First Drive: 2020 Nissan Titan
Not a full reboot, but close
PARK CITY, Utah – Believe it or not, Nissan’s second-gen full-size Titan pick-up was first introduced almost five years ago, which can mean only one thing: time for a refresh.
This is an interesting one for me as I was on the first drive press event for the then-new Titan in late 2015, and was eager to see how much had changed between that truck and the updated 2020 model that will go on sale across Canada early next year. As it turns out, Nissan has thrown a tremendous amount of change at this truck for a mid-cycle refresh.
The first thing that struck me about the 2020 Titan is its new face. It still looks like a Titan, but the new truck has a bolder and squarer look than its predecessor. The grille remains massive, evoking the ‘powerful warrior’ design, but now has a more high-tech aesthetic. As other truck manufacturers have done, the new Titan will offer different grilles based on model.
Generally, the giant rectangle grille appears slightly more raked than the one on the outgoing truck, and it’s flanked by large LED headlights with distinctive signatures for both the main element and the daytime running lights. The vast hood looks cleaner and appears less bulbous.
From the A-pillar back, the new Titan looks a lot like its predecessor, apart from new LED taillights and a tailgate insert that has a big Titan logo stamped into it. Other styling tweaks are more subtle and include restyled running boards, new wheel designs, along with a new skid plate and tow hooks on PRO 4X models.
New Inside Too
The outgoing Titan has a pleasing cabin environment, especially in PRO 4X and Platinum Reserve grades, and that feeling carries over to the new truck. What’s more noticeable is how lower grades, such as S and SV, also benefit from Nissan’s cabin freshening.
One of the first things that caught my eye, for example, is the new touchscreen display, which is either 8 or 9-inches, depending on grade. These screens are mounted flush into the centre stack for a cleaner appearance and have been given a significant graphical boost.
Gone is the graininess and washed-out colour palette that plagues the units in older Nissan and Infiniti vehicles. The new screens also come loaded with the latest tech, including standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. NissanConnect Services is also standard and offers over-the-air software updates, along with HD Traffic, Wi-Fi hotspot (subscription required) and more.
The cabin also features updated upholstery options, depending on grade. For example, the leather seating in Platinum Reserve models is now a single colour as opposed to two-tone, and the cloth seating options in S, SV and PRO 4X models feature new designs and stitching (PRO 4X). New instrument panel graphics are also on tap as Nissan finally appears ready to retire its aging typefaces.
Interior noise has been addressed with the application of standard acoustic laminated glass for the windshield and front side windows. Another big change to note is the availability of a dual-panoramic moonroof, a first-ever feature for the Titan. Nissan says it’s one of the biggest in the segment and is the only vehicle in its class to offer both a roof of this type and overhead assist grips.
So long Cummins, we barely knew ye
One of the biggest changes for the 2020 Titan is under the hood, where the 5.6-litre Endurance V8 (400 hp / 413 lb-ft.) powers all models. A new 9-speed automatic transmission replaces the outgoing 7-speed with standard four-wheel drive (more on this shortly). The Endurance V8’s numbers, which represent gains of 6 hp and 23 lb-ft. over the outgoing engine, are best-in-class for both standard horsepower and standard torque, according to Nissan.
According to Nissan Global Program Director for trucks, Rich Miller, the 5.0-litre Cummins turbo diesel is being dropped due to the rising cost of meeting emission standards combined with the reality that gas-powered models far outsell their diesel counterparts.
He also said money that would have been spent on updating the Cummins to meet tightening emissions standards was redirected towards other aspects of the Titan’s update. Incidentally, Nissan reps indicated the company spent approximately $230 million USD on the Titan’s redesign.
Regardless, the new Endurance V8 is an impressive engine designed to meet the needs of most truck buyers. In regular Titan form, maximum payload and towing are rated at 739 kg and 4,241 kg (1,630 lb. and 9,350 lb.) respectively, while in the larger Titan XD, those figures jump to 1,111 kg / 4,935 kg (2,450 lb. / 10,800 lb.).
Regular and XD
As is the case with the outgoing Titan, the 2020 model will be available as both Titan and Titan XD. Beyond that both trucks will be powered by the same powertrain, the biggest difference between the two is size.
