The 2021 Nissan Titan has emerged as a very interesting alternative to rivals like the Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, and the Ram 1500. However, you might not have the opportunity to realize that at first glance, which is thanks in part to the Titan consistently being on the short end of the advertising stick and being behind the domestic big three in a few categories. But that’s not stopping Nissan, with the Japanese auto giant making minor tweaks to the Titan for the new model year. But are they enough to help finally launch the Titan into the limelight?
Rugged Styling Defines Titan’s Unique Personality
To find out, Nissan allowed us to spend some time with the PRO-4X variant, which is positioned just below the range-topping Platinum variant in the Titan lineup. While our vividly red 2021 tester missed the package updates that define the 2022 Titan, the truck still managed to make an excellent first impression. The PRO-4X is the trail-ready model of the family, and this willingness to go off the beaten path is highlighted in some of its exterior adornments. All PRO-4X models feature splashes of black trim with a large blackened front grille swapping out the bright chrome work usually seen in other Titan models.
Red accents help provide visual contrast, and the red-hued Nissan logo in the center of the fore-mentioned grille even lights up at night. Black accented wheels mounted on meaty off-road tires are also part of the package, and they are joined by a large bed-mounted sport bar and bold PRO-4X graphics on the bedsides. The result is a look that manages to walk the line between being stylish and overtly functional, with the balance being shifted depending on where you end up in the trim ladder. Base S and SV models embody the typical work truck look, while PRO-4X and Platnium models swing closer to some of the styling elements that pickup buyers come to expect.
The bed is ultimately where the bulk of the action takes place, and it’s here where some of the Titan’s shortcomings emerge. Our tester was a non XD spec example, which means it’s limited to a 5.6-foot long bed for hauling cargo. That’s a bit more than the base 5.5-foot long bed that the Ford F-150 Tremor offers, but Ford buyers can also equip other Crew Cab variants with a bigger six-and-a-half-foot long bed for bulkier loads. However, it’s a closer battle with the Ram 1500, with Rebel versions of the truck featuring a slightly bigger 5.7-foot long bed. Our other complaint centers around the overall usability of the bed itself. While the built-in LED lighting and integrated tie-down points are welcome tools, having only one 110 volt outlet to use limits the ability to power appliances and other equipment out in the field and also causes the Titan to fall behind the F-150, which can incorporate more outlets into the bed especially when equipped as a hybrid.
Comfortable Interior Soaks Up The Miles; Technology Is A Different Story
Slip inside the cabin of the PRO-4X, and you will be greeted with a relatively comfortable place to spend time in. While the Platinum model is the one that gets the complete luxury treatment, PRO-4X models still have a high degree of comfort when equipped correctly. Base versions come with cloth seats, but buyers that opt for the $3,390 PRO4-X Convenience Package can swap the base seats out for comfortable Zero Gravity leather seats. These seats deliver the goods when it comes to providing long-distance comfort, and they even offer commendable amounts of side support.
The 9.0-inch infotainment system also comes bundled with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto tech. Still, while the vibrant screen does an excellent job of delivering crisp information, it does little to hide the fact that the Titan’s cabin is still a very dull place to spend time in. Cheap plastics are abundant, and rear-seat room in the crew cab is tight for some adults. That’s especially true if they are into medieval reenactments, with the Titan being tasked for transport duty to the 2021 Michigan Renaissance Festival (Emily’s equivalent of the Super Bowl.) The space back there was tasked with hauling the gear and bags that Emily and her friends needed to experience the festival, and that further highlighted some of the space issues that exist in the Titan.
That’s a shame since all three of its domestic rivals offer larger amounts of rear legroom and do a better job of providing occupants more nooks and spaces for smaller items. The crew cab layout pays dividends, though when it comes to using the area for more oversized items that can’t go into the bed, with the backseats having the ability to be folded back to create more space quickly.
Titan Goes All In On V8 Power
Performance for the Nissan Titan will be a throwback to pickups of yesteryear, with all Titan models being powered by a 5.6 liter V8. The Titan and the Toyota Tundra were the last two pickups in the market with V8-only powerplants. But with the Tundra pitching its V8 for a twin-turbocharged V6 for 2022, the Titan is the last remaining full-size pickup that embraces the one-size-fits-all option.
Here in the Titan, the big V8 is good for 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque, with a nine-speed automatic being tasked with sending power to all four wheels. The engine does a good job delivering confident acceleration, but the PRO-4X’s true strength lies in its ability to navigate rough terrain versus being a darling out on the track. While Metro Detroit is not known for its abundance of off-road trails, we still managed to put in a light workout during our trek to the Michigan Renaissance Festival in Holly, Michigan. The festival’s grounds are nestled in a nice patch of open woods, and you have to navigate light trails and pockmarked gravel roads to get access to the vast parking areas outside the fictional village of Holly Grove. The V8 also delivers the goods in towing, and while it lags behind segment stalwarts, the Titan still offers a respectable 9,660 lb towing capacity which should be plenty for the bulk of truck buyers.
The suspension was more than ready for the challenge. It did a good job absorbing the bumps and jolts as we journeyed to our assigned parking spot (despite the firm suspension tune), and the off-road tires impressed with the amount of grip that they offered when we had to navigate the occasional patch of mud and slippery grass on our way back out to the real world. On the other hand, the steering itself didn’t inspire much confidence, and there were times when feel felt vague and distant.
The Titan’s biggest weakness, though, is fuel economy. The V8 is a powerful albeit aging lump of power. However, it still has a voracious appetite for fuel, with the EPA claiming that four-wheel-drive models like our tester get a relatively paltry 15 mpg in the city and 20 mpg in freeway driving. Rear-wheel drive Titans have a one mpg improvement in both categories, but those figures are still behind segment rivals. The Ram 1500’s Hemi V8 is roughly on par with the Titan’s fuel mileage, but if you add the hybrid version in, that flavor of the Hemi gets three mpg more in the city. As for the leader in the segment, the F-150, the Titan still lags behind its arch-nemesis with four-wheel drive F-150s having a one and two mpg advantage respectively in both categories when equipped with the 5.0 liter V8.
Pricing for the 2021 Nissan Titan starts at $36,950 for a base S model with the King Cab setup. Adding the Crew Cab raises the price to $39,680, with the other trims gradually going up the price ladder accordingly. As for the Titan PRO-4X, this model starts at $50,690 and targets the Ram 1500 Rebel and the Ford F-150 Tremor. Our example arrived with over $7,000 worth of options which caused the price to balloon to $60,640.
That’s alot of coin to pay for a truck, and it put our well-equipped PRO-4X in the same territory as the GMC Sierra AT4 and the Chevrolet Silverado Trail Boss. The duo is more expensive than the Nissan when comparably equipped. Still, they also deliver more for the dollar, with GM using a 10-speed automatic (one gear more than the Titan’s nine-speed) and slicker technology, including an infotainment system with sharper software than the Titan’s unit. The F-150 also uses a 10-speed automatic, and it has recently benefitted from a mid-cycle update that helped evolve its technology and even added some depth to its performance hardware.
But while the 2021 Nissan Titan might still face plenty of obstacles as it continues its climb towards the top of the sales in the pickup segment, we suggest that buyers take a moment to get to know some of the Titan’s finest attributes. The Zero Gravity leather seats are still among the most comfortable set of thrones in the segment, and its approach to functional practicality and trail-ready capability are both welcome nods to the past and a glimpse into the future of the Titan if Nissan decides to do a next-gen model to help bring the moniker full circle.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.