The soul of country music can be felt in the streets of Nashville, Tennessee. It’s the type of rich heritage that Nissan is trying to capitalize on with the Cummins diesel engine in the new Titan XD, as the brand name alone gives the truck credibility in the same way that playing the Grand Ole Opry meant that you had made it in the country music business.
Engine: 5.6-liter V8
Power: 390 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 7-speed automatic.
US Price: $36,485 to start. $56,715 for top-trim model
But Nissan knows it can’t rely strictly on a brand name to sell its truck, because although the Cummins-powered Titan XD has garnered plenty of attention since it was launched in late 2015, it will only be a small part of the brand’s overall truck sales pie.
To help broaden the Titan XD’s appeal, Nissan has introduced a new 5.6-liter gasoline-powered V8 to the truck, and the company brought us to its headquarters in Middle Tennessee, just south of Nashville, to take a drive.
What is XD, Anyways?
Nissan is aiming the Titan XD at the area between a half-ton and three-quarter ton truck, though technically speaking, it is a class 2b (2500 series) truck based on its GVWR. Still, the brand wants us to think of the Titan as a heavy half-ton that offers the capability of an HD pickup by offering a larger rear axle, a larger and stronger frame and HD-sized 14.1-inch brake rotors.
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To get an idea of scale, the Titan XD is 14.7 inches longer than the standard Titan half-ton at an overall length of 242.7 inches in its longest form. Nissan will launch the standard Titan half-ton truck this summer, following which the brand will roll out a V6-powered model along with both king cab and single cab models.
ALSO SEE: 2016 Nissan Titan XD Review
Base curb weight on the gas-powered truck is still a hefty 6,006 lbs for the S model, though that is 600 lbs lighter than the diesel-version, a gap that widens to 700 lbs when you compare the gas versus diesel in top-trim Platinum Reserve models.
Cutting all those pounds means that the gas-powered truck is rated to carry 500 lbs more than the diesel version, with maximum payload coming in at 2,594 lbs with rear-wheel drive.
For towing, it’s the opposite. Gas-powered versions of the Titan XD are rated to tow a maximum of 11,270 lbs, which is just over 1,000 less than Cummins-powered XDs.
Fuel economy is not calculated for the XD thanks its class 2b classification, but it is safe to say that this rig won’t be easy on the wallet when it comes to fuel bills. Our day of driving had the internal readout ranging from 13 to 15 mpg, about what you’d expect from such a heavy truck.
It would also be nice to see a larger fuel tank option, as the only one available is a 26-gallon unit. While that is competitive with other trucks’ base tanks, every major competitor offers at least one optional larger size.
Springtime in Tennessee
The lush rolling hills of Tennessee served as our test bed for this new powertrain, a 5.6-liter V8 with 390 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque sent through a seven-speed automatic transmission.
Though the displacement is the same as the V8 found in the previous Titan, this engine is heavily revised, with the biggest changes being the addition of direct injection and Nissan’s proprietary VVEL (Variable Valve Event & Lift) technology. These changes help in low-end power delivery and overall refinement in the engine. It delivers on those promises, and this V8 sounds good doing it.
Maximum torque comes on at 4,000 rpm, though the overall torque curve of the engine has been made flatter than the last generation 5.6-liter V8, which means you get solid low-end pull but also a continuing rush of power straight to redline.
Though it is a heavy truck, the Titan XD isn’t a slouch with this V8 under the hood, certainly offering more get-up-and-go than the big diesel. Also serving the power up well is the seven-speed transmission, which is fitted with a trick of its own.
Auto rev-matching downshifts, a technology usually reserved for track cars, is included with the seven-speed unit to keep shifts seamless. A demand for more power is met with a smooth and responsive downshift that lacks some of the jerkiness of a standard automatic thanks to this technology.
Having this smart transmission will really pay off while trailering, helping to keep the truck more stable and smooth on engine braking downshifts.
Loafing about the tight Tennessee roads through farm country, the Titan felt heavy, pushing when hustled through corners, but the most prevalent sensation is one of comfort. The cabin is nicely muted from the road and the heavy set nature of the truck allows it to feel absolutely planted to the ground in all situations, especially when cruising in a straight line at highway speeds.
Steering feel is on the light side for the Titan, while the brakes feel very strong, especially with no weight pushing from the rear end of the truck.
Nothing can upset the large, calm nature of this truck. Nissan is claiming that the Titan XD is just as comfortable as modern half-tons, and it’s not a lie. It lacks the over sprung feel of a 2500, absorbing imperfections in the road rather than chattering over them like HDs can.
Nissan’s claim of heavy duty capability is when the brand’s narrative gets murky.
Especially in this gas truck, the numbers don’t tell a heavy duty story. With just over 11,000 lbs of tow capacity, there are half-tons on the market that can out tow the XD by over 1,000 lbs, leaving us asking: where is the heavy duty side of the truck?
The answer is in the real-world confidence that it provides, a story not told by spec-sheet comparisons. Loaded to near its limits, the Titan XD provides a feeling of controlling the load, unlike a half-ton, which begins to feel like the weight behind it is controlling the truck. Even at more manageable trailer weights around 6,000 or 7,000 lbs, the Titan XD will simply control the weight with more ease than a half-ton.
Unfortunately, we did not have the chance to tow with the gas-powered truck on this outing, though its characteristics won’t likely stray far from the diesels, besides taking the engine more effort and fuel to get the load moving.
The cost of the new gas-powered XD is a big part of its appeal, as it’s being offered for a base price of $36,485, about $5,000 less than the Cummins-powered version of the truck. In fact, Nissan says that on average, the Cummins diesel is a $5,000 option, marking it clearly as the truck for someone interested in towing large loads on a regular basis. Getting into a fully loaded Platinum Reserve with a gas engine will cost $56,715, offering a competitive luxury interior and some an excellent control while towing.
The Verdict: 2016 Nissan Titan XD Gas V8 Review
History is not easily forgotten in Nashville, with the names of the greats from years past still plastered on the walls and billboards of the town. It’s a lot like the pickup truck market, where generations of families drive Fords, simply because “granddad drove a Ford.”
That type of history is not something that Nissan has on its side with the Titan, and its last generation half-ton wasn’t exactly accepted as a viable mainstream option, especially by the tradesmen of the world.
That’s why Nissan is trying something new in the pickup truck market, looking to rewrite its own history in the U.S. And with the Titan XD, the brand has a fine product that is capable of playing on the big stage with best players in the game.