The full-size pickup truck market is dominated by three manufacturers, with the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra and Ram 1500 serving as the chief players. Toyota and Nissan are present too, and the latter now offers an all-new Titan XD, a model that may shake this important segment.
The Nissan Titan XD is all-new for 2016 and offers a clean break from the first-generation Nissan Titan that was manufactured from 2004 to 2015. The new model was a long time in coming and that’s why Nissan carefully developed a multi-prong debut for maximum exposure. The turbodiesel-powered Titan XD is the first redesigned model that Nissan is bringing to market, and will be followed a few months later by a gasoline-powered version.
By next summer, the third and final phase will be complete when the standard Titan returns, offering V6 and V8 gasoline engines. Notably, the Titan XD and the standard Titan are built on separate ladder frames, effectively giving Nissan two full-size truck lines to compete.
Diesel by Cummins
The most noteworthy change in the Titan line comes from adding a turbodiesel engine. Developed by renowned diesel engine manufacturer Cummins exclusively for Nissan, the 5.0-liter V8 makes 310 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque. That engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Nissan’s decision to go with a turbodiesel follows as it identifies “white space” between light- and heavy-duty pickup trucks or positioning between half-ton and three-quarter ton models. The automaker has determined that there is a core of full-size pickup truck shoppers who want midgrade performance with towing capacity of 12,000 pounds and don’t want to pay the heavy-duty rate to get it. The new truck has a payload capacity of up to 2,000 pounds.
Importantly, the new Cummins diesel pulls 2,700 pounds more than the only other diesel engine available in the light duty, full-size truck segment. That engine, a turbodiesel 3.0-liter V6 found in select versions of the Ram 1500, is designed to maximize fuel economy. Ford, Chevrolet and GMC offer diesel engines too, but only for heavy-duty trucks.
Crew Cab First
When the Titan roll out is finished, the lineup will be composed of three cab configurations, two frame sizes, three powertrain choices, and five trim levels. New to the line is a regular cab as well as a V6 engine.
Only the Crew Cab with the Cummins engine is available at launch, with five grades available: S ($40,290), SV ($44,060), Pro-4X ($50,970), SL ($52,030), and Platinum Reserve ($57,470). The Pro-4X model offers standard four-wheel drive, while the remaining trim levels are available in rear- or four-wheel drive configurations. Upgrading to four-wheel drive on the can cost up to an additional $3,050.
New Gasoline Engines
This spring, the Nissan Titan XD receives a second engine — a 5.6-liter gasoline V8. The so-called “Endurance V8” is the same size as the engine found in the outgoing model, but offers a new design. This 32-valve engine features direct injection and variable valve technology, making 390 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. The previous engine was rated at 317 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque.
Both the Titan XD and the standard Titan will offer the V8 gasoline engine. Once the Nissan Titan arrives this summer it will also provide a 3.5-liter V6 engine. Little has been shared about the smaller engine, although it can be found in other Nissan products, including the Maxima sedan where it makes 300 horsepower. Transmission options have not yet been announced.
Crew Cab Essentials
In early December 2015, Nissan welcomed members of the automotive press to Arizona to test the Titan XD. At its introductory press session, the automaker explained its reasons for building the Titan XD including, “appealing to the work customer with commercial-targeted configurations.” Further, Nissan wanted to focus on durability, quality, reliability and “overall goodness,” the latter represented by upsized components, including the brakes and rear axle.
Marketing speeches aside, the proof comes in what this vehicle can do. A full day of test drives behind the wheel of Pro-4X and Platinum Reserve models revealed much, although having access to the entry-level “S” edition would have provided a more rounded evaluation.
Nevertheless, the Titan XD delivers on many of the “must haves” truck buyers want, including a dominant front fascia accented with unique LED daytime running lights.
Along the profile and located where side vents typically are found is special Cummins badging. Other features with the Crew Cab include step rails for cabin access, integrated cab and tailgate spoilers, cargo area and tailgate lamps with LED bed lighting, a spray-on bed liner, a bed channel system and a two-way tailgate system. This model also comes with a bed-mounted 120-volt utility power point.
Inside, S and SV editions offer seating for up to six with front and rear bench seats, while the three remaining grades have plush bucket seats up front. All crew cab models come with leather seating and a fold-up second-row seat. Zero gravity seats, heated and cooled front seats and heated rear seats are available.
One of the niftier features for this model is a lockable storage compartment under the rear seat and a fold-out flat floor. It serves as the ideal place for hiding tools and other valuables out of the sight of prying eyes.
One of the more significant changes for 2016 was to move the transmission shifter from between the seats to the column. The transition was made in response to customer feedback, and effectively frees that space to provide additional storage room.
Driving the Nissan Titan XD
I’ve driven my share of large pickup trucks and have long wanted to see diesels return to the segment. The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel’s debut brought a light-duty diesel to the segment after a 15-year hiatus. The Titan XD builds upon the Ram’s lead by delivering a more powerful and capable competitor.
Engage the transmission and the Cummins engine begins to move the 6,709- to 7,480-pound Titan XD gradually forward. It isn’t until you gun the accelerator that full power is realized. Specifically at 1,600 rpm, which is where you’ll reach the bottom of the torque curve. By then you can relax a bit and enjoy full power. You’ll need it if you pull anything as we did. An 8,000 pound trailer was fastened to one test model with overpass access road climbing provided. It passed.
For its part, the Titan XD provides a comfortable ride thanks to suspension rates and damping that’s optimized for ride comfort when towing. Fourteen-inch brakes, an available locking rear differential and Bilstein shocks with the Pro-4X are among the most noteworthy features of this truck.
Nissan also allowed us to take the Titan XD off road, finding the most punishing terrain just outside of Scottsdale for those drives. Competing models were also on hand, providing ample chances to compare the pack. Not present was the Toyota Tundra, the only other model not offered by the Detroit Three.
Finding a Place
I’ll need more time with a Titan XD to supply a thorough test drive review, but my first impressions were positive. Nissan tapping Cummins was a stroke of genius and by targeting an underserved segment, that’s the kind of move that may allow Nissan to multiply its market share. While the Cummins engine adds enough intrigue to entice owners from competing brands, pickup truck buyers can be extremely loyal to their brands and an unknown number may not give the Nissan due consideration.
As for the “American made” argument some have made against trucks from Japanese brands, Nissan has countered with an “American Titan” marketing plan. This initiative identifies the Titan as a pickup truck designed and built in the U.S., and that includes its engines and transmissions. That’s the type of stars and stripes flag waving some consumers demand.