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Check out the 2020 Nissan Titan ESPN 97.5's Joel Blank is driving this week

ESPN 97.5 Houston host Joel Black is test driving a 2020 Nissan Titan this week for AutomotiveMap.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Joel Blank, co-host of "The Press Box" on ESPN 97.5 Houston and a SportsMap contributor, is test driving the 2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X this week. Curious about the truck? Here's what you need to know.

The Nissan Titan is the company's full-size pickup truck.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In the Nissan lineup, it slots above the Nissan Frontier.

Nissan sells two different types of Titans, the Titan and the Titan XD.

The Titan's main competitors are the best-selling vehicles in the country - the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, and Chevrolet Silverado. It also competes with the GMC Sierra and Toyota Tundra. These are all half-ton pickup trucks.

The Titan XD isn't a half-ton pickup and it isn't quite a three-quarter ton either. Nissan gives the Titan XD a stronger chassis which gives it more payload and towing capacity but not quite as much as the Ford Super Duty or Chevrolet Silverado HD. Nissan does sell a PRO-4X variant of the Titan XD.

Nissan refreshed the truck for 2020 and made big improvements.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Despite the fact that the current generation of the Nissan Titan is only a few years old, it aged quickly as Ram, Chevrolet, and GMC all introduced new models in the last 18 months.

Nissan debuted the 2020 Titan at the State Fair of Texas last year (above). It features redesigned front and rear fascias, a boatload of new tech, and bigger differentiation between trim levels.

The company has also streamlined the number of Titan offerings making it easier for dealerships to have the right stock on hand for when buyers arrive for a test drive.

Joel's driving the Titan PRO-4X. What does that mean?

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Titan comes in a variety of trim levels: S, SV, SL, PRO-4X, and Platinum Reserve. The Titan S is the base model and the Titan Platinum Reserve is the top-tier truck. The Titan PRO-4X isn't just the Platinum model with a few less features. It's a totally different take on the truck with more rugged looks and off-road-ready equipment.

That also means that the truck is crew cab model with a 5.5" bed. Nissan doesn't sell the PRO-4X in any other configuration.

The Titan PRO-4X stands out.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Unique exterior accents separate the Titan PRO-4X from other Titans on the street. It features LED front fog lamps, automatic headlights, LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, Nissan Intelligent Key with door handle request switch, semi-gloss dark painted over fenders, semi-gloss dark grey lower front fascia and rear bumpers, and a black tailgate finisher with PRO-4X logo and bedside decals.

What color is that?

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Nissan sells the Titan PRO-4X in six exterior colors: Red Alert, Baja Storm, Deep Blue Pearl Metallic, Super Black, Gun Metallic, and Glacier White. The truck Joel has this week sports a Baja Storm paint job and a black interior.

All Titans have the same engine.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Nissan does a lot of things differently than Ford, Ram, and GM. This is one of them. Buyers will get a 5.6-liter V8 gasoline engine under the hood of whatever Titan they buy, no matter the trim level, box, or cab size.

The 5.6-liter V8 yields 400 horse power and 413 pound-feet of torque. That's enough to get it going promptly. The truck has no problem getting up to speed on the highway, towing is maximum load, or picking its way up a rocky hillside.

That last bit is in large part thanks to its new nine-speed automatic transmission.

You said "rocky hillside." How capable is the Titan PRO-4X off-road, really?

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Titan PRO-4X is the only Titan that comes with an electronic locking rear differential. The trim level is only offered with four-wheel drive. It also comes with an off-road gauge display, tire pressure monitoring system, Bilstein mono-tube shocks, and a "PRO-4X" embossed skid plate. It also has hill descent control, which helps moderate your speed when you're heading down a steep slope. The Titan PRO-4X rides on 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels wrapped in General 275/70R18 tires.

But can it haul and tow?

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Nissan Titan is capable of towing and hauling. The Titan PRO-4X comes standard with a spray-on bedliner; Removable, lockable, and damped tailgate; four fixed tie-down hooks; and a rear cab roof-mounted LED light. Front tow hooks are standard on the Titan PRO-4X, as is trailer sway control, and receiver hitch.

