The rest of the world must look to North Americans and our obsession with pickup trucks in quiet awe. Our penchant for costly utility machines goes beyond the necessities of work vehicles, with many folks seemingly snatching them up for the perceived macho image they project.
When the truck rolls on oversized, all-terrain rubber, wears butch-looking skid plates, and has a gritty name like the Baja Basher, it’s easy to imagine fleeing the confined city to launch off some sand dunes.
But there are no deserts near the Greater Toronto Area, yet plenty of folks use full-size trucks to go to work, get groceries, and hit the cottage roads, and the 2020 Nissan Titan Pro-4X is just as happy doing any of those tasks as it is kicking up dust on the dunes.
Last year’s styling update brought the Titan into its own, and the Pro-4X trim is arguably the best-looking of the lineup. With its blacked-out grille and tailgate section, and some bright red tow hooks up front, the most butch Titan holds its own stylistically against other serious all-terrain trucks in the segment.
Our tester was also kitted up with some side steps sprouting from robust-looking rock rails, and a sport bar bolted to the box that was just begging for a quartet of KC Daylighter auxiliary lights on top, all contributing to the rugged appearance of this rig.
While the interior doesn’t set any new design standards, the Titan’s cabin is contemporary and sporty in its black-with-red stitching motif.
In the truck world, being the biggest and baddest in any quantifiable measure gives ammunition in the marketing war, so Nissan is quick to boast that the Titan’s 5.6L V8 engine offers the most standard horsepower (400 hp) and torque (413 lb-ft) in the class. It’s the sort of stuff that gives the Titan instant street – and off-road – cred, and even when compared with the optional V8s in other trucks (the 6.2L offered in the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra notwithstanding), Nissan comes out on top.
There’s more at play here than just output, though, since the Titan’s mass is more than 100 kg (220 lb) heavier than even the heavyweight Toyota Tundra, and it’s more than 450 kg (992 lb) heavier than a comparably equipped Ford F-150. For perspective, compared to the Ford, it’s like the Titan is carrying around an ATV with a fat guy sitting on it all the time.
With all the Titan’s many horses hauling around more weight, it doesn’t feel any stronger on the road than any of its less powerful competitors, and neither does it contribute to a greater payload (716 kg; 1,579 lb) or towing capacity (4,200 kg; 9,259 lb) than the others in the class, though these figures are competitive.
To Nissan’s credit, a trailer brake controller and trailer sway control are both standard equipment on the Titan Pro-4X.
Fuel Economy: 5/10
There’s one more asterisk pinned to the Titan’s boastful output claims: those figures are only attained with a diet of premium fuel – an expense that none of Nissan’s competitors require.
In terms of average consumption rates, the Titan rates mid-pack, bettering the likes of the notoriously thirsty Tundra and Ram 1500, but falling short of the larger, more powerful 6.2L in the General Motors (GM) twins and Ford’s frugal 5.0L V8.
Of note, all the competitors except for Toyota offer smaller, more efficient V6 gas engines, as well as diesel options, for those putting greater importance on efficiency.
The government officially rates the Titan at 15.1 L/100 km in city driving, 11.2 on the highway, and 13.3 combined.
Driving Feel: 6/10
One of the most dramatic changes that has occurred in the automotive realm in the past few decades is the quantum leap in refinement that trucks have experienced. Where once a pickup, especially with an empty box, would bounce and skitter around, the current crop of full-size trucks exhibits remarkable composure on the road.
What’s even more impressive is the ride quality of some of the off-road-oriented trucks. The Titan Pro-4X’s Bilstein shocks are meant to take a pounding off-road – and during our limited exposure to a few forest roads, that proved true – but an unexpected upshot is that they also provide impressive on-road suppleness, and the truck tracks straight and true on the highway.
For serious off-road work, the Titan offers an electronically-locking rear differential, but its suspension doesn’t offer the same extreme articulation of the smaller Jeep Gladiator, a Tundra TRD Pro, nor the Ram 1500 Rebel and its optional air suspension. Plus, the Pro-4X’s General Grabber all-terrain tires appear to be a cost-cutting measure compared to the superior – and all-weather capable – BF Goodrich KO2s, Goodyear Wrangler Duratecs, and Falken Wildpeak ATs found on competitor trucks.
Truck transmissions have also come a long way in recent years, improving both smoothness and efficiency while still being able to distribute ever-increasing amounts of power. The Titan’s nine-speed automatic does a decent job most of the time, but occasionally gets caught flat-footed, hunting for the proper gear, and some of the shifts were a bit clunky.
