2020 Nissan Titan Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Aug 20, 2020

Introduction - Find the best Nissan deals!

Merciless investment in the full-size pickup truck segment by Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, and Ram leaves a hopeful player like Nissan at a disadvantage. That’s why the refreshed 2020 Nissan Titan cannot match the heavy-hitters when it comes to cab, bed, powertrain, and trim level configurations. But sometimes, simplicity is a virtue.

Nissan touts numerous standard features for the Titan that are options on competing large light-duty pickup trucks. Those boasts include more standard power, more standard torque, and more standard safety technologies, coupled with the biggest standard infotainment touchscreen and the best warranty coverage in the segment. However, the Titan is also priced higher than competitors with the base King Cab S starting at $37,785.

The rest of the 2020 Nissan Titan lineup includes both King Cab and Crew Cab models in S, SV, PRO-4X, SL, and Platinum Reserve trim. Prices can top $60,000 and that’s before adding accessories to the truck. There is also a Titan XD model, a larger mmodel built on a more robust frame that offers greater towing and payload figures than the standard Titan, but still can’t match the capabilities of some light-duty competitors. It ranges in price from around $45,000 to nearly $62,000.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO 4X Crew Cab Gray Front View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

For this review, J.D. Power evaluated a 2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X equipped with Convenience, Utility, and Moonroof option packages. Additionally, the test truck included all-season floor mats and step rails. The price came to $59,100, including the $1,595 destination charge.

What Owners Say… - Find the best Nissan deals!

Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the 2020 Titan, it is helpful to understand who buys large light-duty pickup trucks and what they like most and least about their vehicles.

According to J.D. Power data, 90% of large light-duty truck owners are male (vs. 60% for the entire automotive industry), and the median age of a truck owner is 54 years (vs. 56).

Owners say their favorite things about large light-duty trucks are (in descending order) the exterior styling, powertrain, driving feel, feeling of safety, and interior design. Specifically, when it comes to the Nissan Titan, these five things about the vehicle rank highest in comparison to the segment:

  • Exterior styling
  • Vehicle protection
  • Driver’s seat comfort
  • Smoothness of engine/motor
  • Getting vehicle set up

Owners indicate their least favorite things about large light-duty trucks are (in descending order) setting up and starting, driving comfort, getting in and out, the infotainment system, and fuel economy. Specifically, when it comes to the Nissan Titan, these five things about the vehicle rank lowest in comparison to the segment:

  • Fuel economy/driving range
  • Vehicle feel when started up
  • Getting in/out second row (in a tie)
  • Operating vehicle remotely (in a tie)
  • Rear seat comfort

In the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, the Titan did not rank due to insufficient data from respondents.

What Our Expert Says… - Find the best Nissan deals!

In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own perceptions about how the 2020 Nissan Titan measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the APEAL Study.

Exterior

Styling is of paramount importance to full-size truck buyers, and people who choose the Nissan Titan rank their truck as more appealing than do owners across the light-duty pickup segment.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO 4X Crew Cab Gray Rear View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

No doubt, Nissan’s new styling changes help in that regard. Starting with the 2020 model year, there is greater differentiation between Titan trims through grille and tailgate finishes as well as wheel designs. New headlights debut, too, and Nissan claims they are 120% brighter on the low-beam setting. The front bumper is also restyled.

With PRO-4X trim, the Titan features a black grille and tailgate trim, black wheels with machined-finish surfaces, black mirror caps, black door handles, and big decals on the sides of the truck bed. Red tow hooks match red lettering on the Nissan badge in the grille, and the 18-inch wheels wear 275/70 all-terrain tires.

The end result is an inoffensively proportioned and detailed truck that is vaguely derivative of a Ford F-150 from the 2014 model year.

Interior

Likewise, the Titan’s cab lacks a strong defining design character. With PRO-4X trim, you choose between cloth and leather seats in a Charcoal color, each with red contrast stitching that lends the cabin a little bit of flair. 

2020 Nissan Titan PRO 4X Dashboard and Interior

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Otherwise, materials are on par with the segment, and even better than some competitors. However, the upper door panel trim should be soft and more comfortable for arms that rest there.

As is true of any big pickup truck, the dashboard is loaded with knobs and buttons to control a wide range of features, most of them residing on a towering center control panel. Though it has a center console separating individual front seats, the Titan uses a column-mounted shifter that sounds and feels like a wet chicken bone snapping in two when you use it. You get to experience this sound and feeling every single time you drive the truck.

