2017 Nissan Titan vs Titan XD Review

Does one size fit all?

There’s a new Nissan Titan in town, but the story isn’t quite as simple as that.

In late 2015, the all-new Nissan Titan XD burst onto the scene, claiming to be a heavy half-ton pickup, a truck that could fill the gap between the traditional half-ton pickup and the heavy duty.

Nissan was angling to put its truck into a unique niche in the marketplace; to capture a buyer it had never gone after before. The Titan XD is a three-quarter ton truck based on its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of over 8,500 pounds, which means it truly is uncharted territory for Nissan, which has never sold a heavy duty truck in North America.

What isn’t new ground for the brand is the half-ton market, and even there, Nissan is working hard to expand its offerings. For the first time, the Titan will be offered as a regular cab with an eight-foot bed, squarely targeting the tradesmen market that has been dominated by domestic brands for so long. A new V6, a first for the Titan, is also on its way, though Nissan is still tight-lipped on details of that smaller engine.

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What’s an XD?

What seems like a clear marketing message starts to be muddied by the numbers. The new 2017 Titan can pull a total of 9,390 pounds when properly equipped in two-wheel-drive trim, while the Titan XD maxes out at 12,640 pounds in regular cab trim. In a vacuum, those are fairly good numbers, but when you consider the Ford F-150 can tow 12,200 pounds when properly equipped, both seem to pale in comparison.

And where the marketing narrative really falls apart is when you look at payload. The Titan XD can carry a max payload of 2,910 pounds with the 5.6-liter V8 gas engine as a regular cab, though a more popular diesel-powered half-ton model with four-wheel drive will carry 2,003 pounds.

The half-ton Titan can put 1,610 pounds in its bed, and both figures lack in comparison to the competition. Once again, it’s the F-150, which can handle 3,240 pounds of payload when properly equipped, that make both Titans seem irrelevant. The Chevy Silverado can haul 2,250 pounds of payload in its bed as well, eclipsing the Titan’s half-ton model.

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This has mostly to do with the Titan’s weight, with the lightest diesel-powered XD tipping the scales at 6,710 pounds, while the Titan half-ton weighs in at 5,508 pounds.

While most manufacturers are fighting the weight battle, Nissan is embracing more pounds, with the XD at least. You see, what makes the XD an XD are the heavy duty components that lurk beneath its skin. A thicker steel frame supports the entire truck, the axles are larger units, and the brakes have been super-sized to ­14.37-inch rotors, matching up perfectly with every other three-quarter ton truck on the road. In physical size, the XD is 14.6 inches longer than the same trim of half-ton, while width is almost the exact same and height falls in favor of the XD by a few inches.

Why Buy?

So what’s the big deal with some thicker components? Why deal with driving a larger vehicle that costs more for little return in capability? To truly understand this, we must talk about the way each drives and handles weight.

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Visually, the trucks are nearly indistinguishable, especially from the inside, but while driving them, a number of differences quickly emerge, the most stark of which is the steering. In the Titan XD, a recirculating ball electrically boosted rack makes the wheel too light in most situations. A fairly large dead zone in the middle of the wheel takes away all the feedback during cruising, giving the larger and stronger of the two trucks a vague, disconnected feeling.

It’s the exact opposite in the Titan. A hydraulically boosted steering rack provides one of the heaviest steering wheels in the half-ton segment. Small inputs keep the half-ton straight and even those offer good feedback to the driver’s hands, while cornering reminds you that this pickup is planted to the ground.

This steering difference also accentuates the weight difference between the two trucks. The XD wants to push wide through every corner, not at all strange for a big truck but made uncomfortable by the light steering. Though the steering is heavy, the precise wheel along with the lighter curb weigh helps the Titan feel fairly agile for a half-ton.

Both manage to keep the driver comfortable and the 700 pounds of apples we loaded into the bed of each truck certainly smoothed out the ride even more. The half-ton manages to feel a little less stiff than the XD, which is to be expected, but the XD still offers a commendable ride considering it is technically a 2500 series truck, most of which are very stiff when empty.

The XD might not be an inbetweener when you look at the numbers, but it certainly drives like it. Even the size difference, which is mostly length, is hardly noticeable from behind the wheel.