Complementing the Titan Pro-4X’s impressive ride quality are Nissan’s excellent so-called zero-gravity seats. This writer in particular has raved before about the ability of these thrones to ward off driver fatigue, even over very long trips, and the big, comfy thrones in the Titan are no exception.
With the $5,500 Luxury package added to our truck, all the outboard seats are heated and covered in soft, perforated leather. The power front seats are also ventilated, and the heated steering wheel will be a welcome touch in the winter.
There’s ample space front and rear for passengers, and contributing to the comfort is the remarkable quietness of the cabin, with wind and road noise being surprisingly hushed. Only the satisfying bellow of the burly V8 breaks the solitude when the driver gets deep into the throttle.
Even without the Luxury package option, the Titan Pro-4X is a very well-equipped machine, offering desirable features like a spray-in bed liner, LED box lighting, and moveable tie-down cleats – stuff that’s typically optional on other trucks. Inside, the power sliding rear window, built-in navigation, and dual-zone climate control are luxurious standard touches; and the 12-speaker audio system offers amazing sound quality.
The Luxury pack adds a host of other niceties, like a panoramic sunroof and remote engine starter, making this off-road machine surprisingly posh.
User Friendliness: 8/10
For the most part, the Titan’s controls are sensibly laid out. The primary gauges are traditional dials flanking a seven-inch information screen, and the main nine-inch touchscreen offers a bright display. Besides offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the menus are very straightforward, and during our test the unit itself operated responsively and without any glitches. There are plenty of USB-A ports – and even one USB-C – in addition to AC and DC power outlets throughout the cabin.
We appreciated the large knobs and buttons to help with volume and tuning control, as well as adjusting the climate system. Though if there’s one complaint about the interior layout, it’s that the transmission’s column shifter occasionally got in the way when reaching for the temperature controls.
Practicality and functionality should be no-brainers for any truck, and the Titan mostly delivers. It’s tough enough to head off the beaten path, and strong enough to haul some decent loads, but Nissan Canada offers only one configuration for the Titan and that’s a crew cab with a five-and-a-half-foot box, and four-wheel drive. This is a popular format, but the domestic-brand truck builders offer an almost infinite number of combinations of cab size, box length, engine choice, and even two- or four-wheel drive. It’s variety that enables modern pickup trucks to suit an incredible array of buyer needs, and to this end, the Titan falls short.
Inside, while the Titan offers plenty of cubbies and storage spots, its competitors continue to push the envelope in terms of utilitarian options, enabling clever solutions to help owners use their trucks as the mobile workstations many require. Additionally, while the rear seats fold flat, the seatbacks are covered in fuzzy fabric rather than moulded plastic that would allow for durable storage space for luggage, tools, or toolboxes.
Nissan has done a good job of infusing the Titan with notable high-tech safety functions, including standard high-beam assist, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, plus adaptive cruise control. Our Titan also had a very sensitive lane-departure warning with an obnoxious buzzing alert whenever the truck wandered anywhere near the edge of the lane. Mercifully, this function can be (and was) switched off.
On the surface, the Titan looks like a well-equipped rig, offering decent value in the segment. The list of standard features, not the least of which is the V8, crew cab, and four-wheel-drive format, plus a very extensive equipment list, fares favourably at the asking price of $64,500. Plus, the Titan is the only truck that comes standard with a five-year/160,000-km warranty.
But after spending an afternoon building similarly equipped trucks on each of the competitors’ websites, the astonishing discounts, finance deals, and lease rates available across the board eroded the Titan’s price advantage considerably. With 2021 being the last year Nissan Canada will bring the American-built Titan to Canada, it’s sure to have a negative impact on residual values as well.
This latest iteration of Nissan’s Titan, especially in Pro-4X trim is a very good truck, even when not used for blasting across the desert. The full-size truck market remains one of the most fiercely contested segments in the auto industry, and as good as the Titan is, it seems to struggle to keep up with the ever-improving competitors and their enormous discounts.
|Peak Horsepower||400 hp|
|Peak Torque||413 lb-ft|
|Fuel Economy||15.1 / 11.2 / 13.3 L/100 km city/hwy/comb|
|Cargo Space||5.5' bed|
|Model Tested||2020 Nissan Titan Pro-4X|
|Price as Tested||$75,273|
$8,845 – Luxury Package, $5,500; Titan Sports Bar, $1,450; Baja Storm Paint, $300; Rugged Step Boards, $1,595