Placing the transmission selector on the steering column frees up space on the center console. For 2020, a new smartphone holder tray is useful, but overall the center console is somewhat restricted in terms of overall size and configurability. Also, it seems like Nissan missed an opportunity to add a second glovebox on the panel in front of the passenger.

Another change for 2020 is a new dual-panel glass moonroof option, which lets in plenty of light and helps to lighten the mood in the otherwise dark PRO-4X cabin.

Getting In and Out

Like any full-size truck, you climb up and into the Nissan Titan. The doors don’t open particularly wide, though, making it a little harder depending on the situation.

Interior cab storage includes a locking bin underneath the rear seat. Folding panels also deploy to create a flat cab floor when the rear cushion is flipped up. Fold the rear seatbacks down to create a flat surface that, according to Nissan, can be used as a workstation.

Around back, an assisted tailgate lowers slowly and smoothly. With PRO-4X trim, a factory spray-on bedliner is standard, adding some friction if you’re sliding items into the bed. Optional Utili-Track channels with adjustable tie-down cleats are useful, and Nissan also offers new-for-2020 LED bed lighting. An optional bumper step drops down to improve bed access or to help you climb up and into the bed.

Nissan also offers compelling in-bed storage boxes. These so-called Titan Boxes offer locked and secure storage, can be removed when you need more bed space, and can be used as a portable cooler.

Setting Up and Starting

From the seat controls and the driver information system to the infotainment and driving assistance technology settings, you can quickly determine how to find, choose, and save your preferences before getting underway.

Push the Titan’s engine start button, and the standard V-8 engine comes to life with a satisfying roar. But then you use the weak-feeling and -sounding transmission lever and a dark cloud starts to form on the satisfaction horizon.

Infotainment System

As standard Titan equipment, Nissan offers a standard 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Stereo volume and tuning knobs are present and accounted for, and main menu shortcuts and other stereo controls are available beneath the screen.

An upgraded system with a slightly larger 9-inch display is an option, and it offers NissanConnect Services with 24-hour concierge service, a Wi-Fi hotspot, door-to-door navigation, and compatibility with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Over-the-air updates keep the system’s software up to date over time.

The test truck had the upgraded technology. I wasn’t crazy about the graphics, the layout of the information, or the tile aesthetics. I also had some trouble with the touch-sensitive radio station pre-sets failing to respond to input.

With that said, the system was remarkably easy to set up. You can even configure the Home screen to personal preferences, and I had no trouble pairing my iPhone to the Titan’s Bluetooth. And the 12-speaker Fender premium sound system is terrific.

Keeping You Safe

Weighing nearly three tons and featuring body-on-frame construction, the 2020 Nissan Titan has mass on its side in a collision with almost any other type of vehicle. And while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) hasn’t finalized ratings for the revised 2020 model, the 2019 version earned Good ratings in all crash-test assessments.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the truck a 4-star overall rating, mainly because of its 4-star frontal-impact protection level. With 4-wheel drive, the rollover resistance rating is 3 stars. With 2-wheel drive, the Titan is more stable, earning a 4-star rating in this regard.

New for 2020, Nissan equips every Titan with its Safety Shield 360 collection of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS). They include forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic warning, lane departure warning, automatic high-beam assistance, and a class-exclusive rear automatic braking system. The truck comes with eight airbags, too, and a driver attention monitoring system.

Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 technologies are useful and effective, and the PRO-4X has both blind-spot warning and integrated spotter mirrors, so there can be no excuses for not knowing what’s on either side of the Titan. The test truck also had helpful front and rear parking sensors as well as a surround-view camera system with moving object detection capability. All Titans except the base S trim include adaptive cruise control, while traffic sign recognition is standard starting with PRO-4X trim.

Powertrain

Every 2020 Nissan Titan has a 5.6-liter V-8 engine ready to tow up to 9,370 pounds and haul as much as 1,680 pounds of payload, depending on the configuration. Get the Titan XD, and those ratings amount to 11,040 of towing capacity and 2,240 pounds of payload capacity.

The V-8 is re-tuned for 2020, and it makes 400 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 413 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm, which is more than any competitor offers as standard equipment. However, you need premium fuel for the engine to hit those numbers. Also, note that Nissan has dropped the previously available turbo-diesel engine that was optional for the Titan XD.

