Behind the Wheel

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X Review: Its facelift was kind, but the transmission is not

The 2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X is the most off-road-ready version of the full-size truck.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In 1939, 65 years before the Nissan Titan first arrived at U.S. dealerships, Prime Minister Winston Churchill uttered the iconic phrase, "It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key." Here, in 2020, we find the Titan epitomizing the subject of the quote.

Don't get me wrong. I like the Titan. I just want to like it more.

The major facelift for the 2020 model year was kind to the Titan. As tested in the PRO-4X trim, the model is beefy and brawny looking with a black grille, tailgate finisher, and badging. Red-orange detailing is present on the Nissan emblem one the grille and tow hooks. The model looks unlike all the other Titans in the lineup and that's a good thing.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X Nissan has loaded the truck with standard safety features. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Moving inside the cabin, the highlight is the Titan's Zero Gravity Seats. They were co-designed with NASA and provide hours of fatigue-reducing comfort. The truck's leather-appointed upholstery is nice but the rest of the interior doesn't hold a candle to the supple materials in and luxe looks of Ram's mid-grade and up models.

The refreshed center stack in the Titan is at least as nice as what's in the GM pickups. As equipped, the model had a 9.0-inch infotainment touch screen that is reasonably responsive though the visual design of the system is not the best there is. Still, it's cleaner than the purple graphics-heavy design of the screen in the 2020 Subaru Outback and Legacy.

Nissan has made the system capable of over-the-air updates thanks to a standard Wi-Fi hot spot. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and two USB are also standard across the Titan lineup.

As fresh as the center stack is for the 2020 model year, there are still obvious places in the cabin where leftover buttons and equipment show their age. Chief among them is the trucks's steering wheel. While the blacked out emblem on its center and black button surrounds that are part of the PRO-4X grade helped the look, there's no getting around the fact that the wheel looks like something a decade older than the rest of the design. However, as ugly and dated as it may be, it's still perfectly functional.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X The Titan PRO-4X also has red-orange accents in the cabin. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Powering the truck is a 5.6-liter V8 engine. It offers 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, making it plenty strong (those are best-in-class figures) and plenty thirsty. Nissan doesn't offer the truck with a host of engine options like its competition does. It's not a matter of holding back. Currently they don't have anything in their lineup that would even be a contender to be made available.

The truck's nine-speed automatic transmission was also refreshed for 2020. It has more ability in higher gears now, which is good for towing, but, quite frankly, the lower gears of the transmission are a complete mess. The nine-speed can't decide what it wants to do while on daily driver duty at moderate speed. It hems and haws and switches positions more often than a politician scrambling to get your vote.

Being behind the wheel of the Titan makes one still feel like you're driving a truck. Like the Nissan Frontier, there's a connected and true truck experience when you're driving that is a reminder of the way it used to be (which is also a reminder of just how good the other truck manufacturers are at engineering their steering systems). It does soak up the bumps in the road well and, based on previous experience, the model is good and capable off-road.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X The truck's seats are very comfortable.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The truck also comes standard with Nissan Safety Shield 360, which includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, high beam assist, and rear automatic braking. A number of additional driver assist technologies are available. If you're going to spend some extra cash on a Titan, let it be for the Intelligent Around View Monitor, which offers a 360-degree view of the truck's surrounds. This makes parking a breeze.

Nissan deserves kudos for putting that camera button in an easy-to-reach, quickly accessible location on the center stack. How is this not standard operating procedure for automakers?!

After test driving the Titan for a week, and seeing the evolution of the truck landscape over the last few years, the way Nissan has designed the model gets even more confusing. It seems like the truck was a victim of the budgetary process and time constraints more than any other model in the Nissan lineup.

The Titan feels like a compromise, not necessary for the average buyer, but for the truck's engineers. That may be the key here.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X The Titan PRO-4X stands out at the rear. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Granted, every decision in the automotive development process is a compromise, but with the Titan, the sore spots show through more than most. The Nissan Titan is the girl you date while you're waiting for the woman who will be your wife to come along - good enough for a good time, but not the one you want to commit to for life.

