But Nissan is using a different approach to the Titan for the 2020 model year, and it seems to be giving it some momentum in the market. How does the 2020 Nissan Titan differ from last year’s model? And how is it gaining on the top three trucks in the segment?
Why the Titan lags behind others in its class
In his MotorTrend.com article, Christian Seabaugh describes how difficult it’s been for the Nissan Titan to get a toehold in the full-size truck market. Buyers of trucks made by the Big Three remain intensely faithful to their respective brands. There’s nothing compelling about the Titan that would cause them to abandon their Ford, Ram, and Chevy trucks.
But Nissan hopes to shift the market dynamics for the Titan by simplifying its lineup. This strategy runs counter to the typical mid-cycle refresh in which a truck maker adds features rather than cutting back on them. Ford updated the F-150 this way in 2018. The automaker spiffed up the F-150 inside and out as well as offering attractive new powertrains.
There’s a huge difference between selling almost 900,000 F-Series trucks as Ford did in 2019 and selling fewer than 35,000 Titans as Nissan did in the same year, so Nissan was forced to take a different tack. For example, Nissan took away the less-popular regular cab configuration and gave the extended king cab a 6.5-foot bed. Crew cab models, such as the Titan Pro 4X that MT tested, now have a 5.5-foot bed.
What the refreshed 2020 Nissan Titan has to offer
Besides adjusting the Nissan Titan’s cab and bed configurations, a more minor tweak is the slight boosting of the truck’s 5.6-liter V8 with an additional 10 hp and 19 lb-ft of torque. This tuning gives the Titan an engine that now produces 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque.
A more significant change, however, is the Nissan Titan‘s transmission, which was upgraded from a seven-speed to a nine-speed automatic transmission. MotorTrend’s Seabaugh believes that the combination of the raised final-drive ratio, the new transmission, and the boosted engine assures better acceleration and towing capacity. However, these changes leave the Titan’s max payload and towing capacity unaffected at 1,680 pounds and 9,210 pounds for the 4X4 version and 9,350 pounds for the 4X2 truck.
The most obvious changes in the new Titan are cosmetic. Nissan trimmed up its exterior styling and gave each trim level its own grille.
Other changes include extra sound deadening and a larger infotainment display. The latter has been sized up from last year’s 7-inch touchscreen to a standard 8-inch and an optional 9.0-inch display.
How the Nissan Titan is becoming just a little more competitive
Despite the Nissan Titan’s enhanced engine and slick new transmission, this year’s truck failed to beat the performance of the 2019 model on the track. Instead, it was slower. Its acceleration in the 0-to-60-mph test was 7.3 seconds, which was 0.4 seconds slower than last year’s Titan. Braking in the 2020 Titan wasn’t as responsive as the 2019 model. The newer truck stopped at 128 feet, a full five feet more than last year’s truck.
But Seabaugh thinks that these differences are imperceptible in real-world driving. The Titan’s V8 engine is a strong contender in a field of powerful truck engines, and its transmission shifts easily and energetically.
Unfortunately, the 2020 Nissan Titan‘s ride quality and handling are just so-so compared to its rivals. Its steering system overcompensates at higher speeds and lacks the accuracy of the Ford F-150 or the Ram 1500. The truck’s suspension doesn’t absorb road irregularities as well as it should either.
And even though the refreshed 2020 Nissan Titan shows improvement over the 2019 version, it’s still slightly off-target in offering value for money spent. The truck’s base price is $51,385. The Titan Pro 4X tester that the MotorTrend team drove cost $58,655, which, as Seabaugh points out, can buy a lot more of a new Ford F-150 or a Ram 1500. Buyers can get leather upholstery, metallic trim, and even a 12-inch infotainment screen in the Ram.
Loyal Nissan buyers will appreciate the refreshed 2020 Nissan Titan. That’s encouraging news for Nissan as it works to generate more interest for this truck. But it doesn’t seem likely that the changes would be inspiring enough to move owners of F-150s, Rams, and Silverados to cross over to the Titan.