Nissan is launching an all-new product in the pickup truck market this year with the redesigned Titan XD, our second competitor in the AutoGuide.com 2016 Truck of the Year competition.
Engine: 5.0-liter V8 diesel
Power: 310 hp and 555 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
US Pricing: Base S $41,485. Top trim $61,715. As tested $52,165
There are two main ways that the Titan is differentiating itself from the pack. First is its new Cummins turbo-diesel engine, a 5.0-liter V8 good for 310 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque. The second reason has to do with the “XD” badge, which denotes a heavy duty version of the Titan that comes with larger brakes, a heavier frame and beefier axles.
Technically, the Titan XD is a class 2b pickup truck based on its base GVWR of at least 8,800 lbs, which means it should be competing against the Ford F-250 and Ram 2500. But Nissan is pitching the truck as a stronger half-ton that offers the strength of those 2500 trucks, without the stiff ride and massive proportions. And in practice, the Japanese brand seems to have succeeded in finding just the right mix.
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Driving the XD is definitely closer to the experience found in a modern half-ton truck, with nicely controlled noise, vibration and harshness levels and a smooth suspension setup. Comfortable is the best way to describe the driving experience of the XD and even its slightly larger than a half-ton size goes unnoticed.
Getting the big diesel up to its full potential at just 1,600 rpm feels excellent under your right foot and this truck feels totally in control with any load we’ve managed to pull. During our Truck of the Year testing, we towed around a GMC Canyon Diesel, which when added with our trailer weight, put the whole setup at around 6,000 pounds. While that isn’t exactly a taxing load for the XD, it did show off the truck’s biggest strength: confidence. With this load on the back, the Titan feels much more secure and planted than a half-ton does with a similar load. It’s around the 12,000-pound mark that the truck would really shine, as 12 grand behind a half ton, despite the tow rating, can be a bit sketchy.
This is the result of Nissan going against the grain by adding weight to the Titan, rather than trying to subtract weight from the vehicle, like Ford has done with its aluminum-bodied F-150. In Ford’s case, the low curb weight has allowed them to boost their trailering capacity, while on the flip side, the Titan’s massive curb weight of at least 6,709 lbs takes away from the Nissan’s tow rating. But out on the roads, the heavier your tow vehicle is, the better it feels with weight behind it, something that Nissan is banking on to sell trucks.
The only thing Nissan seems to have forgotten about is a controllable diesel exhaust brake, though there is a downhill grade braking system that uses the transmission to keep the truck at a steady pace as it runs down a long grade.
So in practice, the Titan makes a compelling case, but on paper, the truck has some clear issues. Its maximum tow rating is 12,314 lbs, just over 100 lbs more than the Ford F-150 is rated to pull and about 300 lbs more than a Chevy Silverado. It can only haul 2,091 lbs of payload, which is over 1,000 lbs less than a properly equipped F-150. With a base price of $41,485, the Titan XD makes even less sense, considering you can get a well equipped half-ton with nearly the same capacities over a base model Titan.
The stats and specs don’t seem back up Nissan’s message, though the brand is not dumb when it comes to truck buyers, and a number of the Titan’s new features prove that. First are the movable tie-down cleats that feature rails both along the bed walls and on the bed floor. A set of ultra-bright LED lights brings that bed up to daytime levels at night, while a plug in the bed wall can run your power tools while you work on the tailgate.
One of our favorite features are the Titan Boxes, which are lockable and removable storage containers that mount to the inside of the bed walls. A new trailer light check system has been thought up for this truck, which automatically cycles through the lights while you stand behind the trailer and watch, while a 360-degree around view camera helps you back into trailers or tight parking spots with ease.
On paper it falls short, but in practice, the Titan XD provides a level of confidence that doesn’t exist in the half-ton segment, combined with a more comfortable ride and drive experience than all other heavy duty pickup trucks.