Nissan is not only launching a fully redesigned Titan for 2016, the brand is looking to slot its truck into an entirely new space on the spectrum of pickup trucks. That is the Titan XD’s job.
Engine: 5.0-liter V8 diesel
Power: 310 hp and 555 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
US Pricing: $40,000 to $60,000. Detailed pricing is yet to be announced.
According to Nissan, many thousands of customers jump between half-ton and three-quarter ton pickups every single year, a gap that Nissan identified as potential for a new product. Thus the Titan XD was born, a truck that is meant to blend heavy duty strength with light-duty comfort.
And the recipe for this new line-blurring rig doesn’t only involve the Cummins diesel engine. The XD has a larger reinforced fully boxed steel frame, purpose-built heavy duty axles and beefed up 14-inch vented brake rotors, all of which won’t come with the regular version of the truck. It will also eventually be available with a V8, though details are still totally in the dark on that engine.
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Nissan will also be introducing a V6 engine for the standard Titan, a truck which will eventually be available with four bed sizes and three cab configurations. At the start, Nissan is focusing on diesel-powered XD crew cabs and the brand says we’ll be waiting until next year to see most of those other trucks. So for now, let’s talk diesel XD.
Motivating trailers and payload is a 5.0-liter Cummins V8 that makes 310 hp and 555 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm, hooked up to a six-speed Aisin automatic transmission and sent through a 3.92 rear axle. These numbers land the XD between the strongest half-ton and the weakest three-quarter ton truck, which have 460 lb-ft and 765 lb-ft of torque respectively, though it lives closer to those smaller trucks than the big guys.
When you look at the Titan XD’s classification, it actually falls into the same category as three-quarter ton trucks, due to its GVWR of at least 8,800 lbs. There’s no doubt that Nissan wants us to think about the truck as a strong half-ton, rather than a weak three-quarter ton pickup. And after driving this new Titan XD, it certainly feels more akin to the smaller trucks.
So in the power department, the truck sits right in the pocket that Nissan is going after, but what about its other important specs? Maximum trailer weight is pegged at 12,314 lbs, while maximum payload sits at 2,091 lbs., both of which don’t seem that impressive given the competition.
The new Ford F-150 is rated to take up to 3,300 lbs of payload, while it can tow 12,200 lbs, all with a twin-turbo V6 gas engine. GM and Ram aren’t far behind on the towing front either with their half-tons, putting Nissan’s claims of this truck being something more into question.
When you look at its actual competition, three-quarter ton trucks, the towing gap becomes massive, as a Chevy Silverado 2500 can tow 17,900 lbs.
So when comparing the XD to its competition on paper, it doesn’t seem like it stacks up. It’s in the real world where the XD’s advantages begin to show, and Nissan’s tweener strategy starts to make some sense.
Driving empty, the XD is quiet, comfortable and refined, feeling very much like a half-ton by avoiding the over sprung rear stiffness that tends to come with HD pickups. It fits right in with the new generation of comfy cruising pickup trucks, which double well as daily drivers. It’s worth mentioning that we spent our day with the new Titan XD in a Pro-4X model, which comes equipped with Bilstein monotube coil-over shocks meant to help soak up off-road terrain, so standard models may be slightly stiffer.
Steering in the truck is on the light side and a dead zone in the center of the steering travel had me wanting more feedback. This isn’t the heavy setup you might expect from a large diesel pickup truck, once again keeping the XD closer to a half-ton than those heavy duties.
Putting your right foot deep into the pedal emits a nice muted growl from the diesel, which jumps to speed fairly quickly. The tachometer climbs close to the 4,000-RPM redline before shifting, while shifts themselves were smooth and quick enough.
When it comes to the actual size of the truck, it feels barely bigger than a half-ton and in some measures it isn’t. The Toyota Tundra can have a 164.6-inch wheelbase, while the Titan has a 151.6-inch wheelbase in all configurations. In width, the Titan is just barely larger that the Tundra, sitting at 80.7-inches in its widest configurations while it stands taller than the Tundra by a few inches at 78.7-inches in overall height.
