whether they ever get to see all the Mexican-made stuff that comes across America’s Southern border.

          Sure, many trucks are made in the USA but those American-made trucks are not always sold all over the USA. In many locations there are more Mexican-made versions on the dealer lots.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            I am not sure I follow your point @HDC. They do not build Ford F series trucks in Mexico. Not for the US market, not for the Mexican Market…not for any market. I believe some are built in Valencia oddly enough, but none of those are sold in the United States. Yes, they likely sell F150’s in Mexico (though they aren’t built there). Yes, some Mexicans likely drive them over the border from time to time. I am not sure what point you are trying to make by showing that some Mexican folks drive their US built trucks across the border. But again, search away, you will not find a new F series for sale in this country with a VIN that denotes construction anywhere other than the United States.

            I don’t care if you go to one of those dealers down on Gateway in El Paso where you can literally see Juarez…If it is an F series, it was built in the United States. Any new F series truck you buy at a dealership in the United States was built in the United States. If you go buy one in Juarez then I believe it too would have built in the United States so I am not sure what point you are trying to make. They are built in the United States, by Americans, for Americans (Yes, Mexicans and Canadians are Americans too!). Every last one of them.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            “Any new F series truck you buy at a dealership in the United States was built in the United States.”

            Okay, if you say so.

            I’m not interested in buying one.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Doesn’t matter if you want one or not. You stated Toyota trucks were built by Americans for Americans and other trucks were not. Then you attempted to show a US built truck and somehow claim it is Mexican in origin. I understand you may have some guilt as you are part of the problem with respect to the immigration issue, but this isn’t a he said she said deal. Ford doesn’t build any F series trucks for the USDM anywhere but the US. 2 seconds of research would have shown that but it didn’t support your “I’m just exploiting the system like everyone else” stance.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            And Valencia is in Spain so I doubt those trucks are finding their way to the US via Mexico. Anyway, you sir are full of it.

          • 0 avatar
            dukeisduke

            Yeah, the Ford SuperCrew has branded “LOBO” in Mexico for quite awhile. I’ve even seen people buy Lobo emblems (from eBay maybe?) and put them on their SuperCrews.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        High Desert, the Tacoma is a Mexico build, but has it proved to be any worse quality than US Tacos?

        While you ponder that and your silly assumptions, I won’t buy a Mexico assembled vehicle on principle, and it’s not for fear of Mexico assembly.

        Besides, I’m sure you don’t mind the “quality of work” your staff of illegal Mexico/Honduran/etc workers do on your rental units, no?

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          “I’m sure you don’t mind the “quality of work” your staff of illegal Mexico/Honduran/etc workers do on your rental units, no?”

          I sure don’t! In fact, many are still working for the contractor who took my place after I retired. But it takes a lot of supervision to get the desired results from those workers with language being the biggest obstacle.

          When I buy again, and I will, I’ll buy something Made in America, instead of being un-American or anti-American by buying something made elsewhere that takes jobs away from Americans.

          BT (Before Trump) I didn’t care about such things. But now, seeing everything that President Trump has done for American pride and American Spirit?

          You bet I’ll buy American made!

          BTW, my son’s Tacoma was made in San Antonio, TX, and has not had any problems or warranty issues.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            So have you stopped employing illegals? Or are you following Trump’s example there too?

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            And wait…I daily a hecho in Mexico vehicle. Guess I’m Un American.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            If you had a choice to buy Made in America but you chose Hecho en Mexico, it does say a lot about you.

            Fortunately, no one cares what you think or what you choose to drive.

            But I will choose Made in America whenever I can.

            In the case TVs I had no choice. They’re either Hecho en Mexico, or Taiwan, or South Korea.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Interesting…So Where did you do your combat deployments? I mean surely a flag waving American such as yourself went to the front lines for more than the 2.5 years I have downrange. And I mean you were probably in it too…bullets whizzing and stuff blowing up under your truck…not sitting on a Foward Operating Base shining your boots and drinking Coffee, right? And I mean my wars were, at the end of the day just so Arsehats could drive trucks like Tundras that get 13 MPG. And I’m no patriot…just a dude that was out of money and options at the time that joined the Army.

            But you…I mean YOU are a real Captain America. I mean Your generation…stopping the spread of Communisim…that was important stuff. You probably volunteered to go forward, being such a proud, flag waving American. Khe Sahn, Whey City….man I bet you have some stories seeing what a patriot you are, right?

            Or maybe you are just a Dog Faced Pony Soldier with Bone Spurs thats more American than the rest of us because he drives a Toyota Truck.

            Dude, STFU.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Art, you lost it dude, invoking War Stories.

            I don’t need to list my 20 years military accomplishments. They’re well documented.

            Get help man. Get help.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Really? Then share some with us Captain America. And again, I am no Captain America…I didn’t join for ideals or any of that stuff…it was training and money. But at the end of the day if you are going to go aroud questioning people’s patriotism that have been there and done that than you had better [email protected] well be fncking Audie Murphy or something.

