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  5. 2020 Nissan Titan XD First Drive Review

2020 Nissan Titan XD First Drive Review

A simplified lineup refocuses the Titan XD’s positioning.

When Nissan launched the not-quite-HD XD in 2016, the company thought it had the right solution, a tweener of trucks that would hit the sweet spot of more-than-a-half-ton but stay clear of the true -ton class. With three cab configurations, two bed lengths, and even an optional Cummins 5.0L turbodiesel V-8 engine, not everyone understood the purpose of the Titan XD. Was it a heavy half-ton, or a less capable-ton? Nissan had a hard time convincing people in either camp of where the Titan XD fit in.

Where the Titan XD did fit in was in the categories of comfort, solid build quality, and value. For the owners that took a chance on the XD, the plus-sized Titan was the perfect truck. Unfortunately, there were not enough of these hand raisers for Nissan's big Titan, and for the midcycle redesign, Nissan had to reset the company's strategy by simplifying the Titan XD lineup.

Rather than trying to position the Titan XD as a white space truck that can be all things to all buyers, Nissan has instead decided to offer the XD as the ultimate tow package for Titan buyers. The '20 Nissan Titan XD comes only as a crew cab 4x4, albeit in five trim levels. The Cummins is no longer available, leaving the familiar 5.6L V-8 the sole motivator. By streamlining XD offerings, Nissan is now offering the truck the majority of its buyers are looking for.

Difference Between the Titan and Titan XD

Compared to the Titan, the Titan XD is a much heavier-duty truck. The XD's foundation is a more robust, fully boxed ladder frame, heavy-duty suspension, larger 9.84-inch AAM rear axle (front axle measures 9.25 inches) with 3.5-inch tubes, a lower 4.083:1 final drive ratio, bigger wheel studs, larger 14.17-inch front and 14.37-inch rear vented disc brakes, an integrated trailer brake controller, and an integrated gooseneck hitch on all but the base trim. For a reasonable $1,700 premium over a similarly equipped Titan, these improvements net the XD a 900-pound increase in payload (2,450 pounds) over the Titan and a 1,700-pound trailer towing capacity (11,000 pounds) bump.

In addition to capability, the XD rides 3 inches taller, has an 11.8-inch longer wheelbase, a longer 6.5-foot bed, and is 14.8 inches longer overall. Essentially the Titan XD nets you a completely upgraded chassis for the price of typical tow package from others in the market.

XD Appearance and Styling

For 2020, the Titan XD takes advantage of the Titan's fresh face, while looking a little bit tougher thanks to its own front sheetmetal. What is the same are the awesome LED headlights that have 120 percent more light output on the low-beam setting, and the foglights now cast a 15 percent wider beam for improved visibility. The shared signature DRLs use a total of four LED boards and put out 800 lumens each. For those who are sensitive to night driving and headlight output will be impressed by the XD.

Nissan offers the XD in five trim levels: the S, SV, PRO-4X, SL, and luxurious Platinum Reserve. Unique grille and interior treatments give each trim level its own personality.

Upgraded Drivetrain

Under the hood is the familiar direct-injected 5.6L Endurance V-8, now tuned for more power,—400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque ,to be exact—on premium fuel. While those are impressive numbers, that's not where the real story is. New to the Titan lineup is Nissan's first use of a stellar nine-speed JATCO automatic transmission that replaces that outgoing seven-speed. The aforementioned lower final drive ratio (4.083 versus the Titan's 3.692), in partnership with the new nine-speed, provides quicker responses off the line and quicker passing ability.

Interior Changes

Like the Titan interior it shares, the XD receives the same significant upgrades. Most visibly sitting at the top of the dash is the best-in-class standard 8-inch display or the optional 9-inch Integrated Command Center with a high-resolution touchscreen display. The new system houses the controls for the exceptional 12-speaker, 485-watt, nine-channel Fender audio system with Bassman subwoofer and Panasonic's Acoustic Motion Control. Meant to offer balanced sound from the factory, we've found that the system is so clear, that even at high volume levels you can hear individual strings on a guitar, for example, with no distortion. The system also offers a slew of other features, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (standard on every trim level), as well as Wi-Fi.

Other features unique to the 2020 are a huge panoramic glass sunroof and the addition of USB-C outlets for phone charging. A new phone holder also snaps into the console with the cupholders. Current owners will be happy to know that Nissan's excellent Zero Gravity seats carry on.

The richly appointed Platinum Reserve is the top of the Titan XD trim walk and features premium leather seating, dark chrome accents, and heated and cooled front seats. Platinum Reserve badging and woodgrain trim rounds out the cabin.

Safety and Tech

Like the 2020 Titan, Nissan put an emphasis on accessible tech that improves safety and convenience on the Titan XD. Standard with every Titan XD is Nissan's Safety Shield 360, which is a suite of six technologies that includes automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, high-beam assist, and rear automatic braking. Other technologies include available intelligent forward collision warning, intelligent around view monitor with moving object detection, intelligent cruise control, intelligent driver alertness, and traffic sign recognition. Occupants are now protected by a total of eight airbags.

