Let’s be honest: while the two vehicles seen here are fairly divergent variations on a theme, both the Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan will always be mentioned in the same breath. After all: they’re both Japanese, both V8-powered with similar power figures, both have model names that start with the letter “T” – you get the drift.
They do have their differences, though, and as we take a deeper dive into them, we see that said differences are going to need to be considered when you’re looking at one of these behemoths from the Land Of The Rising Sun – even though they’re built in Mississippi and Texas.
While the rest of this comparo won’t grant these, this is an easy win for the Titan, especially in off-roady PRO-4X guise. In fact, more than just the Tundra, the Titan beats everything in the segment this side of the Ford F-150 Raptor when it comes to how aggressively it’s styled. The Chevrolet Silverado Trail Boss, the F-150 FX4, even the Ram 1500 Rebel all have to bow to the macho-ness that is the Titan PRO-4X. I think perhaps the truck that best recalls the Titan is the smaller Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, or maybe that truck’s Bison variant.
The Titan PRO-4X has it all; blacked out wheels, sidesteps, headache bar and grille with red contrasting winch mounts and Nissan badge, big “PRO-4X” script on either side of the box and black leather interior with contrasting coppery-red stitching. I guess you could say the “PRO-4X” script on the rear tailgate and “TITAN” script atop the front grille could be a little more visible and that the rear taillights are overly-busy, but other than those two nits to pick, I absolutely love the look of this truck. Which is saying a lot because before it was facelifted for the 2020 model year, it was a gawky looking thing. Now, however, it looks how a 21st Century truck should.
How you feel about the Toyota’s styling kind of boils down to how you feel about a pickup’s grille kind of taking over everything – it’s so huge on the Tundra that it dominates both the three-quarter and head-on perspectives. Even if I’m staring directly at the tailgate, I can’t help but think about that grille. It takes so much room there that it’s like they’ve run out of space for the headlamp lenses, which in turn has led them to install the tiniest turn indicators I think I’ve ever seen. Or at least they look that way because everything else is so big.
The two-tone wheels, meanwhile, while no bigger than the Titan’s 18-inchers look tiny compared to the acres of fender surrounding them. This is a big truck, the Tundra, and it knows it. I do like the “Quicksand” paint job, though, as it kind of has it looking all tough in a Desert Storm kind of way.
Inside, the theme continues as it’s way more traditional than the Titan. The dash is a mostly right-angled affair, the gauge cluster is similarly low-tech; heck, you start the Tundra with an actual key as opposed to a button, which is almost like something from a bygone era at this point.
The Tundra is huge inside, though. In four-door Crewmax form, there’s near-as-makes-no-difference as much room in here as there is in the massive Sequoia full-size SUV with which the Tundra shares a platform. Sure; climbing in will be a challenge for smaller folk but once in there, there’s so much room and that I don’t imagine anyone having any problems taking the long way to the job site.
The Tundra feels as big up front as it does in the rear, while the overall feeling in the Titan is one of snugness. The centre console tends to impinge a little more on occupants and while it’s not small, per se, certain things bug me. Chief among these is the 4WD adjust knob, which sits just below the engine start/stop button and very close to the driver’s right knee. I was wearing shorts during most of my test, but I fear that if I had jeans or bulkier work pants on it would be tough to avoid striking that knob. If I moved my seat enough to really clear it, I was too far back from the wheel so it took me a while to strike a modicum of a balance.
The size of the Tundra’s cab also makes it a little easier to forgive the fact that there’s no flat load floor. The footwell of each rear passenger seat is big enough once you’ve flipped the seat cushion up (one lever, done) that toolboxes and coolers will fit, no problem.
The Titan eschews a flat floor below the rear seats (just grab the bottom, and flip) for more contained storage bins. What you prefer depends on what you’ll be doing with the truck; if you’ll be hauling smaller, more sensitive items then perhaps you’ll prefer the Titan’s system. If you just want the space, then the Tundra wins.
The same can be said for the storage that can be found up front; the Tundra is very much a case of “don’t worry. There’s room for that” while you have to think a little harder with the Titan. Sure; the Titan gets a console-mounted storage bin just like the Tundra does, but its opening is bisected by a parcel shelf. That’s fine for wallets, but kind of in the way more often than not. There is an additional bin ahead of the main bin because the Titan has a column-mounted shifter as opposed to the Tundra’s floor-mounted item, but it’s also somewhat compromised in that it’s completely hidden by the cupholders and cell phone holder. These are both removable, which is nice, but what do you do once you take them out? You could drop them into the central storage bin, but now you’ve lost all sorts of space in there. Better they forget the cell holder and make the cupholder slidable fore and aft, so you can better access what you’ve got stored under there – like your phone.
The Tundra takes the simpler route by making one big storage tray with a single flat surface ahead of the gearlever and providing a dual-tier glovebox where the Titan’s gets a single opening. I see what Nissan’s trying to do but sometimes – well, often – in the pickup truck world, simpler is better.
