2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X Review: Is This Updated Off-Road Truck Ready To Take On Detroit's Best 4x4 Pickups
The Nissan Titan has spent much of its existence on the outside looking in at the mainstream pickup truck market in America. Determined to shake its status as a full-size footnote after languishing almost unchanged for well over a decade, the Titan was completely redesigned for the 2016 model year and then refreshed again for 2020, indicating that the brand has had it with sitting on the sidelines as Detroit's major pickup players rake in the cash.
A big part of the latest updates made to the Nissan Titan is the continuation of the Pro-4X trim level. This off-road focused version of the truck isn't intended to challenge hardcore offerings like the Ford F-150 Raptor but rather go up against more basic models such as the Ram 1500 Off-Road package and the Chevrolet Silverado Z71 in terms of gear, looks, and overall mission statement.
Do the 2020 Nissan Titan Pro-4X's upgrades make it a legitimate contender for turning heads among full-size fans, or is the pickup still sitting on the sidelines of broad acceptance by the truck faithful?
A quick rundown of the improvements made to the 2020 Titan includes a new nine-speed automatic transmission (replacing last year's seven-speed unit), which pairs with a mightier version of its standard 5.6L V8 (now rated at 400hp and 413 lb-ft of torque, as long as you use 91 octane fuel). Visually, there's a facelift that adds some aggression to the Titan's front end, along with a more pleasing headlight/daytime running light look (matched at the rear by revised taillights). The truck's cabin has been given a mild makeover, with the most obvious result the modernized infotainment screen sitting dead center on the dash.
The Nissan's platform continues unchanged, however, which means that the Titan is essentially the same width and length as it was before and its interior offers an almost identical amount of room. Four-door crew cabs remain the only selectable body style with the Pro-4X trim, which is a significant strike against it in terms of versatility versus other pickups, but an extended cab is available with other trim levels (and includes a longer cargo bed).
The Nissan Titan Trail Warrier concept previewed several of the styling updates made to the 2020 Titan.
Nissan also offers the Titan XD, a truck that sits between half-ton and three-quarter ton vehicles in terms of weight and capabilities. It's longer and taller than the standard Titan, and rides on a stretched wheelbase.
The Pro-4X package makes a number of noteworthy additions to the above. Mechanically, it adds a hill descent control system, a set of rugged Bilstein shock absorbers, and an electronic locking rear differential that can be controlled from inside the truck. A skid plate armors the drivetrain, which 18-inch off-road rubber steps above the standard all-season tires found on other versions of the truck.
Visually, the Titan Pro-4X stands apart with its own blacked-our grille, LED headlights, and an interior that features its own badging and an available 'camo cloth' upholstery if you're not interested in red-stitched leather. Tow hooks are also present and accounted for at the front of the vehicle, and a light bar that bolts to the bed sides is available with the truck.
The Pro-4X model's approach to off-roading doesn't provide any true innovations. Its suite of features can be found on almost any basic off-road package pickup currently offered by Ford, General Motors, Toyota, or Ram.
While it does provide a bit of a style bonus to go with its shocks, diff, and skid plate setup, it's not quite as comprehensive as what one would find with a more dedicated model like the Chevrolet Silverado Trail Boss or the Ram 1500 Rebel. Specifically, the Pro-4X lacks the 32 or 33-inch tires offered elsewhere, and it doesn't provide a suspension lift over a standard four-wheel drive version of the Titan.
Big V8 Power, But That's All You're Getting
Keen eyes might have now noticed that the 2020 Titan's V8 offers more standard horsepower than anything else in its class. This is part and parcel of the single-engine strategy at Nissan, which impresses until you realize that Ford, Ram, Chevrolet, and GMC deliver a wide range of engines that include more powerful options as well as diesels and V6s that are thriftier than the Titan. Only the Toyota Tundra joins the Titan with a V8-for-all attitude.
It's a decent engine, and acceleration from the Pro-4X feels more robust than the 5.3L V8 offered by the Silverado or the Sierra and roughly the same as the similarly-gifted 5.7L V8 found in the Ram 1500. The new transmission is virtually transparent in its operation, with no real difference in the driving experience as compared to the also-good seven-speed that it replaces.
Handling for the Pro-4X is of course an afterthought. This is a hefty rig riding on Bilsteins intended to take punishment, not smooth out the daily drive, and while it's on par with most of its leaf-sprung rivals it doesn't approach the level of comfort or stability delivered by the Ram's four-corner coils (or available air ride).
From a practical perspective, the short crew cab bed is just as impractical for hauling longer items as that found in any other modern full-size truck, but it's decent for boxes, firewood, or other items that don't need the tailgate dropped to be accommodated. The rear seats flip up to improve the interior storage game, too.
'Good' When It Needs To Be 'Class-Leading'
Is the Nissan Titan Pro-4X a competent crawler? Sure, in the same sense that almost any modern truck can tackle a trail and not embarrass itself by getting stuck if it has an experienced driver at the wheel. But it's hard to understand why the Pro-4X label wasn't given a boost over other entry-level off-road packages through a simple lift and tire combo, especially given a starting price of nearly $50k.
As a challenger to the established pickup hierarchy, Nissan has to try harder to peel buyers away from other brands. Instead, the Pro-4X treads familiar ground, and even though it does it well, it lacks a truly compelling argument to trade in one's existing brand loyalties and try something new. Yes, this is an attractive truck that garners significant attention out on the road, especially when finished in its available bright red paint, and you likely won't disappointed by the revised Titan's charms. At the same time, it's hard to imagine anyone other than the most curious and open-minded of buyers hiking down to their local Nissan dealer to give the Titan a test drive.
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