            You are not. You are someone that gripes about illegals while exploiting them and claims to value the American Worker but won’t hire them and gets upset when it is pointed out that their arguement is factually incorrect.

            I smell a Boomer!

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            But I get it…You need to convince yourself that your [email protected] Tundra employs more Americans than your hiring practices have kept unemployed. it doesn’t.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Art, your rantings and ragings only give fodder to the “OKAY BOOMER” movement.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            I’m cool with that…Better than being a raving hypocrite

  • avatar

    Billing the XD as a “max tow package” is the right move here because several 1/2 ton trucks already exceed the 11,000 lb tow capacity that the Titan XD offers. Its not really a “tweener”, at all. At least not in terms of how its viewed by the consumer (rather than by regulations).

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    If it has a 2450 lb payload, is it really even a 1/2-ton-ish truck? Back in the day that would outright qualify for a 3/4 or even 1-ton rating.

    Same for the rest of the 150/1500 field. The F-150 3.5 ecoboost claims a 2650 payload, so it beats the XD at a similar (better?) price point.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      The last version was unofficially rated at 5/8-ton.

      And I believe that because I have seen contractors in my area abuse the XD with unbelievable cruelty and loads.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      The XD has a GVWR over 8600 lb (barely) which is why its a higher truck class than the 1/2 tons.

      1/2 ton – 6000-7000 lb
      Titan XD – 8650 lb
      3/4 ton – 10,000 lb
      1 ton SRW – 11,500 lb
      1 ton DRW – 14,000 lb

      Payload is approximated by GVWR – curb weight, so the higher rating of the F150 is simply because the truck itself is lighter.

  • avatar

    So the tow package idea is kind of what it always was (other then the cummins) that payload puts it between the highest (Ford around 3k with the right (hard to find) options.) and the others (GM and FCA are similar around 2300). I think Nissan should have aimed at making something with numbers more comparable to a 3/4 ton and aim for halfton like ride. But the numbers fell a bit short of that. If they could have offered a loaded crew cab that still had 2900-3200 lbs payload and a 14k pound tow rating I think they might have really stolen some 3/4 ton sales.

    To use RAM as an example a loaded 6′ bed halfton crew cab tops out around 1800lbs payload and 11500 towing. A 3/4 ton comes in at 3300lbs and 17000 towing. So Nissan is in between there but too close to the halfton for most buyers.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Was this another one of Carlos Ghosn’s bright ideas? The only market I can see for these is people that already own Nissan trucks, like a Frontier or a 1/2-ton Titan.

    The only person I’ve personally met that bought one of these is a roofing contractor I know that’s put two roofs on for me over the last 20 years, both after hailstorms. He was driving a brand new XD with the Cummins when he put my last roof on back in 2016 (the XD replaced a well-worn Frontier). He was commuting to his business in the DFW area from 50 miles out (built a house on some property outside a small town in East Texas). He told me he bought it because of the fuel economy, and because the Nissan dealer gave him a screaming deal (his company had just put a new roof on the dealership).

  • avatar

    I think my inlaws were the intended market for these. They are loyal Toyota /Subaru buyers for the past 20 years after being burned by a couple Fords. They currently have a 2009 Tundra and pull a 5th wheel (about 9500lbs and 1100 lbs hitch weight). They have talked about getting a newer bigger truck so they can have more option when they want a new trailer, and they looked at the XD when it came out (they would really prefer if Toyota would release a 3/4 ton) but they said it was too limiting they really wanted more payload. And I don’t think they are alone. Based on past experience I think they may go with a GMC, but time will tell.

  • avatar
    cprescott

    Now news. The Titan has always been a third rate entry along with the Toyoduh model and the lineup from GM of Non-Professional grade Chevrolet and the “Professional Grade” imposter from GMC. Someone has to build the also rans in the segment and it is so nice to see the three fight for the crown.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Not specific to Titan…but has anyone noticed how enormous grilles have become on pickups? It seems as if the grilles have become emblematic of prosperity. I am all for prosperity, but the grille thing has gotten ridiculous.

  • avatar
    dont.fit.in.cars

    I’m a truck guy cuz I don’t fit in cars. The author does do diligence and heres my take. I really wanted the XD with the Cummings. The issue for me was the tweener leaned towards 1/2 ton. Evidence is the differential, tire load ratings, six bolt wheels and number of leaf springs. Nissan and Toyota are one size fits all trucks and why sales are limited.

    Reason Ford is a high seller is wide configurations maximizing every conceivable application.

    Chevy builds a good overall HD chassis platform 6.0 with 6 speed and 4:10 rear) that handles 90% of the market. And allows me to drive 800-900 miles a day.

    Ram until recently was bottom shelf with sexed up interiors but still doesn’t have enough leg support.

