When I first approached Scott Brady about covering the launch event for the 2020 Nissan Titan XD for Expedition Portal, it was a different time. He was just getting ready to embark on a journey to Namibia to drive the new Defender, and I had a full schedule of events planned for the spring.
It felt like a lifetime ago at this point, as the world has come to a virtual standstill thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak. You’d think I’d have all the time in the world to bring you this review. But there are many times that I sat at the computer, with a blank Word document open and a flashing cursor staring back at me. It’s like a scene in an Aaron Sorkin screenplay just before something magical happens.
Except that moment didn’t come. Writing about pickup trucks when people are dying seems tone deaf to me at best, and it was hard to bring my thoughts together. I started helping a local company make and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) and spent my days traveling around Ohio making deliveries. This story sat on the back burner.
So, I think instead of just telling you about what the updated Titan XD is like, I want to tell you a story about how pickup trucks in general, including Nissan’s Titan, bring people together. Togetherness is what we really need in these difficult times.
The changes for the 2020 Nissan Titan XD are worthwhile. There’s a new 9-speed automatic transmission, replacing the 7-speed. There’s a new tune on the 5.6-liter V-8 making the horsepower output 400 on premium fuel. The Cummins diesel engine is gone (like the one we tested in the Surf Camp), as is the regular cab and King Cab. Nissan wants to focus on the heart of the truck-buying market. In the 2016-2019 version of the XD, Nissan wanted to break into fleet and end up on job sites. They wanted to do what Ford does, and while I admire the chutzpah, that’s a monumental task that requires decades of investment in both blood and treasure. It wasn’t a bad truck, but there’s more to pickup truck sales than just a good product.
But what the Titan XD did was bring a group of people together. Trucks are tools that can be used for a litany of different purposes. You, dear reader, are likely concerned with a truck’s off-road capability. You want to know how much payload it can handle (the new Titan XD can carry 2,450 pounds), which permits everything from a full expedition camper to a bed full of BMWs. Other buyers might use it to haul a boat on the weekend, or a flatbed trailer carrying lawn care equipment. Some trucks end up on construction sites while others end up in Glamis, hopping dunes. Some trucks do all of that, while also taking the owner back and forth to their office job each day.
Because there are all of these different types of customers for one product, Nissan worked hard to find new and creative ways to keep their pickup truck in the news. They had a Titan Ambassador Program, featuring Chef Cory Bahr, Chef David Rose, and Maddie Brenneman. All three people are absolutely delightful individuals and quality humans. Nissan took journalists and outdoor media fishing, hunting, and even on a snowmobile adventure to show how real people are using their product every day. Not only did this add to the context needed to write a good story, but it also introduced people who soon became friends.
I wouldn’t be on this site if it weren’t for a Nissan program in Morocco, where I first met Scott. The world’s truck media, who see each other regularly, are even closer now than they were thanks to programs like that. That’s what pickup trucks do; they bring people together. Additionally, pickup truck owners tend to help out in the community. That’s why when there’s a natural disaster, volunteers quickly show up in pickup trucks. Organizations rely on those trucks to save lives.
Nissan took the Titan XD—the old one—and built several customized rigs out of them to donate to various groups. One went to the Red Cross. Another went to Habitat for Humanity. A third went to the National Parks Foundation. Upfitted with some of the best overlanding gear, these trucks went immediately into service around the country where they were needed the most.
One individual who I got to know well was David Page. His team was responsible for assembling many of the builds, and I’m convinced that every single human on Earth has met him. The man knows a lot of people. While yes, he was tasked with working with the Titan XD as a base, no matter how off-the-record I tried to get him, he’d always talk about how great the XD platform was for his builds.
So, what makes the 2020 Nissan Titan XD better than the half-ton? Everything is bigger: the frame is bigger, the axles are beefier, the brakes are meatier. Nissan wants you to think of the Titan XD as a tow package instead of a completely separate truck these days, but all of the components that see the most wear and tear are bigger and stronger on the Titan XD.
That means if you’re looking for a truck to start a build with, the Titan XD might be where you want to look. The 2020 Nissan Titan XD is also nicer on the inside, bringing in the new infotainment system and updated interior bits from the updated half-ton. Nissan’s “Zero Gravity” seats still are some of the absolute best in the business. You’re likely going to want the PRO-4X trim, with an electronic locking rear differential and a solid set of all-terrain tires. Out of the box, the Titan XD packs a decent amount of off-road capability while not ruining an on-road ride.
The intangibles are really where the Titan shines over some of the competition. The power delivery of the V-8 is better than the 5.0-liter in the Ford F-150. It rides better than a Silverado HD. The standard safety tech is better than most of the competition. The pricing isn’t terrible either, with the desirable PRO-4X Titan XD starting at $53,980. A base XD starts at $44,580, but remember all Titan XDs are crew cab trucks with four-wheel drive.
The 2020 Nissan Titan XD expands on what made the previous truck good while also cutting out some models that weren’t selling. When you factor in incentives and a global pandemic, the Titan XD ends up competing with proper ¾-ton pickups. But if you’re looking for a base for an overlanding rig and expect to need to haul a significant amount of equipment, give it a look. You’ll be out making new friends in no time. nissanusa.com
We used the online builder tool to create our “ultimate” overland spec. Here is our the build link: