Power400 HP / 413 LB-FT
Curb Weight6,346-6,753 pounds
Towing10,880 pounds (11,000 pounds w/gooseneck)
The 2020 Nissan Titan XD is an odd duck. Back when the XD launched in the 2016 model year, it carved a confusing little niche for itself, somewhere between light-duty and heavy-duty. And for its mid-cycle refresh, that niche has only gotten perplexingly smaller. You see, last year the Titan XD was offered with a Cummins V8 turbodiesel that allowed for 12,830 pounds of towing (gooseneck) when paired with the Single Cab body style. In 2020, the Titan XD maxes out at 11,000 pounds with a gooseneck (or 10,880 pounds on the hitch).
Yes, it's gone backwards. The reason is that the diesel is gone, the victim of poor sales in a truck that itself struggles to move metal. Also meeting the chopping block is rear-wheel drive and every body style except for the Crew Cab. Nissan says this lone Titan XD configuration of Crew Cab, four-wheel drive and gas V8 was what folks were buying the most, so now it’s the only option. In a segment where offering abundant choice and configurations are primary attributes, this is at the very least unusual. At least there are still multiple trim levels.
When compared to a similarly configured Titan Crew Cab with four-wheel drive, the Titan XD can pull 1,670 pounds extra, courtesy more rugged underpinnings that carry over from last year. The XD has a unique frame and chassis compared to the regular Titan that is strengthened and extensively reinforced to provide “added stiffness, vertical and lateral bending and torsional rigidity.” The XD is also 11.8 inches longer in wheelbase and 14.8 inches longer in overall length, including a 6.5-foot bed hanging out the rear end. Nissan fits heavier duty suspension components, stronger axles, unique differentials front and rear, and massive, heavy duty brakes. The stronger parts bring more poundage, as the curb weight for the XD balloons over 6,000 pounds, which is in keeping with a heavy-duty truck. In base S trim it’s 6,346 pounds, but the most expensive Platinum Reserve brings the weight all the way up to 6,753 pounds.
That’s one hell of a rolling brick, and all that weight could explain why the XD actually has lower tow ratings than some configurations of half-ton 1500/150 series pickups – basically, your own weight negates what you can pull or carry. Nissan is selling “confidence in towing,” but consumers are going to look at the numbers. We won’t bore you with a long list, but multiple configurations of the F-150 and Chevy Silverado can out-tow the Titan XD with room to spare. The Ram 1500 comes close. Things get much grimmer when you start looking at 2500/250 pickups that one might assume the XD competes with.
However, there’s much more to life than towing, and Nissan did do a lot to the 2020 Titan XD to make it better than the old truck. A new nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the old seven-speed unit, and in the truck biz, more gears is always a good thing. Nissan has also optimized the old 5.6-liter V8 to make more power on premium fuel — it now makes 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, up 10 and 19 respectively. However, if you use regular 87 octane those figures fall back to last year’s ratings of 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque. We don't know many truck owners who are eager to saddle up to the 91 octane pump, so for all intents and purposes, output is exactly the same for 2020.
Step up to the more expensive Pro-4X, SL and Platinum Reserve trims and you get to take advantage of the new 9-inch infotainment system that has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The new infotainment system is a big step up from the slower and smaller screen from before, and we’re happy to see Nissan finally getting with the times in smartphone connectivity technology. One other small, interior innovation is the addition of a phone holder in the center console. Similar to what's in the Ram 1500, you can easily slot your phone in the rubberized gripper after plugging in.
Nissan is also making a suite of safety equipment standard across the whole line of XDs including: automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, auto high-beam assist, and rear door alert. These features are options on the Chevy, Ford and Ram trucks.
As previously mentioned, the numbers don’t paint the rosiest picture for towing with the XD, but Nissan wanted to show it off any way on our drive through Mississippi and northern Louisiana. We towed various trailers for hours around the south, all well within the Titan XD’s towing capacity with the heaviest of the bunch being around 8,000 pounds. If you’re in it for towing confidence and ride comfort, any trim but the Pro-4X is the one to get. Nissan fits Bilstein dampers to the off-road-oriented Pro-4X trim, and the ride under heavy weight isn’t nearly as good as the standard truck’s suspension.