The Titan XD is a fair bit bigger than the Titan – it’s 7.62 cm taller, rides on a wheelbase that’s 30 cm longer and it’s 37 cm longer overall. Its bed is also longer at 6.5-feet, while the Titan’s is 5.5.
With respect to models, there are some significant differences between the U.S. and Canada. These are primarily due to the smaller size and differences that exist within the Canadian truck market. The vast U.S. market can support a greater spread of models and configurations, but it doesn’t mean the Titans being sold in Canada are lesser. In fact, Canada’s fewer models are exceedingly well-equipped.
At any rate, Nissan Canada provided a list of differences, which I’ll summarize. The Canadian-market Titan does not offer: two-tone paint, Brilliant Silver Metallic exterior finish, SL trim, 4×2 (on any model), King Cab, S Utility Package, and SV Chrome Package. Several other packaging differences also exist.
So, what this means is Canadian-market Titans will be available in Crew Cab only with standard 4×4. The Titan is available in four grades: S, SV, PRO-4X and Platinum Reserve. The Titan XD has three grade options: SV, PRO-4X and Platinum Reserve.
Capable on-road and off
Nissan brought a selection of U.S.-market pre-production Titans to Utah (the XD wasn’t available) in SV, PRO-4X and Platinum Reserve trim for sampling in and around Park City.
For the on-road segment, I drove a fully loaded Deep Pearl Blue Platinum Reserve Crew Cab 4×4 with a rich brown leather interior. Apart from impressive acceleration response, I was struck by the quietness of the cabin. There are high-end luxury sedans that aren’t as tomb-like as this truck. Now, I wasn’t towing anything, so the engine wasn’t under load, but the serenity of the cabin is impressive, nonetheless. Two other facets that also stood out were the zero gravity seats which deliver a great deal of support and comfort, and the Fender audio system which sounds simply magnificent.
Next, it was time to test the Titan’s towing capability. I drove a white SV carrying about 2,223 kg (4,900 lb.) of snowmobiles (including trailer) and took note of how quickly the Endurance V8 passes in the 80 – 110 km/h zone. Nissan says the new Titan is about a second faster here than the outgoing truck, and it does indeed feel quite responsive. I was also impressed by how stable the truck was on the exercise’s Interstate route. After putting the truck in tow mode, I didn’t need to adjust the trailer sway control once and the 9-speed automatic shifted smoothly and didn’t hunt for gears.
Finally, I drove a PRO-4X finished in Baja Storm (taupe-like) on an off-road trail near our hotel which reached a height of about 305 metres (1,000 feet), and consisted of dirt, loose gravel and lots of bumps, but sadly no water crossings.
No matter where the trails may take you, the PRO-4X is ready, with its standard electronic locking rear diff, hill descent control, Bilstein shocks, front skid plate, lava red tow hooks and 18-inch wheels wrapped in all-terrain tires. This truck is truly in its element after the pavement ends, and it had no issue conquering the uphill ascent of our test trail. In particular, the Around-View Monitor was quite handy navigating in tight confines over partially blind turns, and the hill descent control made coming down less white-knuckle than it could have been.
Overall, I’d say that the rugged good looks of the PRO-4X with its blacked-out trim, jacked-up stance and all-terrain tires make it the most attractive Titan to these eyes.
The many changes made to the 2020 Nissan Titan should appeal to truck buyers. While Titan sales remain quite small compared to entrenched players in the segment (5,445 sold in Canada in 2018), Nissan has built a truck that is as good as any available from its competitors.
While the absence of a diesel option and fewer cab configurations may turn some buyers off, Nissan is wise to focus on consumers seeking a different truck experience. Nissan isn’t likely to load the Titan with incentives to chase the lower end of the market or to boost sales, and it probably won’t be positioned to compete on price alone either.
However, all Titans come equipped with standard four-wheel drive, along with lots of cutting-edge technology (such as standard Nissan Safety Shield 360), style and performance. Nissan has called the Titan a niche truck, but the many changes being made should enable it to flourish in its corner of the full-size segment.
2020 Nissan Titan
BODY STYLE: full-size pick-up
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, 4×4
ENGINE: 5.6L V8 Power: 400 hp @5800 rpm; Torque: 413 lb-ft. @4000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 9-speed automatic
CAPABILITY: 739 kg. / 1630 lb. (payload), 4241 kg. / 9350 lb. (towing)
FUEL ECONOMY: NA
OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: NA