Off-Road Options

For those who need a big truck with some off-road capability, Nissan offers the Titan XD as a PRO-4X model. In addition to its unique styling cues and interior, the PRO-4X adds monotube Bilstein shocks, electronic rear locker, full skidplating, tow hooks, and more aggressive 32-inch General Grabber tires. An enhanced off-road gauge display in the 7-inch driver information center shows tire angle, pitch, and roll. There is also hill descent control, hill start assist, and a brake limited-slip differential. The XD also has a better crawl ratio of 60.2:1 than the standard Titan (54.4:1) thanks to the deeper final drive ratio.

Towing and Hauling Capability

With the Titan XD's primary mission of towing, it is unsurprisingly chock-full of towing aids. Towing technologies include trailer light check, an integrated trailer brake controller, Nissan's Intelligent Around View monitor, rear view monitor with trailer guides, tow/haul mode with downhill speed control, and trailer sway control. As mentioned previously, an integrated gooseneck hitch is standard in all but the base S trim level, and Nissan has added a redundant seven-pin outlet to the bed to prevent having to drape the trailer wiring over the tailgate to the bumper receptacle.

From a hauling standpoint, the Titan XD is available with a spray-in bedliner and Nissan's class-leading Utili-trak tie-down system. While most manufacturers only offer their rail systems on the bedside, Nissan uses them on the bedrail, head of the bed, and on the floor, giving users a large amount of versatility in securing cargo. In addition, Nissan is the only manufacturer that uses adjustable aluminum tie- down cleats, each one carrying a 200-pound rating (150 pounds when used on the bed floor or head rails). Four fixed tie-down hooks are standard.

Another option is the Titan Boxes that allow for secure storage in the bed without compromising the ability to install a shell over the back. They are designed to be easily removed when the bed's entire volume is needed.

Driving Impressions

Nissan invited us out to Canton, Mississippi, to tour the factory where the Titan XD is built, and we had a chance to drive the new Titan XD, both laden, unladen, and with various trailers in tow in and around Mississippi and northern Louisiana.

While we were huge fans of the previous diesel version, Nissan's nine-speed transmission and lower final drive ratio keeps the gas offering attractive. The weighty Titan XD chassis is always composed and never allows the trailer to wag the tow rig. Thanks to independent front suspension, the Titan XD rides and handles well. It also handles loads well. The 5.6L DOHC V-8 pulls strong and sounds great doing it.

Like the Titan, the XD's interior is a place you want to spend time while working through those long highway days. The cab has plenty of space for five, with all of the controls laid out logically, and despite the big screen, there are still plenty of physical buttons. It's also hard to beat the best seats in the business, Nissan's Zero Gravity thrones. Laminated side glass, acoustic tuning, and hydraulic cab mounts keep the large crew cab extremely quiet and smooth. Standard tow mirrors and lots of glass make for good visibility. We really appreciate the new safety upgrades, including the adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking system.

While we wouldn't hesitate one second to grab a Titan XD to yank a trailer to anywhere, there are a few areas where the XD lags behind the competition. The first is screen clarity in any camera view. The screen itself is a gorgeous, high-definition panel, and it's a shame that the same low-res cameras are used, making the views look fuzzier than the best offerings on the market. We also don't know why the Titan XD is only available with a 26-gallon fuel tank. With the competition offering tanks in the mid-thirty-gallon capacities, range isn't as good as it could be. Lastly, we know the Titan chassis is capable of much higher towing numbers than advertised, and we hoped that Nissan would have maintained the old diesel towing numbers with the new gas drivetrain. It's a missed opportunity for a segment that prides itself on the promise of spec battles.

Overall Takeaway

Overall, the Nissan Titan XD with its best-in-class five-year/100,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, long list of standard tech and safety equipment, and new upgrades make it a smart choice for those people who want a solid truck with a tremendous amount of value. The Titan XD starts at $44,580 for the S trim and tops out at $61,690 for the fully loaded Platinum Reserve. The Titan XD has everything you need to tow safely, and while its aimed at a small niche of the market, for the right buyer, it is a solid choice.

2020 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Reserve QUICK SPECS (as tested)

Base price: $61,690
Engine: 5.6L DOHC DI Endurance V-8
Rated hp/torque (lb-ft): 400/413
Transmission: JATCO 9-speed automatic
4WD system: 2-Hi, 4-Hi, neutral, 4-Lo
Low-range ratio: 2.717:1
Frame type: Boxed Ladder
Suspension, f/r: Double wishbone 36mm stabilizer bar, coil-over shocks/Multi-leaf w/solid axle, 25.5mm stabilizer bar
Axle ratio: 4.083:1
Max crawl ratio: 60.1:1
Steering: Hydraulic recirculating ball
Brakes, f/r: 14.17-in vented disc/14.37-in vented disc
Wheels (in): 20x7.5
Tires: LT265/60R20 Continental
Wheelbase (in): 151.6
Length (in): 243.4
Height (in): 78.9
Width (in): 80.7
Base curb weight (lb): 6,753
Approach/departure angles (deg): 17.8/24.5
Minimum ground clearance (in): 9.1
Payload (lb): 2,450
Max towing capacity (lb): 11,000
Fuel capacity (gal): 26.0