Full-size disappointment. The Detroit Three – Ram, Chevrolet, and Ford – have been bolting beds behind cabs since the era of Woodrow Wilson and Prohibition. Nissan's history with building trucks is almost as lengthy, but the company has only been trying their hand at selling a full-size pickup since the waning days of George W. Bush's first term.
Unfortunately for the Japanese brand, their expertise with pint-sized trucks hasn't quite translated to the big-boned stuff. No matter what parameter is used to judge the 2019 Nissan Titan, the lack of polish is quickly apparent when evaluating it in anything but a vacuum.
Lackluster capability. The disappointment begins with the payload and towing capacities, the two holy yardsticks that every truck is measured against. In the truck world, street cred hinges on these numbers with the same dependency that muscle cars have on their zero-to-60 mph runs and quarter-mile times. These metrics segregate the wannabes from the real deals.
The Titan falls squarely into the former category. Maximum payload sits at 1,610 pounds. This seems impressive enough by itself, but the competition proves otherwise. A Ford F-150, the best-selling pickup out there, maxes out at 2,302 pounds. The new Ram matches the Ford almost to a tee. The newly-redesigned Chevy Silverado outdoes them all with up to 2,543 pounds of potential payload. Even the aged Toyota Tundra, which also plays second fiddle to the Americans in popularity and capability, can haul 1,730 pounds in the bed.
It's the same story in towing. The Nissan job will pull no more than 9,400 pounds. Again, it's an impressively large number … until you look over at the competing rigs. The F-150 pulls up to 13,200 pounds, the Ram 12,750, the Silverado 12,500, and the Tundra 10,200.
The numbers don't lie. When it comes to doing the things trucks are bred to do, the Titan comes up short.
Choppy ride, decent performance. While the domestics offer enough powertrains and bed/cab combos to confuse Las Vegas card counters, Nissan shoves a 5.6-liter V8 under the hood of every Titan regardless of trim or cab style. Note that the Titan XD, covered separately, offers an optional Cummins-built diesel V8 as well.
The venerable 5.6-liter motor has been powering Nissan's larger body-on-frame stuff for a while now, and is plenty stout with its 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission makes easy work of the gear changes. The combo doesn't deliver great gas mileage at an EPA-estimated 15 miles per gallon city, 21 mpg highway, and 18 combined, but no full-size truck with eight cylinders does much better. When potential buyers write off the Titan from their short list, it won't be because of the powerplant.
The ride, however, could get the blame. Out on the road, the Titan feels behind the times, inept at dampening bumps and jolts with anything resembling grace. And now that the competition is ramping up their efforts at making their trucks ride like crossovers, the sense of pitch-and-buck in an unladen Titan seems more exaggerated than it would have been even just a couple years ago.
Value. Perhaps the biggest redeeming feature of the Titan is its value play. A regular cab base model – one that comes with a V8, power windows and locks, and a 7-inch touchscreen with smartphone compatibility, among other things – starts at right about $31,000. By contrast, a base F-150 XL optioned up with a V8 is already at $30,300, and that's before getting any power-actuated amenities standard on the Titan.
On the other end of the spectrum, the ritziest version loaded with all the bells and whistles tops out at about $60,000. This is well below what the priciest domestics cost; those luxo-trucks have no trouble shooting past the $70,000 barrier.
It's important to note, though, that the loaded-up American trucks offer much more in terms of features and, perhaps more importantly, perceived luxury. Climb into a leather-lined Ram 1500 Limited or F-150 Platinum – both of which compete price-wise with the Titan's uppermost Platinum Reserve model – and you come away genuinely impressed. The style, quality, and features all seem to belong in something wearing a far more premium badge.
The Nissan never suggests anything of the sort; even in its most dapper trimmings it still feels like a Nissan pickup. The sensation is akin to the old Eddie Bauer F-150s or Silverado-trimmed K1500s of the 1990s. They were both the nicest examples of their respective product lines, but, at the end of the day, both were still working-class pickups. Nowadays, the market demands that trucks be able to double as genuine luxury boats, but the Titan clearly hasn't gotten the message.
Final thoughts. Truck buyers are a lucky bunch. The hyper-competitive segment has manufacturers consistently trying to one-up each other in a never-ending game of who can build the burliest, torquiest, most luxurious pickup. In the midst of this ongoing tussle, Nissan seems to have decided to sit it out on the bench.
To say the 2019 Nissan Titan is outclassed would be an understatement. Compared to rigs like the new Ram, the Nissan is a mediocre high school drama club member trying to share a stage with Broadway stars. It's in its own league – one that's inferior to where the domestic trucks currently stand.
The Titan's primary selling points are the deep discounts that Nissan dealers are quick to offer and the five-year/100,000-mile warranty, which is the longest in the class. But these two small redemptive qualities can't overcome the last-in-class capability, the uninspired interior, and the flinty ride. Better trucks are out there, so most people are going to buy one of those instead.