Should Ford, Chevy, and Ram be concerned by Nissan's new truck?
The Nissan Titan full-size pickup truck has been around since the 2004 model year, though it has never been a serious threat to its Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, and Ram 1500 rivals. Detroit, let's face it, rules America's truck market and only Toyota has managed to make its mark with its Tacoma and Tundra. This does not mean the Nissan Titan, completely redesigned for 2016 and heavily updated for 2020, is not a good truck. On the contrary, owner satisfaction remains strong for this highly capable vehicle. The problem is there simply aren't enough buyers. But Nissan is retaliating for 2020 with a refreshed Titan featuring substantial powertrain updates and unique styling for the different trim levels. Will this be enough to boost sales? We'll find out in due time.
Because this is a mid-life update, the 2020 Nissan Titan's exterior design is not all-new. Instead, it's the recipient of Nissan's latest design language which features a choice of three new grille designs (depending on trim), new LED headlights featuring "double boomerang" LED daytime running lights, and a new front bumper with fog lights. These new grille designs not only provide greater trim distinction but also more customer customization factory options. The new headlights supposedly generate 120 percent more light than the outgoing model. This was purposely done in order to improve the Titan's IIHS rating. At the rear, there are also new LED taillights with tailgate finishers. Even the bed receives all-LED lighting for improved visibility. There are also three new exterior color options: Red Alert, Baja Storm, and Cardinal Red Metallic, as well as new wheel designs.
Five trims levels are on offer: S, SV, PRO-4X, SL, and Platinum Reserve. Nissan has dropped the single cab model for all trims with only the extended cab and crew cab remaining. Nissan also went the extra mile to give each trim unique styling bits, such as badging and colored accents.
The Titan's updates continue inside with what can be described as an enhanced interior. For starters, the 7-inch programmable driver information display is almost three inches larger than most of the competitions' displays. In fact, the Titan's standard 8-inch center area display is the largest standard screen in the segment. Buyers can upgrade to a 9-inch screen featuring the Integrated Command Center and WXGA resolution, which is rated higher than HD. The next-generation of the NissanConnect suite offers over-the-air software updates, HD Traffic, and Google Places/Search functions.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is a WiFi router. An optional 12-speaker Fender Premium Auto System and front and rear Zero Gravity seats are carried over from last year's model.
Like the exterior, the seat trim materials were specifically selected for each trim level. Interior storage has also been increased thanks to, for example, front and rear door storage. Crew Cab models further benefit from an optional dual panoramic sunroof measuring over three-feet square.
The 2020 Titan is powered by only one engine, a naturally aspirated 5.6-liter V8 rated at 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque. Nissan claims both horsepower and torque are best in class. The Cummins diesel-powered Titan XD has been discontinued. Equipped with variable valve timing and direct injection, this NA V8 is paired to a new 9-speed automatic transmission with a larger final gear ratio of 3.692:1. This allows for greater torque at the wheels in any gear along with faster and smoother acceleration between 50-70 mph. Official EPA figures have yet to be released but we expect some improvement over the current model.
Like before, buyers can choose from either 4x2 or 4x4 drivetrains. 4x4 models offer full dual-range transfer case capabilities, distributing torque to both ends and providing four-wheel drive when added traction is necessary, such as in snow, ice, and sand. Hill Start Assist and a Brake Limited-Slip Differential further enhance off-road performance while PRO-4X models have Hill Descent Control. There's even a new "Off Road Gauge" with tire angle, roll angle, and pitch angle displays which use G-force calculations to gather the data.
One of the outgoing Titan's biggest drawbacks was its lack of advanced safety features that many of its rivals offered. The good news is that Nissan has corrected this in a number of ways, including by providing Nissan Safety Shield 360 as standard. This safety suite includes six driver-assist systems such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, high beam-assist, and rear automatic braking. The latter is a first for a full-size pickup truck.
Drivers will also enjoy the benefits of a surround-view camera, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, driver attention warning, and even rear door alert which stops passengers from opening the doors in case of an oncoming vehicle. Eight airbags are now standard instead of the previous six and Nissan has increased the number seatbelt pretensions from two to four.
Nissan has not announced 2020 Titan pricing, but we don't expect it to dramatically change from last year's numbers. Remember, the more expensive Titan XD has been discontinued, so figure a 2020 starting MSRP of just over $30,000 while fully-loaded models could reach as high as $60,000. Sales will get underway early next year.
Competition is fierce in the full-size pickup truck segment with all key players hailing from Detroit. While the updated 2020 Nissan Titan is now better equipped for the fight, an all-new Ford F-150 is due in the near future while the Chevrolet Silverado 1500/GMC Sierra GMC corporate twins will also receive a significant update for 2021, mainly focusing on interior refinements. Chances are the 2020 Nissan Titan won't make a serious sales dent for those Detroit trucks, but anyone in the market for a capable, reliable, and durable full-size pickup should definitely give this one a good look.