A new 9-speed automatic transmission debuts for 2020, replacing a 7-speed automatic. A 4-wheel-drive system is standard with PRO-4X trim, and it includes a shift-on-the-fly 2-speed transfer case and a locking rear differential. So equipped, the PRO-4X Crew Cab can tow 9,210 pounds of trailer and haul up to 1,630 pounds of payload.

This is a rewarding powertrain, offering a deep V-8 rumble and plenty of power. As I’ve previously mentioned, shifting the gear selector makes the truck feel delicate, like it might easily break, but the mechanicals seem robust and the transmission holds a lower gear when ascending or descending a grade. It also offers a tow/haul mode that you activate using a button on the shifter.

Fuel Economy

Where the Nissan Titan’s husky V-8 engine disappoints is with regard to fuel economy. Though the EPA estimates the PRO-4X will return 17 mpg in combined driving, the test truck averaged no better than 15.8 mpg on the testing loop.

Driving Comfort

Thanks to its commanding height and a driver’s seat offering a wide range of adjustment, you sit up nice and high in a Nissan Titan. The seats are comfortable, too, employing Nissan’s Zero Gravity seat design, which aims to replicate how the weightlessness of space produces minimum stress on the human spine. The only bummer when it comes to front seat comfort is the hard plastic on the upper door panels.

Compared to some competitors, the Titan Crew Cab is not quite as roomy in the back seat, but that doesn’t mean there is a shortage of space. Rather, there isn’t as much of a surplus. Like the front seats, the rear outboard seats use Zero Gravity construction for maximum comfort.

The Titan’s air conditioning system is downright fantastic, quickly transforming the truck into a rolling meat locker. With the dual-zone automatic climate control set to 72 degrees on a 92-degree day, I was actually chilly. The Titan is also available with Nissan’s speedy Quick Comfort seat and steering wheel heating, and with front seat ventilation on higher trims. Remote engine starting with remote climate control operation is also available.

On the road, the Titan isn’t necessarily quiet, but many truck owners want to hear the faint V-8 engine rumble as they drive. Wind noise is evident on the freeway.

Driving Feel

Equipped with Bilstein off-road shocks, all-terrain tires, multiple steel skid plates, hill descent control, and up to 11 inches of ground clearance, you expect a Nissan Titan PRO-4X to mow over just about kind of terrain. 

However, when driving over the speed humps in my suburban neighborhood at 30 mph, it felt like I fully extended the suspension at one point, forcing me to slow to the 25-mph speed limit. While off-roading, I also needed to watch my speed over ruts and moguls. The suspension, however Nissan tunes it, is not designed for speedy travel over such surfaces.

Generally speaking, I wasn’t satisfied with the Titan PRO-4X’s suspension, and it’s not clear to me if the tuning, or the components themselves, or the truck’s age, or a lack of structural rigidity are the culprit(s). 

Most of the time, the suspension and the truck’s body feel like they’re not on the same page. Impact harshness reverberates up from the road, through the structure, and into the cabin, but it is accompanied by a strange, soft, and absorbent sensation that runs contrary to a driver’s expectations. Frankly, I think the unsettled feel while you’re behind the wheel is due to the Titan’s hydraulic cab mounts, which are supposed to isolate the cab from the chassis.

In any case, newer truck designs feel stiffer than does the Titan. Even the ancient Toyota Tundra, which is a fairly rough-riding truck, feels more solid and of a single piece than does the rather wiggly Titan.

Furthermore, the engine-speed-sensing steering assist is mighty heavy at all speeds, and if you’re an older person with shoulder problems like me, working the Titan’s steering wheel gets really old, really fast. Beyond this, I had no trouble with the braking system or the pedal that activates it.

Final Impressions - Find the best Nissan deals!

Designed in California, engineered in Michigan, and built in Mississippi with an engine hailing from Tennessee, the Titan is clearly made for Americans. But which ones? Selection is limited, and while competing models don’t match the Nissan Titan’s 5-year/100,000-mile warranty coverage, they offer greater variety, sophistication, efficiency, and capability. 

As other truckmakers roll out diesel engines in their light-duty pickups, Nissan has dropped its diesel from the lineup. Nissan has also announced that it will cease Titan sales in Canada, and recently gave up trying to sell small and large commercial vans in the U.S. 

If the company, which is trying to find cost-savings as it seeks a path to profitability, decided to drop the Titan altogether, it would not be a surprise. After all, the major players in the segment invest mercilessly to ensure their cash-cow profit makers remain that way. Eventually, Nissan will need to go big on the spending, or go home.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2020 J.D. Power

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