That added height seemed to be the most noticeable difference from behind the wheel compared to other light-duty pickups, while the length and width felt exactly like any other half-ton.
Though towing is clearly the XD’s focus, a number of useful features in the bed and cab were added to make it a well rounded work truck. Starting with the bed, Nissan has added a pile of LED lights, an integrated gooseneck hitch and a revised version of the utili-track moveable tie-down system which comes with rails in the bed floor and on the bed walls.
A useful new feature for 2016 are the Titan boxes. These storage containers attach to the inside of the bed walls and stick out just a tiny bit past the wheel wells, but their best trait is that they are removable, which also means you can choose to have just one installed at a time. Two 120-volt plugs are now included with the Titan, one in the bed and the other inside the cab in the backseat, another area Nissan spent some time developing for hauling.
To create a flat load floor in the back, Nissan took a page from Ram’s book and developed a system that uses decks with plastic supports that flip out when the seat bottoms are folded up, thus creating a flat floor. It is a usable solution, but these don’t seem like the strongest decks and they add one more obstacle to avoid while loading the back seat. New lockable storage containers are also found underneath the back seat, a clever use of space.
Time to Tow
Plenty of smart features were also added to the truck specifically with towing in mind. An integrated gooseneck hitch is standard on four out of five Titan trims levels, same as the integrated trailer brake controller. Using the key fob, a driver can now check his or her own lights, as at the touch of a button, the Titan will cycle through each signal and each running light so you can visually confirm that they all work.
An around-view camera system, which offers a 360-degree aerial view of the truck, is also helpful for getting into tight spots, while a new line that illustrates where your hitch is helps to back into a trailer solo.
So how is the Titan at towing? I can only tell you a little bit about it. Unfortunately, Nissan wouldn’t let us drive the trucks with trailers on the back of them. In lieu of that, I got to ride along with an engineer, pulling 9,000 lbs worth of trailer up a long seven percent grade in Arizona.
Based on my passenger seat experience, the Cummins seemed to have little issue getting that weight moving. At one point, we began accelerating up hill, with the truck pulling us from 55 to 65 mph with relative ease.
Coming back down the hill, the engineer showed off the new downhill speed control system, which is another smart addition for those pulling trailers. Simply hold the brake with tow/haul mode activated and the truck will recognize that you want to hold that speed and will downshift and hold that lower gear.
While this system works well, the absence of a diesel exhaust brake seems like an oversight by Nissan.
Overall, Nissan’s towing strategy is going against the current thinking in the truck industry, which I think is a good thing. While Ford and GM look to cut weight from trucks in order to boost tow ratings, Nissan has made its pickup heavier, therefore taking away from its tow numbers. But numbers don’t tell the whole story here.
While half-ton trucks are rated to pull 12,000 pounds, doing so with a truck that weighs around 5,000-lbs can be a dicey proposition in the real world. Sure, the truck will do the job, but how confident will it really feel? That’s where the XD is looking to capitalize. With a curb weight range of between 6,709 lbs and 7,480 lbs, the XD is bound to feel more confident at the limit than anything else in the half-ton segment.
Detailed pricing is not yet available, with Nissan quoting a range from $40,000 to $60,000 for the new XD. At the low end, this truck makes a ton of sense for anyone looking for a truck dedicated to towing heavy loads, while even at $60,000, it remains competitive with the current crop of expensive luxury half-tons.
The Verdict: 2016 Nissan Titan XD Review
Selling the XD will not be done by its numeric limits. Real-world confidence is the name of the game here, and the Titan offers loads of it compared to its lighter, less equipped rivals. It’s that extra bit of trust in the Titan, combined with its superb ride comfort that will move these trucks from dealer lots.
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