2020 Nissan Titan Pro-4X Review: Still Playing Catchup

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
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Fast Facts

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X Fast Facts

5.6-liter V8 (400 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm; 413 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm)
Nine-speed automatic, part-time four-wheel drive
15 city / 21 highway / 17 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
15.1 city, 11.2 highway, 13.3 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$49,790 (U.S) / $69,998 (Canada)
As Tested
$60,180 (U.S.) / $70,163 (Canada)
Prices include $1,595 destination charge in the United States and $2,060 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2020 nissan titan pro 4x review still playing catchup

On the face of it, the redesigned 2020 Nissan Titan is a fine truck.

The 5.6-liter V8 packs enough punch for around-town driving – and presumably for hauling and towing, though I had no chance to do either during my time behind the wheel – and the all-new nine-speed automatic helps bring the aging Titan in line with the modern truck world.

It rides and handles, well, like a truck, but still on the acceptable side. The interior is pleasant.

If I needed to rent a truck for a day to schlepp some stuff around town, I’d not object if the underpaid rental clerk brought one around.

And yet.

Nissan is suffering from the same syndrome as General Motors, in that it has built a darn fine truck that still feels insufficient to play with the big boys in the segment. Those big boys, of course, are the Ram 1500 and Ford F-150.

The situation isn’t exactly the same as with GM – the GM trucks suffer from questionable exterior and interior styling decisions, while the Nissan’s design is just fine, at least in terms of aesthetics. The problem here is that nothing really stands out as an attention-grabbing feature that the competition either doesn’t have or doesn’t do as well.

There’s no big infotainment screen with clever customization, a la Ram. None of the trickeration and “look at me” stuff that Ford dropped on the 2021 F-150 (the fold-down shifter, for example).

In terms of ice cream flavors, the Ram and Ford are deluxe indulgences like Mackinac Island fudge or moose tracks, while the GM trucks are rocky road. The Titan is vanilla. Meanwhile, Toyota’s Tundra is a discontinued flavor.

Vanilla can be very good when done right, of course. That does sound a bit like damning with faint praise, I suppose, but the Titan is pretty unobjectionable, as long as you set expectations accordingly. It’s still a truck, after all.

For example, you do get some bounciness on rough pavement with an unladen bed, and while that means the Titan loses out to Ram and Ford in ride quality, it’s still within acceptable bounds for a full-size pick-em-up truck.

Perhaps the best thing about this truck is the 5.6. It’s pretty smooth, and 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque are nothing to sneeze at.

Inside, the cabin isn’t as visually interesting as what’s on offer from Auburn Hills or Dearborn, instead working off the philosophy of function first. Controls are easy to reach and laid out in a logical fashion, while the gauges have large, legible numbers. Boring but easy to use isn’t a bad way to approach cabin design.

Plain but still handsome isn’t a poor approach to exterior design, either. That’s what you get here – a burly, rugged look with slightly softened lines in some spots. It looks as tough as any other truck, and the blacked-out grille gives the PRO-4X trim some flare, though the Titan doesn’t turn heads the way a Ram might.

Today’s trucks are quite feature-laden, and the PRO-4X is positioned as the off-roader of the lineup. The 4×4 features include shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive, Bilstein off-road shocks, and electronic locking rear differential.

Other standard features include 18-inch wheels, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, all-terrain tires, rear automatic braking, lane-departure warning with haptic steering, traffic-sign recognition, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, intelligent forward-collision warning, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, USB, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi hotspot, satellite radio, intelligent cruise control, driver-alert system, keyless entry and starting, LED lighting, fog lamps, front tow hooks, spray-on bedliner, and rain-sensing wipers.

That put my loaner’s base price just under $50K. A PRO-4X Utility Package added parking sensors, power sliding rear window, Fender audio, electronically locking tailgate, and other features for $2,190. A PRO-4X Convenience Package added leather seats, heated front seats and steering wheel, power tilt/telescope steering column, 360-degree camera, remote start, and more for $3,390.

A PRO-4X Moonroof Package adds a dual-pane moonroof and cooled front seats for $1,490. A Protection Package that adds an off-road adventure kit, medic kit, and all-season floor mats cost $390. Add $285 mudflaps and $1,050 running boards plus the $1,595 destination charge, and you have a $60,180 truck.

One that is pretty good, but already feels inferior to two of the Detroit Three.

Pretty good will be good enough for some truck buyers. But probably not enough for Nissan, especially factoring in the intense loyalty that some truck owners show towards their preferred brands.

