Nissan chases the all-round package.
The Nissan Titan may sit behind its competitors in sales but, as owners will tell you, that doesn't tell the full story. It's a more than capable truck packing plenty of power and features. However, the 2019 model is lacking in a few areas. It needed a good polish, and that's exactly what Nissan has done, investing around $230 million dollars in the process. Nissan revealed its refreshed full-size pickup at the 2019 Texas State Fair, showing off its "Warrior" facelift and a host of upgrades.
When we went out to the mountains of Utah to get some hands-on experience with the 2020 model year Titan, Nissan was keen to emphasis its strategy of building a well-featured truck that isn't drowned in options and varying capabilities. To that end, the new Titan features a single engine in the form of Nissan's Endurance V8, a new 9-speed automatic transmission that replaces the previous 7-speed unit, a standard 8-inch infotainment screen, and Nissan's "Safety Shield 360" safety suite as standard.
Underneath its aggressive new suit, the Titan keeps its proven fully-boxed, full-length ladder frame chassis, but the powertrain has been extensively upgraded. The retuned 5.6-liter Endurance V8 that now makes 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque. Nissan claims that makes the Titan the best in its class for standard horsepower and torque, but that's mainly because there's no "entry-level" lower-powered option available. It's also worth noting those figures are for premium fuel. However, it's a remarkably strong engine, and Nissan hasn't just cranked the horsepower and called it a day. It's paired the engine to a new 9-speed automatic transmission with a larger final gear ratio to provide torque at the wheels through a wider range of gears.
The powertrain update is a hefty and welcome one. While the pre-refresh vehicle wasn't lacking in power, the upgrade offers more while making the Titan a more refined truck to drive - whether that's when cruising on the road, towing, or going off the beaten path.
We were at the state fair for the Titan's unveiling and were immediately struck by Nissan's "double boomerang" style for its LED daytime running lights amongst the other aesthetic changes. Having the time and space to wander around the truck in Utah and see it from all angles on and off-road, we got to appreciate how cohesive the "Warrior" concept-based design refresh is. The look is familiar, but its sharper and more aggressive features now do the Titan name justice.
The three new grille designs spread across the Pro-4X and Platinum Reserve trims, along with the unique styling pieces such as badging and colored accents, make each model more distinct. The overload of chrome will certainly appeal to those that like to announce themselves, while the darker nature of the Pro-4X's front end and tailgate trim works very well with any color. Still, there was a reason Nissan brought the Pro-4X trucks in its new Baha Storm sand color paint out for us to play with.
Again, the 2020 Titan's interior is familiar, but Nissan has paid a lot of attention to detail for the refresh. Most apparent is the new 8-inch screen, which Nissan claims is now the largest standard screen in class, and the available 9-inch screen. Both of which are fast and fluid to use, but the 9-inch screen has a sharper definition and features an internal 4G LTE connection that turns the vehicle into a Wi-Fi hotspot. Nissan's new infotainment system also allows for over-the-air software updates. Making each version of the Titan more of a cohesive package is the seat trim materials being specifically tailored for each trim level. Rooting around the interior, we also welcomed the increase in storage in the front and back of the cab.
Nissan was keen for us to experience the optional Fender 12-speaker Fender Premium Auto System. It's one of the better systems we've experienced recently and more than just a badge on the speaker grilles. Fender engineers worked with Panasonic equipment and then with Nissan to tune the system in the truck to their satisfaction, and it shows.
We got to drive the 2020 Titan not long after spending a week with the 2019 model, and the difference in the drivetrain is boldly apparent. Out on the road, the larger final gear ratio and thicker spread of gears make for a noticeably smoother flow of power. That becomes even more apparent when towing a heavy load. Off-road, the extra torque is always there, but the extra gears don't help until you're moving faster than a crawl.
Ride quality is just as smooth and comfortable on the road as the previous model year. Off-road, the Pro4X's Bilstein mono-tube off-road shocks do a great job of dealing with rocky ground and keeping the wheels planted. The trails we were shown with the truck weren't very challenging, but the Pro-4X was remarkably assured and clearly capable of getting into much rougher stuff.
The Titan's 9,370 lbs maximum towing capacity is not best in class, but it's more than most will use. With a loaded trailer near capacity, the Titan was composed and smooth, particularly with the Trailer Brake Controller dialed in.
The 2020 Nissan Titan isn't taking part in the tow-capacity waving competition the American brands are currently entrenched in. Nor does it offer best-in-class power, the best interior, or the most tech. What the refreshed Titan does offer is a durable and attractive all-around package that will suit the vast majority of truck buyers shopping in its price range.
Like Toyota, Nissan is unlikely to unseat the three home-grown truck brands at the top of the American truck market, no matter how much it touts the Titan as being designed in California and built in Ohio. However, it doesn't need to with such a large market available to tap. The bold new look should catch more truck buyer's eyes, and the simplicity of marketing a single, proven and powerful, V8-based powertrain could be a smart tactic to help sell more units. The 2019 Titan didn't completely convince us as a full package, but the 2020 refresh makes a compelling case for recommending those shopping for a new full-size truck to take a test drive.