  • avatar
    johnnyz

    Towing 11,000 pounds, which is 1,600 pounds more than the half-ton, while payload grows 750 pounds to 2,450.

    Yeah, my 2019 Dodge with air suspension can tow 11250. The heaviest thing I ever tow is my boat which weighs about 3,500.

    no matter. Nissan may very well find themselves out of business as the coronavirus takes its toll!

  • avatar
    johnnyz

    Towing 11,000 pounds, which is 1,600 pounds more than the half-ton, while payload grows 750 pounds to 2,450.

    Yeah, my 2019 Dodge with air suspension can tow 11250. The heaviest thing I ever tow is my boat which weighs about 3,500.

    no matter. Nissan may very well find themselves out of business as the coronavirus takes its toll!

  • avatar
    johnnyz

    Question: if Mopar goes out of business who is going to perform the warranty work on my Laramie longhorn? And it will need warranty work…

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    Premium fuel. Stop right there. Pass.

  • avatar

    The Titan has an excellent interior. Chrysler and Nissan avoid using the cheap trim you see in comparable GM vehicles.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    highdesertcats- anti big three truck rhetoric is getting tiring on here-like so many other mantras.

    The TRUTH IS that customers have spoken-the sales of the Tundra and Titan are minuscule compared to any of the “big three”.

    Yes-we are very selective about how we view foreign labor-we think it’s terrible until Saturday morning comes around and we have some work we don’t want to do-then head on down to Home Depot’s frontage to hire “some help”.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      CKNSLS Sierra SLT, I understand, but I feel compelled to defend the American worker because in the first place I am an American and believe we should buy American, whenever and wherever possible.

      I didn’t even vote for Trump in 2016 but I like what he’s done for America. At the same time I understand that according to the liberal lefty progressive loonies, Trump can do no right.

      So even though I will not buy another Ford or GM product again, I think that when it comes to what a person decides to buy should favor the American worker, as in trucks made inside America. Not made somewhere else.

      I am opposed to illegal entry into the US, but I had to suck that up and deal with it because it has been US National Immigration policy for decades, like catch and release.

      And all those illegals already here because of that failed immigration policy would actually like to work. I made that possible for some, and paid them handsomely for their labor.

      And they, in turn, are forever grateful to me. BTW, the best Mexican food ever, was made for us by our Cook, an illegal alien, who cooked for me and mine for decades.

      The lady who cleans house and prepares our meals now in El Paso, TX, comes across the Zaragosa Bridge daily, and returns home to Ciudad Juarez every night.

      Guess what she drives?

      An old Chevy truck with the number 1 starting the VIN.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        “…but I feel compelled to defend the American worker”

        Is this a fncking troll? You defend the American Worker by hiring illegals because you don’t want to pay Americans? And the Tundra is the only American truck? Dude I used to at least take you seriously even id I didn’t agree with you all the time, but I am hereby relegating you to the realm of great TTAC trolls from the days of old such as “BigTrucksReviewatYOUTUBE”, “P71Silvy”, BigAlFromOz, and other titans of these forums. Congrats!

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Hiring illegals while living in NM was an every day fact of life in a Sanctuary State where no Americans would do that kind of work.

          To this day, many of the contractors hire illegals. Pretty much forced to.

          I’m retired now and out of the business.

          Our Cook/Housekeeper is a Mexican citizen who drives across the Zaragosa Bridge every day and then goes home to Ciudad Juarez at night to be with her family.

          El Pasoans employ thousands of Mexican Nationals. I’m just one of them. I was surprised at how many American citizens choose to live in or around Ciudad Juarez instead of El Paso, TX.

          Been this way forever.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Yep…always someone elses fault (Probably a Millennial). Never mine…I’m the REAL victim here.

            Nope, you could hire Americans, but you have a pool of Mexicans that you can exploit to save a buck. You my friend, are the problem.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        “I am opposed to slavery in the US, but I had to suck that up and deal with it because it has been US National policy for decades, like the 3/5ths compromise.”

        -Some Random Ancestor of HighDesertCat, 1861

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I gotta say that interior looks better than the year 2015+ F150s I’ve been looking at.

  • avatar
    brkramer

    I would have considered this truck were it not for the tiny gas tank size. That’s pretty lame. No one that tows would find that acceptable.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    For the most part I will try to buy a vehicle made in the USA whether it is a domestically based or foreign based manufacturer. As for vehicles made in Mexico I am not so much against Mexico making vehicles as much as the poorer quality of many Mexican made vehicles. I would much rather have Mexico employ more of their own citizens than have more Mexicans come illegally into the US because they need jobs. It does make more sense that higher profit vehicles like full size pickups and suvs are made in the US with the higher labor costs and lower margin vehicles such as compact cars and crossovers are made in Mexico with lower labor costs. I would rather have the lower margin vehicles go to Mexico than losing those vehicles because the cost to manufacturer in the US is too high to eliminate or reduce the margin of profit.

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