If Nissan is serious about titanic conquests, this is a good start, but it’s simply not enough.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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5 of 31 comments
  • Tonycd Tonycd on Mar 18, 2021

    Setting aside the knee-slapper about the Tundra being nonexistent, there's one very important thing it still delivers better than any competitor: reliability. That's very important to some people. Nissan can't say that. And at $49k they can't hang their hat on price, either.

    • See 2 previous
    • Jh26036 Jh26036 on Mar 19, 2021

      @CKNSLS Sierra SLT It'll make up for it in absurd resale value.

  • Thehyundaigarage Thehyundaigarage on Mar 20, 2021

    We have a 2016 Titan Diesel Pro-4X as our second vehicle. We bought it second hand for a song, and it does everything we need a truck to do. The diesel is nice for towing through the mountains when we visit family in BC, and it’s been very reliable. Overall we’re very happy with it, as for the 21K Canadian we payed we can overlook a lot of its shortcomings. But anyone who bought one new for the price they were must have been mentally ill... The interior quality reminds me of a 1990’s Lada. No joke, it’s THAT bad.

  • 285exp If the conversion to EVs was really so vital to solve an existential climate change crisis, it wouldn’t matter whether they were built by US union workers or where the batteries and battery materials came from.
  • El scotto Another EBPosky, "EVs are Stoopid, prove to me water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius" article.It was never explained if the rural schools own the buses or if the school bus routes are contracted out. If the bus routes are contracted out, will Carpenter or Bluebird offer an electric school bus? Flexmatt never stated the range of brand-unspecified school bus. Will the min-mart be open at the end of the 179-mile drive? No cell coverage? Why doesn't the bus driver have an emergency sat phone?Two more problems Mr. Musk could solve.
  • RICK Long time Cadillac admirer with 89 Fleetwood Brougham deElegance and 93 Brougham, always liked Eldorado until downsized after 76. Those were the days. Sad to see what now wears Cadillac name.
  • Carsofchaos Bike lanes are in use what maybe 10 to 12 hours a day? The other periods of the day they aren't in use whatsoever. A bike can carry one person and a vehicle can carry multiple people. It's very simple math to figure out that a bike lane in no way shape or form will handle more people than cars will.The bigger issue is double parked delivery vehicles. They are often double parked and taking up lanes because there are cars parked on the curb. You combine that with a bike lane and pedestrians Crossing wherever they feel like it and it's a recipe for disaster. I think if we could just go back to two lanes of traffic things would flow much better. I started coming to the city in 2003 before a lot of these bike lanes were implemented and the traffic is definitely much worse now than it was back then. Sadly at this point I don't really think there is a solution but I can guarantee that congestion pricing will not fix this problem.
  • Charles When I lived in Los Angeles I saw a 9-5 a few times and instanly admired the sweeping low slug aerodynamic jet tech influenced lines and all that beautiful glass. The car was very different from what I expected from a Saab even though the 900 Turbo was nice. A casual lady friend had a Saab Sonnet, never drove or rode in it but nonetheless chilled my enthusiasm and I eventually forgot about Saabs. In the following years I have had seven Mercedes's, three or four Jaguars even two Daimlers both the 250 V-8 and the massive and powerful Majestic Major. Daily drivers of a brand new 300ZX 2+2 and Lincolns, plus a few diesel trucks. Having moved to my big farm in central New York, trucks and SUV's are the standard, even though I have a Mercedes S500 in one of my barns. Due to circumstances with my Ford Explorer and needing a second driver I found the 2006 9-5 locally. Very little surface rust, none undercarriage, original owner, garage kept, wife driver and all the original literature and a ton of paid receipts and history. The car just turned 200,000 miles and I love it. Feels new like I'm back in my Nissan 300ZX with a lot more European class and ready power with the awesome turbo. So fun to drive, the smooth power and torque is incredible! Great price paid to justify going through the car and giving her everything she needs, i.e., new tires, battery, all shocks, struts, control arms, timing chain and rust removable to come, plus more. The problem now is I want to restore it and likely put it in my concrete barn and only drive in good weather. As to the writer, Alex Dykes, I take great exception calling the 9-5 Saab "ugly," finding myself looking back at her beauty and uniqueness. Moreover, I get new looks from others not quite recognizing, like the days out west with my more expensive European cars. There are Saabs eclipsing 300K rourinely and one at a million miles and I believe one car with 500K on the original engine. So clearly, this is a keeper, in love already with my SportCombi. I want to be in that elite club.