The list of available equipment is just as extensive. Buyers can get a Titan with Trailer Light Check, an integrated trailer brake controller, rearview camera with trailer guides, Tow/Haul drive mode, Intelligent Around View Monitor, front and rear sonar sensors, an in-bed 110-volt power outlet, four moveable aluminum cleats; cargo bed lights; a rear utility bed step; and LED lights under the bed rail.

A built-in four- and seven-pin connector and plug with connector in the bumper are available as part of the tow package.

The 4x2 Titan is actually slightly more capable than the 4x4 model. It has a maximum trailer towing capacity of 9,350 pounds and 935 pounds of tongue towing capacity when properly equipped. The Titan 4x4 models have a maximum trailer towing capacity of 9,210 pounds and 921 pounds of tongue towing capacity when properly equipped. Titan has a maximum payload capacity of up to 1,630 pounds.

How many people fit into it?

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Titan PRO-4X comes with seating for five. Up front are two spacious bucket seats. In the back is a three-seater bench. There's enough legroom for adults in both rows. Two car seats fit with plenty of room to spare.

What's included in the Titan PRO-4X base price?

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Nissan has given the Titan PRO-4X a long list of standard comfort and convenience features. It has:

  • Front driver and passenger captain's seats
  • Driver eight-way power-adjustable seat
  • Driver power lumbar support
  • Stain resistant seat covering with a vinyl bolster and "PRO-4X" embroidery
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel with unique contrast stitching
  • Metallic instrument panel finishers
  • "PRO-4X" branded floor mats
  • Contrast stitching on the center console lid, arm rest, and instrument panel
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control
  • Climate control digital display
  • Rear climate control vents
  • Center console box with soft-touch topped armrest
  • Side pockets
  • Rear cup holders
2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The list of standard technology in the truck is also long. It includes:

  • NissanConnect with navigation
  • 9.0-inch infotainment touch screen
  • SiriusXM with Travel Link (subscription required, sold separately)
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Apple CarPlay
  • Android Auto
  • Wi-Fi hot spot with seven-device capability (data subscription required, sold separately)
  • 7.0-inch driver information display

The Titan's touch screen features WXGA resolution, which is a step higher than what traditional high-definition screens offer.

Buyers can opt for a dual-pane panoramic moonroof that measures over three-feet square.

You can pump up the jams too.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

A 12-speaker premium sound system powered by Fender is available. In the Titan base model, there is a six-speaker sound system. Titan PRO-4X buyers who don't want to upgrade to the Fender system still get a 12-speaker system.

Nissan has loaded the truck with safety features.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Each Titan comes standard with Nissan Safety Shield 360, a suite of six advanced driver-assist systems. Safety Shield 360 includes:

  • Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection
  • Blind spot warning
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Lane departure warning
  • High beam assist
  • Rear automatic braking (class exclusive)

Additionally, there are a number of available technologies including intelligent forward collision warning, intelligent around view monitor, adaptive cruise control, driver alertness monitoring, and traffic sign recognition.

All models also get Nissan's rear door alert.

It has the best warranty you can get on a new truck.

Nissan offers the Titan with America's Best Truck Warranty, a bumper-to-bumper limited warranty for five years or 100,000 miles.

What does the truck cost?

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X Monroney

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The truck that Joel is driving this week comes all-in at $60,180. That's the total after all costs are factored in. Check out the truck's actual Monroney above. Here's how that breaks down:

  • Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Base Price: $49,790
  • PRO-4X Utility Package: $2,190
    • Front and rear parking sensors
    • Utili-Track System with four tie-down cleats
    • 110-volt outlet in bed
    • LED under rail and tailgate illumination
    • Power slide rear window with defrost
    • Fender Premium Audio system
    • Electronic locking tailgate
    • Trailer brake controller
    • Proximity headlamps and cargo lamp activation
    • Rear utility bed step
  • PRO-4X Convenience Package: $3,390
    • Leather appointed seats with contrasting stitching and PRO-4X embroidery
    • Four-way power passenger seat
    • Heated front seats
    • Automatic entry/exit driver seat
    • Heated steering wheel with power tilt-telescoping
    • Memory function for steering wheel, driver's seat, and outside mirrors
    • Remote engine start
    • Auto-dimming outside mirrors with reverse automatic tilt
    • Intelligent Around View Monitor with moving object detection
    • Trailer light function check
  • PRO-4X Moonroof Package: $1,490
    • Dual panel panoramic moonroof with tilt, slide, and one-touch open/close
    • Driver and passenger ventilated seats
  • Protection Package: $390
    • Off-road adventure kit
    • Adventure medic kit
    • All season floor mats
  • PRO-4X Mud Flaps: $285
  • PRO-4X Rugged Step Boards: $1,050
  • Destination Charge: $1,595

Be sure to listen to Blank, along with co-host Charlie Pallilo, weekdays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. CT at 97.5 FM in Houston or via the 97.5 Houston smartphone app, which is available via Google Play or the Apple App Store.

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The Nissan Pathfinder is just at home on the trial as it is on the road.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken". The message is about making choices and, how the road taken made all the difference. Often in life and on the road, we have to make one choice. Take one road. No turning back. I thought of this poem on my recent test drive in the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder in the hinterlands of Montana, when I could take two different roads—paved and dirt—and that made all the difference!

Nissan has redesigned and retooled its fifth-generation Pathfinder instilling greater latitude for buyers who want to travel both types of roads and expand their adventure footprint. After seven decades of off-road development, 35 years in the business of selling Pathfinders, and with more than 1.8 million sold in the U.S., this Japanese automaker has moved the needle with a ground-up revision of the previous-gen model.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is a capable off-roader.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The full-sized sport utility is available in four trims (S, SV, SL and Platinum) and two- and four-wheel drive versions; Nissan expects that nearly 60 percent of buyers will choose four-wheel drive. The Pathfinder is in a segment that has grown larger each year as more families want a vehicle for around-town, school and playdate runs and for weekend getaways with traction technology that allows travel in the backcountry and good towing capability. Direct competitors are the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Ford Explorer.

A day-long drive of approximately 150 miles on tarmac and over a variety of dirt roads and tracks provided the opportunity to assess the Pathfinder's updates. A late-spring snowstorm added slickness to all the road surfaces in the region and allowed the Pathfinder to show off its traction capabilities at both slow and higher speeds and with lane change and emergency-braking maneuvers, when towing. I concentrated my evaluation on the augmented hardware and software designed to enhance the crossover's capabilities for backcountry travel and towing.

What I found most notable over every road surface was the comfortable ride and responsive handling that come from a collection of upgrades—and, in particular, as a result of the following: the gearing on the new nine-speed transmission, with paddle shifters for personal and more precise shifting for sport driving and slowing over rough terrain; the new terrain mode system that's engineered for different driving conditions; the four-wheel drive system that moves torque more quickly to avoid wheel slip; the improved suspension system; and new tires with a larger contact patch and more aggressive tread pattern, among other changes.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Pathfinder's drive modes are designed to inspire confidence. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Pathfinder provided sure-footed motoring and comfort over uneven surfaces. Its 7.1 inches of ground clearance easily maneuvered over the small obstacles on the trail and hill descent control took the reigns without hesitation for steeper and longer downhills on traction-compromised surfaces.

I was also impressed with the Pathfinder's towing competence and appreciated the standard trailer sway control onboard all trims. It offered notably strong, mannered acceleration from a standing start and excellent straight-line braking without porpoising for either exercise.

The new 2022 Pathfinder brings off-road and towing attributes that are important to families who are seeking to spend time in the backcountry for days trips and longer and for overlanding in terrain that doesn't require a true off-road vehicle with a low range. It's will appeal to buyers who want don't want to have to choose only one road.

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The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder arrives on dealer lots this summer.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder doesn't have to be capable of rock crawling or deep water fording. What it has to do is service the needs of families in their daily life and give them the opportunity to competently go off-roading on rocky trails should they desire. The new, fifth-generation models does just that and adds in enough nifty features to make it among the most compelling choices for three-row SUV buyers.

