First Drive: Hellwig’s 2016 Nissan Titan XD “Rule Breaker”
Break All the Rules
If there’s one thing we all know about the annual SEMA Show, it’s that to get noticed in the sea of over-the-top builds, you’ve got to be bigger and louder than all the rest. And that’s exactly what the brains at the suspension components company Hellwig Products did last year.
They started with a new-to-market truck, the Nissan Titan XD, which proved to be a solid move, as we noted fewer than half-a-dozen total at the show. Next, they plopped a large and luxurious Lance 650 camper in the bed. The build didn’t stop there, as they lifted the truck, installed larger wheels and tires, outfitted it with a host of off-road accessories, and wrapped the camper to match the truck’s yellow and black paint scheme. What resulted was a prime example of both what Bumblebee might have looked like had the Transformers writers preferred an overlanding pickup to a muscle car and a SEMA Show vehicle that was instantly recognizable from anywhere you stood in the upper south hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
It should come as no surprise then that when asked if we’d like to take the pickup—affectionately dubbed the “Rule Breaker”—camping for a weekend, our answer was an immediate, “Heck yeah!” Time passed, but eventually our schedule opened up at the same time as Hellwig’s, and we were tossed the keys to the Rule Breaker and told to have fun. Wanting to get in a good mix of road testing and camping, we opted to head from our home base 2 miles from the ocean up to an off-roading spot we know and love deep in the San Bernardino mountains.
To build the Rule Breaker, Hellwig teamed up with LGE-CTS Motorsports in San Dimas, California. Providing the additional altitude is an ICON Vehicle Dynamics Stage 3 Titan XD lift kit, which consists of remote-reservoir coilover shocks with the company’s compression-damping control-valve technology, uniball upper control arms, and rear lift blocks. This 3-inch lift made room for a set of LT325/65R18 Falken Wildpeak AT3W tires mounted on Method wheels. N-Fab steps, a Fab Fours bumper, T-Rex grille, and Baja Designs lighting complete the tough exterior look. From Hellwig’s playbook, they installed a set of Big Wig air springs in the rear and plumbed them to the company’s automatic load-leveling compressor system. A Big Wig forged sway bar and EZ-990 helper springs round out the load-control package.
The presentation’s signature piece is the Lance 650 camper perched in the Titan XD’s bed. Built specifically for short-bed half-ton pickups, the Lance 650 has a wet weight of just 1,896 pounds and comes packed with features. Standard are such niceties as a wet bath, ducted heat, skylights, LED lighting, refrigerator, and a two-burner stove. Optional are the fun features, which include a 95-watt solar charging system, air conditioning, an LED television, Bluetooth stereo, automatic awning control, wireless leveling jacks, and keyless entry. Fully outfitted, the Lance 650 certainly dips a toe into the world of glamping, even if you’re still living out of a pickup bed. With a price tag north of $28K all-in, your camping experience will be anything but “roughing it.”
The first thing we noticed from behind the wheel was just how easy the truck was to drive. Granted, we’re used to driving large trucks, so it was even more impressive that even with the giant weight and sail sitting in the bed and the higher center of gravity, the Titan XD was no less maneuverable than the factory specimen we were driving daily. Visibility is reduced when backing, for obvious reasons. If we owned this setup, a backup camera would be on the top of the to-do list. Body roll was present but well managed, thanks to the host of Hellwig products. It’s certainly no sports car, but with that in mind, we were never presented with any sort of uneasy feeling behind the wheel.
For our long weekend of camping and off-roading, we saddled the Titan XD with an additional burden, our Wrangler JK and flatbed trailer, a combination that weighs in just north of 9,000 pounds. Now we’re getting close to actually breaking rules. By our calculations, with the modifications done to the Titan XD, a full tank of fuel (mind you, the truck has a 50-gallon Transfer Flow fuel tank), a camper load of camping gear, and the trailer, we were bumping right up against the Titan XD’s 19,500-pound gross combined vehicle weight rating (GCVW).
Climbing the mountain grade and cresting the 8,443-foot Onyx Summit was fairly effortless, despite maxing out the Titan XD’s rated ability. The pickup’s drivetrain was left stock, and we never found ourselves wanting more. We hit a few grades where we were rolling at 40 mph foot-to-the-floor, but we really didn’t want to be going any faster. The truck’s Aisin transmission tended to hunt between First and Third gears while climbing and slowed the vehicle adequately when locked into Second descending steep grades. We managed single-digit fuel economy when loaded down, but honestly, we weren’t surprised.
If you’re into being low-key, this isn’t the rig for you. Strangers approached us many times during our week with the truck wanting to ask questions or just have a quick look. The truck is incredibly capable both on and off-road, and it’s only made better by the complement of aftermarket parts that were chosen to be showcased on it. Camping in the Lance 650 was super comfortable for our small family of three, though any more might be pushing it.
Hellwig pulled together a build sheet for the Rule Breaker and tallied up a cost to replicate of $118,871.21. It’s quite the hefty price tag, but if backcountry exploration and camping is your thing and you want to have the newest and best toys while sticking with a more compact package, it’s really not as bad as it seems. It pained us greatly to give the truck back to its owners, and we’re already plotting how to build one of our very own.