First Drive: 2020 Nissan Titan
Refreshed and Refined
Nissan made a big splash in 2017 when the company introduced us to the all-new Titan. Lacking a major update since the truck's initial launch in 2004, this marked a huge milestone. We even found the truck to be so good that we awarded it our 2017 Pickup Truck of the Year trophy and all the bragging rights that come along with it. Not wanting to repeat the same mistakes of the past, launching the truck and not touching it for a decade, Nissan just gave the Titan a fresh new look and a few really thoughtful features for the 2020 model year.
Biggest among these updates is under the hood where the truck's 5.6L Endurance V-8 now produces 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque (up from 390 hp and 394 lb-ft). This has been done through retuning of the engine, however it does come at the cost of needing to use premium fuel. Don't worry, if you wish to not feed your Titan a diet of high-test the truck can still run on regular, albeit at a lower performance level. This new tuning means that Titan has best-in-class standard V-8 horsepower and torque. Note this is against the competition's "standard" V-8 engines, not all of them, as there are more powerful V-8s (and even a V-6) offered.
Delivering this power to the ground is an all-new Jatco 9-speed automatic transmission (up from 7 gears in the outgoing truck). While the engine power figure has marketing value, this transmission is the real star of the show. We've learned from the other brands in the space that more transmission cogs are better, and this is no exception. Though our time behind the wheel was short (just 70 miles on the roads around Park City, Utah), and shared with a partner, this transmission really impressed. Shifts fire off lighting fast and the truck always seemed to find itself in the perfect gear for the situation. Freeway merging is such a non-issue we found ourselves needed to hold back from accelerating too fast. In addition to the new transmission, the axle gears have also been lowered from a 2.93:1 ratio to a 3.69:1. We can't wait to get one of these trucks on our turf for testing, because we're betting it's the quickest -ton pickup to date.
Aside from the engine, axles, and transmission Nissan has updated the truck's exterior styling as well. New grille designs, each unique to the trim level, and headlights (available full LED) set the front end apart while new tailgate finishers (also unique to trim level) and LED taillights freshen up the rear. While we like the new look, the jury is still out on which trim level design is our favorite (though we're seriously leaning towards the Pro4X).
Inside has seen ever bigger improvements, with the addition of an optional massive dual-pane sunroof (we're not sure we've seen bigger), a new 9-inch touchscreen infotainment center, and a new 7-inch driver information display. While not the largest on the market, the new 9-inch "Integrated Command Center" (as Nissan calls it) touch screen is easily the highest resolution our untrained eyes have seen. Colors are crisp and clear, and the screens and icons are laid out in a thoughtful and useable manner. While it looks like Nissan could have pushed the size to 10 or even 12 inches, we have exactly zero complaints about this new system (where as the old one felt like it was Y2K vintage). Nissan has finally added more USB ports as well, now having three USB-A and one USB-C in crew cab models. Also returning is the Fender premium audio package, which we simply adore.
The use of more laminated acoustic glass has resulted in an even quieter cabin than previous (and it was really quiet before) and according to Nissan the noise reduction was at the conversation level making it easier to talk amongst passengers. We also still love the Zero Gravity seats, even in cloth-trimmed SV models.
Safety is important to Nissan, so for 2020 they have made Safety Shield 360 standard. This includes lane departure warning, high-beam assist, auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, traffic sign detection, and forward collision warning. Optional are intelligent cruise control and intelligent driver alertness detection. Thankfully we didn't have the opportunity to test most of these features, though we can tell you that the intelligent (adaptive) cruise control works wonderfully.
Suspension and chassis tuning are carryover, so highway ride and handling remain the same as the outgoing model. The same can be said for Pro4X models, which feature the same Bilstein shocks and electronic locking rear differential as the outgoing model. The new gearing makes crawling and climbing a bit easier, but it wasn't exactly difficult before. New on Pro4X is a stamped front skid plate, red tow hooks (ok, this has to stop), and a new color "Baja Storm".
Towing tops out at 9,350 pounds for 4x2 models and 9,210 pounds for 4x4s, which is right in line for the class. Our towing loop was just 10 miles long and involved a 6,000-pound Airstream trailer. The 2020 Titan handled itself well, merging with decent speed and even having plenty of power left on tap for a bit of overtaking. We didn't test the standard trailer sway control, thankfully, and had no stopping issues thanks to the truck's integrated trailer brake controller. The new 9-speed transmission did seem to hunt just a bit for the right gear while pulling into the wind, but it wasn't bad enough to be alarming.
Overall, we feel that the 2020 Titan refresh is a good thing. It wasn't overdue, but with new models from the competition hitting the street it was a good time to introduce features that will keep the truck relevant for many years to come. The Titan drives great, is extremely comfortable, has tons of power, and looks better than ever. We still have a few gripes, like we wish there were more USB ports, and we still don't really care for the heated and cooled seat's switch gear, but these are all minor. Truth is, Titan is one of our favorites, and if you get behind the wheel we're confident it'll be one of yours too.