While there's a lot of reasons why Nissan isn't selling as many full-size trucks as their rivals, chief among them is the trucks the Titan is up against. They're more capable, nicer appointed, and filled with more innovative features. To gain market share, the Nissan Titan needs to do something, anything, better than the competition. Ram has its interiors. Ford has its capability. GM has innovative camera tech and a new type of tailgate. Toyota has historically good reliability.

On its own the 2020 Titan stands tall, but next to other full-size trucks, it sits in the shadows.

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The new Civic Hatchback just went on sale.

Honda

The Honda Civic is one of the most popular and well-known cars of any type. Honda keeps refining the Civic formula to the point that it seems hard for the car to get any better, but that's what we're here to talk about. The 2022 model year sees the Civic enter its eleventh generation, and updates for the new model year make the car more upscale, more refined, and safer than ever before. Honda released the Civic Sedan first, but the Hatchback is now on the streets. Both cars are excellent, but we want to take a closer look at the 2022 Honda Civic Hatchback. Here are three things to know about the car.

2022 Honda Civic Hatchback The Civic Hatchback is almost as practical as a small SUV, and it's way more fun to drive. Honda

Cargo Space

Looking at the Civic Hatchback, or any modern Civic for that matter, it's easy to start believing that there's nothing to it - that you can't use it as a proper family car. That isn't the case here, nor is it the case with the 2022 Civic Sedan. The Hatchback starts with 24.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second-row seats, and the rear bench folds flat to open up even more room for gear. That's shy of a compact crossover, but better than many subcompact crossovers - and the Civic is infinitely more fun to drive than either. The Honda CR-V, for example, offers 37.6 cubic feet of space behind the second-row seats, but the subcompact HR-V offers just 23.2 cubic feet of space. I know which vehicle I'd rather drive, and it's the Civic Hatchback by miles and miles.


2022 Honda Civic Hatchback Clever design elevates the Civic above its competition.Honda

Refinement and Design

Honda's redesign of the Civic started with the Sedan, which released first. Its interior carries premium feeling materials and a grown-up design that is at odds with the Civic's reasonable price tag. There are several clever design touches like a singular metal grille that runs the length of the dash. The front air vents are concealed behind it and feature thoughtfully designed control knobs. It's a detail that isn't seen in other cars at this price point, and it's one that elevates the Civic from a budget car to one that feels special.

2022 Honda Civic Hatchback All Civics come packed with safety tech.Honda

Safety Features and Crash Test Scores

The Honda Civic Sedan and Hatchback both earned Top Safety Pick + awards from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Vehicles earn the honor by scoring "Good," "Advanced," or "Superior" in all categories, including headlights. On top of that, Honda equips the cars with plenty of advanced driver aids, including forward collision warnings, lane departure warnings, collision mitigation braking, and road departure mitigation. Blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control are available in higher trims.

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Electric vehicles

NHTSA looking into Tesla's in-car video games

Some owners have discovered that their car's video games work when the car is moving.

Tesla

Tesla's vehicles are among the most advanced and forward-thinking products of any kind, but serious innovation doesn't come with tradeoffs. The automaker has been in the news recently because of issues with how its advanced cruise control systems function, and now, Autoblog reports that the NHTSA is asking questions about Tesla giving drivers the ability to play video games and browse the internet while driving.

Tesla Arcade hands-on: the Model 3 is your video game console youtu.be

The feature is intended to be used while the car is parked, such as while charging, so the discovery that people can use them while driving is a serious one. Vince Patton, the person who filed the complaint with the NHTSA, tested his car and found that he could play Solitaire and a fairly involved action game while it was in motion. Internet browsing was also possible, meaning the driver could take their attention completely off the road ahead for extended periods of time.

Tesla Model 3 Tesla's screens offer advanced functions that many others do not. Tesla

Tesla was already under investigation over crashes involving its Autopilot feature. Several collisions have occurred between Teslas and emergency vehicles stopped on the side of the road. Following the initiation of that investigation, the NHTSA raised other questions with the automaker over a buggy software update that was pushed out, retracted, fixed, and reissued outside of the normal recall process. Despite their names, it's important to clarify that neither the Autopilot nor Full Self-Driving features are capable of driving the cars without driver awareness and input.

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