The 2022 Pathfinder is thoroughly modern though not the boxy off-roader it once was. The SUV's styling harkens back to that time with a tilted, darkened C-pillar and a return to a more muscular body style. That styling makes straightforward visibility good but for shorter drivers seeing what is immediately in front of the grille is a challenge that necessitates using surround view camera technology (available only in upper trim levels) when navigating challenging terrain.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can easily handle the roads less traveled.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 that offers up 291 horsepower and torque - plenty to do the job without complaint. The SUV's nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the previous generation and delivers smooth shifts. Though low-end torque isn't as robust as I like it to be, once up over 35 mph, the Pathfinder's powertrain delivers smooth, powerful sailing.

The redesigned architecture and components underpinning the Pathfinder make it stable on the road and don't allow it to wallow on winding roads. Even off-road, the suspension provides the right blend of stability while the drive dynamics allowing the driver to feel engaged with their surroundings whether on freshly paved roads, city streets, or muddy trails.

Nissan has given the Pathfinder a 6,000-pound towing capacity and even when maxed out the engine's functionality is strong as ever. The transmission can get held up in a gear mid-range when performing this function, however, with 5,000-6,000 rpms registering on the tachometer but a quick release of the gas pedal recalibrates the offering bringing it down to a more traditional 2,000 rpm range.

The eight-seater Pathfinder clearly has the Toyota Highlander in its sights, with good reason. It's the top-selling three-row SUV in the country. Nissan boasts that three adults can fit across the rear bench seat of the Pathfinder and, as long as they're average size or smaller, the marketing talking point holds up. There is gobs more room back there than there is in the Highlander.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Nissan has given the Pathfinder ample cargo space.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Getting in and out of the third row is easy thanks to one-touch buttons on the outboard side of the second-row chairs that move the SUV's captain's seats forward creating enough room to get through to the back. Smartly, Nissan's engineers have put duplicates of these buttons on the back side of the same seats allowing third-row passengers to simply press the button to move the seat up.

The third row can also be accessed via a split between the captain's chairs as well, a space traditionally occupied by a center stowage bin/cup holders/arm rest. Owners can quickly remove the center console by opening a panel on the front and pulling the release mechanism. The one-handed operation takes seconds and the console can be easily stored in the under-floor trunk space behind the third row seat for ease.

Speaking of cargo space... The Pathfinder is one of the most spacious midsize SUVs on the market today for both passengers and cargo. There is a substantial amount of room behind the third-row seat and the under-floor storage area is nearly twice the size of the one in the Highlander. Plus, it has a feature that allows the area cover to be automatically propped up when pushed up by a user. This is especially help when carrying groceries or plants home and keeps them from being crushed.

The first- and second-row seats are suitably comfortable, even for extended periods of time and standard trig-zone climate control makes finding the right in-cabin mix easy. Bottle holders in the pockets of the front doors are exceptionally large, fitting even bulky water bottles.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder's front row seats are comfortable.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In front of the driver is a standard tachometer, speedometer, and 7.0-inch driver information display. Buyers can upgrade to a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster and head-up display but they're not reason enough to upgrade to the top-tier Pathfinder Platinum on their own.

Nissan packs the new Pathfinder with a host of desirable features that make living with the Pathfinder easier including one-touch auto up/down windows, a wireless phone charger, grocery hooks in the rear cargo area, USB ports in all three rows, second-row sunshades, rear door keyless entry, wireless Apple CarPlay, and a motion-activated lift gate.

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is priced to start at $33,410 for the two-wheel drive S base model and $35,310 for the four-wheel drive S base model. The model tops out around $50,000 with destination and delivery included, which seems fair when comparing the Pathfinder to other vehicles in the market.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 pounds.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

If you're thinking of purchasing a Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot, or Highlander, do yourself a favor and schedule a test drive of the new Pathfinder when it arrives at a dealer lot near you. You may just be surprised how seamlessly it fits into your daily life compared to the competition.

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