Which is the case, it must be said, when it comes to the buying process for the Titan. There is precisely one available cab/bed configuration, whether you’re talking about the Titan or its Titan XD sibling: 5.5 foot box, crew cab. That is all. Nissan knows it’s a smaller player in the light truck game, and this was the configuration that their research showed buyers were most interested in.
The Tundra, for its part, gets three bed lengths — 5.5 feet, 6.5 feet, 8.1 feet – and two cab styles – double and Crewmax. I do like the retractable step the Titan gets, though; with our Tundra tester, it was all about getting a good foothold on the bumper.
The thing of it is – even with the similar configurations these two trucks have, the Tundra tows more than the Nissan – 9,200 lbs. to the Nissan’s 8,887. In fact, the Nissan actually gets out-towed by pretty much all of the competition’s similarly configured trucks.
Features, Equipment and Safety Tech
I’d say the Nissan has a slight edge, here. Where the Tundra has heated seats adjustable to two levels via some pretty old-school switchgear, the Titan’s front seats can be heated and cooled to three levels, done via the same knobs you’d see in Nissan’s more luxurious Infiniti offerings.
Speaking of seats: The Titan gets Nissan’s Zero Gravity seats – developed in partnership with NASA – that do a good job of padding you where you need it, and supporting you where you need that. The Tundra’s seats, while not quite wooden bench-like in their padding, are quite old-school by comparison. More and more, the Titan emerges as the luxury option between these two, perhaps the more lifestyle-centric example and the one you may see driving more on the day-to-day.
Take the driver aids, for example: the Titan gets rear cross-traffic alert, a blind spot monitoring system, and rear emergency braking as standard, which are all options on the Toyota. The Tundra does get adaptive cruise at base, though, which requires a step up from base in the Titan.
Then we move to infotainment, and the Nissan takes top trumps once again; its display is brighter and its touchscreen more responsive. The top Fender audio system you can get provides 12 speakers to the Tundra’s nine and the Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration is more intuitive and functional. Heck, the Tundra doesn’t even support Android Auto and I found its CarPlay integration to be spotty at best.
Performance, Ride and Handling, Fun Factor
“’Fun factor’”, you say? Since when does a full-size pickup need – or even have – a ‘fun factor’?”
It’s a fair question, but as more and more folks decrease the amount of cars in their garage, individual vehicles have kind of had to wear a number of hats. The recent glut of small pickups (think Jeep Gladiator or Ford Ranger) have turned up the wick in this department, and now, it’s starting to look like those trucks’ larger brethren are having to follow suit.
Take the Nissan, for example. You’re not buying all those add-ons purely because they are functional. That’s part of it, to be sure, but you likely want a truck that’s going to make you take a glimpse over your shoulder as you walk away after parking. The Tundra not so much, but it’s still big and burly and kind of lovable in a grizzly bear sort of way.
Once out on the road, meanwhile, it becomes evident that the Titan engineers wanted to make it loud and clear that there was a V8 under the hood. Which there is, one that makes 400 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque and does so in a less-than-quiet manner when under full acceleration. It’s a throaty exhaust, this, sounding almost muscle car-like in its report.
The Tundra also gets a V8, but one that’s out-gunned a little by the Titan as it makes “only” 381 hp and “just” 401 lb-ft of torque. It also has six speeds to the Titan’s nine, so the get-up-and-go isn’t quite on the level of the Nissan. The Tundra also gets a bit of a growl, though, but came nowhere near putting a smile on my face as much as the Titan did, even though the grunt on-hand should be more than enough to satisfy.
I’m also a big fan of the Titan’s ride. If you can believe it, I’d actually classify it as “luxurious”. The way the power’s delivered, the reduced road- and wind noise and the well-appointed interior all contribute to a vehicle that if you closed your eyes (as the passenger, of course!) you could actually almost mistake it for a more luxurious vehicle such as a full-size SUV.
The Tundra, by comparison, is a little more workman-like in that there’s a little more bounce over the rear axle and a little more road noise to contend with.
While the Titan has more stuff in it and on it than the Tundra, the $11,000 gulf between them is a pretty big ask when you break it down to the nitty gritty: roughly equal power levels, more space inside and slightly more capability. It’s why as this comparison evolved, I began to realize that one of these is really a lifestyle truck and the other more like a truck you could throw your crew in.
Having said that, though: it’s not like the Tundra is completely bereft of some niceties, and when you add the TRD PRO package that kind of does for the Tundra what the PRO-4X package does for the Titan, it actually comes out above the Titan price-wise. And even then, the Titan still has more of that “coolness” factor that you want when going this route for your pickup.
Which means, of course, that you have to be very sure of what you’re planning on doing with these when it comes time to make a decision. If you plan on moving a crew around (or, indeed, a family around) then it’s hard to make an argument against the Tundra. It’s better for that.
The Titan, though? Well, I just like it more. It may be somewhat less functional or practical than the Tundra, but it’s less sterile and whitewashed, too. It’s the leather-jacketed ruffian to the Tundra’s white-coated lab technician and I see no reason why your truck can’t have a wild side.
They’re both good trucks; just make sure you know the scope of work you have planned for them before you step into the dealer.