Once in “Tow Mode” the new transmission works quickly and fluently with a load out back. Getting moving never feels strained, and when you really give it the beans, it’ll get up to highway speeds in time for merging on most on-ramps. The aggressive and macho roar of the V8 under load is always noticeable when above 3,000 rpm, but it melts away as the transmission falls into higher gears on the highway. Presumably that new transmission's extra pair of gears should result in better fuel economy, but since the Titan XD is classified as a heavy-duty pickup, official EPA ratings won’t ever be available. For what it's worth, we were able to accomplish about 17 mpg in combined city and highway driving without a trailer. Highway mileage varied depending on what we were pulling and our speed, but the trip meter read as high as 12 mpg with an Airstream behind us and as low as 8 mpg with a big, blocky storage box out back.
Our drive route didn't involve any grades, so there was no real test for the brakes or integrated trailer brake controller. The upgraded chassis and suspension feels solid underneath, though, keeping the truck under control and unstressed. Large potholes, road imperfections and expansion joints are felt through the cabin, but the truck and trailer maintained their track and point of direction without any trouble. The XD may not tow the weight of a true HD truck, but it did put as at ease with the weight it was towing. We could easily see somebody hooking up a huge pontoon or other large boat to take to the lake with this truck. Knowing that it has commercial-grade brakes, suspension and axles is reassuring, but honestly, without back-to-back drives with other trucks, be it HD or half-tons, it's hard to know how much of a difference choosing this in-between niche really makes. How much are you gaining? How much are you giving up? It would take more testing to provide answers.
Putting the trailers literally and figuratively aside, we set off on another full day of driving the Titan XD. Most of our unladen time was spent in the Pro-4X truck. Of all the trims, this one benefits the most from Nissan’s design changes. The “lava red” Nissan badges and accents found throughout are striking and work well with the blacked-out off-road design kit. Nissan fits all-terrain off-road tires with 18-inch dark-painted wheels for better traction off-road, and while we didn’t get the opportunity to hit the dirt, they didn’t significantly alter the on-road handling characteristics. Without the trailer, the Bilstein off-road shocks still make for a slightly rougher ride, but the gulf between the Pro-4X and other trims isn’t as wide. The truck’s ride and handling is comparable to that of the Ram Power Wagon. It isn't punishing, but it's far from comfy and something more forgiving would be a better daily driver, especially when some half-ton trucks can tow just as much as the XD can.
Nissan explains the value proposition of the XD as paying extra for extra capability. Pinned against a comparable non-XD model, the XD tows 1,670 pounds more and costs approximately $2,800 more on average if we take every trim into consideration. For example, the XD SL costs $1,300 more and the XD Pro-4X costs $4,190 more than the equivalent, respective regular Titan. A base XD S starts at $46,175 after the $1,595 destination charge is tacked on. The sweet Pro-4X trim can be had at $53,980, and the tip-top Platinum Reserve luxury truck is $63,285. These prices are similar to the comparable trim levels of rival 1500/150 series trucks, while undercutting similarly equipped 2500/250 trucks by only about $3,000.
In general, we like the improvements – it definitely looks way better now – and the ride is incrementally better than those of heavy-duty pickups. But by shrinking its niche even further, the 2020 Titan XD is an even more baffling proposition. One could argue you could choose an XD over the base Titan if you’re going to be doing a lot of towing, but at a mere 1,670-pound capacity advantage, it’s also hard to justify buying the heavier, less comfortable and less efficient pickup. And that's operating in a vacuum where the trucks of other makers don't exist, including the full-size half-tons that will out tow it, and the 2500/250 series trucks that will just laugh in its face. The fact those don't cost much more is truly damning. The XD may have carved out a tiny niche for itself, but we're not sure it's even the best truck to satisfy it.