Power and Work

Of course, it’s not only size, weight and steering that sets these trucks apart. There’s also the engines. Exclusively in the XD, a Cummins 5.0-liter V8 diesel can be had to provide 555 lb-ft of torque, a nice boost over the 5.6-liter gasoline-driven V8’s 394 lb-ft. The differences are pretty stark as with any gas versus diesel engine. The Cummins lumbers up to speed, delivering loads of torque but certainly not shooting off the line. When the 5.6-liter is providing motivation, the truck has plenty of power right from the get go, with the seven-speed automatic firing off quick, smooth shifts, though we did occasionally catch it getting little confused about which gear to kick down into.

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Without any weight on them, the half-ton provides better steering and handling and a strong V8 that feels powerful and makes the truck fairly quick. It’s with a big trailer on the back that the XD-Cummins package finally reveals why it is a worthwhile purchase.

ALSO SEE: 2016 Nissan Titan XD Gas V8 Review

Unlike some of the competition that is taking weight out of trucks to increase payload and tow ratings, Nissan made the Titan XD heavy, which means that near its limits, this truck still pulls with absolute authority. This is the main redeeming factor of the XD; load it up to 12,000 pounds and it stays confident. Load a half-ton up to 12K and things start to get sketchy.

Adding to the calm nature of the truck while towing is the diesel engine, which seems to not even notice weight has been added to the rear end. Standing in contrast to this is the gas-powered half-ton, which has to run up to redline to get proper work done.

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Having had the chance to pull around 6,000 pounds with the half-ton as well, that truck also handles weight well, but not with the authority of the XD. Buying a Titan means bringing home a competent half-ton pickup truck, while bringing home an XD is like bringing home the XD honors student; it studied extra hard to be really good at one subject, in this case, towing.

ALSO SEE: 2017 Nissan Titan Review

Pricing

Pricing for the Titan half-ton in the U.S. begins at $35,975, while a fully loaded Platinum Reserve model will sell for $56,595. While at the low end that seems expensive compared to other half tons, that’s because the Titan is only currently available with a V8 and as a crew cab. When looking at comparable models, that price seems fair, while the luxury trim is actually a bit cheaper than the top-trim trucks from Ford and Chevy.

Looking at XD pricing is even more interesting. As the base level, you’ll pay $37,485 to get into a gas-powered Titan XD crew cab, while upgrading to the Cummins diesel knocks the price up by $5,000. That puts the base Titan XD on the same level as some of the most basic 2500 series trucks out there, all of which offer more capacity than the Nissan, though none can match the XD’s on-road comfort and half-ton drive.

In Canada, the Titan half-ton will start at $46,445 while the top-trim Platinum Reserve model climbs up to $67,595. That makes it a bit pricier than its V8 crew cab competitors at the base level, while once again the top-trim luxury model is a bargain compared to a fully loaded F-150.

Moving up to the XD, pricing starts at $48,045 for a gas V8 powered model, while bumping up to the Cummins diesel is nearly an $8,000 option. At the top end, the Titan XD Platinum Reserve with the Cummins diesel costs just over $75,000 in Canada.

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The Verdict: 2017 Nissan Titan vs Titan XD Review

Nissan has diversified its pickup truck lineup with hopes of attracting a fresh new buyer, and the product on offer is sound. The issue seems to be the muddy marketing message sent out through numbers that don’t match the narrative. But I’m here to tell you that in the real world, the Titan XD has its place in the lineup because of its strong performance under pressure, while the Titan half-ton also offers solid competition to the domestic pickup lineup.

Discuss this article on our Nissan Titan XD Forum

  • David Stanley

    nice truck but this is the age of Aluminum and I can’t see people buying rusty crusty Steel for the same price as Aluminum.

  • nizmoz

    I can promise you the Titan XD will pull that load way better than the F150. Weight helps better with larger loads. I would ot trust the F150 with over 10k of lb. The lighter the truck, allows more weight to pull behind it, but also allows it to be pushed around more.

  • Art Best

    BOTH are way too expensive. Nice trucks for sure but….Top of the line Titan Platinum $58K. No way folks.

  • mallthus

    Aluminum is awesome for cars. It’s use in trucks hasn’t been without controversy. And remember, no one was going to buy steel trucks because composite truck beds were so much better.

  • toby

    “when properly equipped” so what exactly is properly equipped? A V6 to lower truck weight? Regular cab? RWD only? Other weight savings?

    Why not comparably equipped?

  • toby

    And an F150 Limited is $59,600 before options, you can easily make a Chevy hit $60k

  • toby

    And with a crew cab and V8, I think the only way Ford gets the tow rating of an XD is with a regular cab V6. To keep truck weight down. Which means most of the F150s I see on the road would be struggling.

  • toby

    You must have missed those Chevy commercials with the toolbox and blocks punching holes in the bed of an F150